Automation is Essential

By: Tim Young

This issue is focused on network transformation, which is inevitably a discussion of business transformation and digital transformation. It is not and cannot be a conversation limited to network infrastructure. The days of compartmentalization are over.

And as I combed through the various end-of-year industry thinkpieces that are a hallmark of the slow news winter months, there was a unanimous sentiment that automation will play a central role in the network—and in the overall business model of CSPs and vendors—moving forward.

That’s not an altogether novel assertion, I know, but there does seem to be a sense that 2018 will be a year of unprecedented automation, as well a sense that 2019 and every other year for the foreseeable future will see an expansion of automation. The low-hanging fruit has been plucked, and automation is gradually working its way up the tree.

Just a few weeks ago, Bell Canada became the first carrier in the world to deploy the open source version of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) in a production environment. The ONAP project has been driven by member companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, China Telecom, Turk Telekom, Amdocs, Ericsson, IBM, and others. This deployment represents a considerable leap forward of the project, and according to the Linux Foundation’s announcement, it is part of Bell’s larger efforts to institute a widespread multi-partner DevOps model.

“We’re very proud to be the first member of the ONAP Project to demonstrate the viability of the platform live on our network,” said Petri Lyytikainen, Bell’s Vice President, Network Strategy, Services and Management, on the Linux blog. “The evolution of our advanced software-defined networks will enable us to respond even faster to the unique needs of our customers.” 

Just days ago, AT&T trialed its 10 Gbps XGS-PON virtualized network using Open Source Access Manager Hardware Abstraction (OSAM-HA) software, which is part of its plan to virtualize all access functions in the last mile. OSAM-HA will play a role in the larger ONAP efforts.

“Our network is constantly evolving. We’ll continue to execute our software-based network strategy to technologies like 5G, virtualized RAN, and G.FAST over time,” said Eddy Barker, assistant vice president, Access Architecture and Design, in a statement. “Ultimately, instead of deploying islands of technology that have SDN control, we want to orchestrate the entire end-to-end network through ONAP.”

And ONAP isn’t the only example of a concentrated cooperative effort to move network automation forward. In mid-December, ETSI announced the formation of the Zero touch network and Service Management Industry Specification Group (ZSM ISG). The group will initially focus on service management and the 5G end-to-end environment with an ultimate goal of making all operational processes and tasks—configuration, optimization, deployment, delivery, assurance—entirely automated. 

“There are many issues that are currently hindering the automation of operations and Network and Service Management functionalities that need to be addressed at an industry level,” said Deutsche Telekom’s Klaus Martiny, convenor of the ETSI ZSM ISG, in a statement. “A primary goal of the ZSM ISG is to identify requirements on the necessary management architecture and interfaces to support the end-to-end zero touch network and service management in a multi-vendor environment. It is important as well that existing solutions will be considered.”


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