5G is the New Reality—and Network Assurance Automation Is the New Necessity
Five questions CSPs should consider
As communications service providers (CSPs) continue to modernize and build out their networks to meet consumer demands for 5G services, they must also consider and modernize their network assurance strategies. As a new report from Analysys Mason notes, “5G standards are creating new issues that CSPs need to troubleshoot during the deployment process. Additionally, the implementation of virtual infrastructure for the 5G core with more-distributed workloads represents a significant shift in architecture.”
5G is also significantly changing how mobile connectivity is being used, the report adds, with both the range of service categories that take advantage of the advanced features of 5G (such as network slicing) and the volume of data likely to grow even more rapidly in the future. Network complexity is growing exponentially with the introduction of 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Voice over New Radio (VoNR), network slicing, edge computing, and cloud migration, while CSPs must still maintain 4G, Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE), 2G and 3G voice, Wi-Fi, fixed-line, and video services.
Managing Complexity: Automation Is Key
Network service assurance becomes an increasingly crucial part of these enhanced and evolved new service offerings, and automation is key to effective service assurance.
Networks and applications that could be monitored and remediated by a competent network operations (NetOps) team in the past are simply too big, too complicated, and too essential to function at the speed of even your best team members. Not only does your network need routine and known issues dealt with nearly instantly, but your NetOps team also needs to know where to focus their time and energy to continue to deliver the high quality of service (QoS) your customers expect. An excellent automated assurance solution can help your NetOps team solve in minutes the issues that used to take up hours.
Five Questions CSP Should Ask
So, when you’re looking at automation solutions for improved operational efficiency, what should you consider?
- Does the solution provide a continuous, real-time view of all network activity—from the radio access network (RAN) to the core to the cloud—with advanced warning of performance degradations? You can’t fix what you can’t see, and isn’t it preferable to see the problems coming rather than waiting for them to arrive?
- How will your automation solution recognize problems? It should automatically identify risks and assess all connected services' performance and interactions. It will need solid artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms combined with historic, global domain knowledge to be effective.
- Does the solution provide Smart Data to enable automation for operational cost control? Automation allows you to prioritize your highest-impact problems. It also helps you bridge any skills or personnel gaps.
- Can you easily and rapidly determine scope, impact, and ownership? A robust automation tool can help eliminate “organizational ping-pong.” When you can clearly see where a service issue is and what its effects are, you can have the correct team working on remediation more quickly, with less finger-pointing. That leads to a faster mean time to resolution (MTTR).
- When your automation solution is looking at your data, what sort of data feed does it give you? Deep packet–level visibility—real-time and historical—gives you Smart Data and provides a deep understanding of the communications between service, infrastructure, and characteristics. This data feed should also be able to integrate into your existing security ecosystem, speeding your return on investment (ROI). For example, can the network information your tool gathers be exported to your existing security information and event management (SIEM) or security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platforms to augment your risk visualization? Can it integrate with the security ecosystem you already have?
In short, the right network assurance automation can be a holistic network analytics solution, showing not only what’s failing—or about to fail—but also what’s working well and how services and customers are behaving. The right solution can be a paradigm shift in actionable business intelligence.
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