Closing the Loop: Service Assurance and Topology

By: Leo Zancani

Increased automation
is broader than just NFV

The underlying technology theme for Network Function Virtualisation is increased automation. Peel away the layers of detail, and the argument for NFV is easy to grasp: virtualization enables an increased degree of automation in your network and service operations. This in turn enables a corresponding increase in the automation of business processes surrounding the network and therefore reduces overall operating costs – especially the costs associated with changes such as roll out of new services.

This simple economic argument – more automation equals lower costs and better agility - is by no means a new one.  It’s been around for decades, embodied both in open approaches from standards organisations and closed ones from “full stack” OSS/BSS vendors.

The impetus for NFV comes from the observation that despite the venerable history of the idea, automation in Communication Service Providers (CSPs) has increased very little because the underlying network supports it very poorly. NFV – and of course, it’s conjoined sibling, SDN – are radical changes in the underlying technology itself that aim to put more of the network under software control.

There is a danger that this perfectly sensible high-level perspective is producing a distorted architectural orthodoxy which dictates that no further automation is possible until current network technology has been replaced.

The “revolution or evolution” argument about the adoption of virtualisation technology that has played out in the community over the last few years is being resolved by the facts on the ground: CSPs are (some would say unsurprisingly) gradually evolving their networks to increased software control and virtualization.

It stands to reason that opportunities for additional automation of existing processes will therefore also present themselves incrementally at various stages as CSPs undertake this transformational journey – and that these will be broader in scope than just NFV.

Service Assurance: First-class citizen at last?

Despite claiming to accept the importance of designing assurance into services (and building infrastructure that can support it), CSPs have often failed to walk the talk in this respect, and Service Assurance has historically been something of an afterthought.


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