Transforming Enterprise IT
with On-Demand Connectivity

This can also take into account any enterprise preferences and policies around power efficiency and cost, while handling the complexity caused by continuous changes to the system to optimally allocate network resources.

On-demand connectivity intents

Many if not all of these enterprise application development groups are already accustomed to using the cloud (public, private or hybrid) for their computing needs. CTOs and CIOs are inspired to modernize these applications by moving to on-cloud and on-demand connectivity, and they will expect a similar orchestration capability for managing connectivity, one that extends across all their domains and assets used in application and service delivery. Very few of these enterprises, however, will have teams with telco expertise and they are looking to reduce on-prem networking infrastructure. Therefore, a more abstracted approach needs to be provided; this is achieved through the notion of on-demand connectivity intents.

Put simply, intents form the basis of a zero-touch system in which the 5G MPN and associated network assets and managed services are configured autonomously based on application behavior to meet the enterprise’s requirements without the enterprise needing to manually configure the network and services itself.

This is like OTT video platforms performing adaptive video and caching automation at the edge. Now this concept needs to extend to all modern enterprise applications. The automation must happen at the edge and with awareness of application.  

Intents is a declarative representation of connectivity requirements for an application endpoint to be connected via network slice with expected QoS. This can also take into account any enterprise preferences and policies around power efficiency and cost, while handling the complexity caused by continuous changes to the system to optimally allocate network resources. In short, an intent defines the expectations on service delivery and network operation through the expression of a set of goals, functional requirements, and constraints, thereby giving enterprises wide-ranging agility in how they specify and manage their connectivity—and by extension, their private 5G network and edge services.

Managing intents

At a practical level, intents can be managed in a number of ways depending on the skillsets of the enterprise. For those enterprises with limited resources, a set of easy-to-use self-management tools (low- or no-code) can be provided for defining intents, app and device group administration, and monitoring network and application performance as well as end-to-end security within the MPN. These tools can also extend to some basic automatic detection and isolation of faults. 

Conversely, for those wanting more fine-grained control, orchestration could be provided to network administrators and DevOps teams programmatically via a set of RESTful APIs with dynamic control over throughput, latency, packet error rate metrics, network segments, IP domains and so on, and optionally bootstrapped via a number of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) templates (like boilerplate builds, for example 5G slice types such as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC)).

In short, enterprises should be able to configure and manage their 5G MPNs and scale them up and down using DevOps-friendly interfaces as easily as they can using Kubernetes with cloud resources for their application and service deployments.

Moreover, this agility should ideally extend to having one DevOps CI/CD process (pipeline) for both cloud and connectivity with the ability to manage resources across all domains within service delivery (5G, Wi-Fi, cloud, mobile edge computing (MEC), software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), and more).

Building an agility ecosystem

In the case of the cloud, an ecosystem has grown up around it supplying tools and supplementary services to make the consumption of these resources easy, cost-efficient, automated, and assured. Some were provided by the cloud providers, some were invented outside and acquired by cloud providers, and some grew independently to become unicorns.

To enable enterprise 5G MPNs to be built on-demand and engineered for performance and security as simply as is now enjoyed with cloud resources will require a similar ecosystem of tools and services to emerge.

Achieving this will open up 5G MPNs to enterprises of all sizes—in essence, similar to the democratization of telco APIs brought about by the introduction of developer-friendly platforms (and RESTful APIs) from the likes of Twilio a decade or so ago.

This approach was trialed and honed within 5G-ENCODE, a £9 million collaborative project aiming to develop clear business cases and value propositions for 5G applications in the manufacturing industry. The tool essentially acts as a ‘Kubernetes for MPNs,’ but also extends into other technology domains (4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, SD-WAN, MEC, public 5G slices and more) to provide comprehensive management end-to-end and all exposed via an intuitive 'single pane of glass' and set of DevOps-friendly interfaces.


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