Moving to the Cloud with 5G Standalone Means Moving to Automation

Why network optimization and automation are key to realizing the promise of 5G

Pixilated Cloud above a city at night, with lines exploding from outside depicting different types of services (hospital,homes,construction)

A few years ago, 5G came out of the gate as the fastest-deployed mobile technology to date. And then came a slowdown.

What happened to 5G deployment? There are several good explanations for why it has slowed down, both technological and economic. Focusing on the technological side, 5G standalone (SA) movement to the cloud with the radio access network (RAN), edge, and core raises new operational complexities and challenges for network operations and engineering teams.

Moving to Cloudified Networks Challenges Network Teams

Cloudifying the network means disaggregating traditional network elements into virtual functions via container technology. And additional security can now be implemented throughout the new 5G SA architecture with Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption technology—removing the usual visibility to the control plane and user plane packets. Thus, these cloud/container types of environments make it more difficult to monitor and assure the operation of virtualized functions.

Working with (multiple) hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Microsoft Azure adds another layer of complexity. Mobile operators are turning to these providers to support 5G SA functions so they can realize the benefits of lower costs and new functionality, but this creates a more complex architecture and vendor relationships to manage and assure.

To manage this complexity, deep visibility is needed from the 5G RAN: to the edge, to the access layer, and into the core network infrastructure. Visibility into the “east-west” packet-level data will no longer be as simple as placing a physical tap or packet broker in place and sending the control plane and user plane traffic to a service assurance solution. As the infrastructure is virtualized, so must the service assurance instrumentation be virtualized to collect packets and process and filter them at the source to produce contextual metadata in real time. This type of what NETSCOUT terms Smart Data is key to gaining insight into the issues above, as well as fielding actionable intelligence for the policy engines that drive network automation and orchestration.

Overcoming the Barriers with End-Through-End Visibility

As communications service providers (CSPs) move to cloudify networks to deliver on the promise of true 5G SA, they will need to overcome a host of challenges, particularly in terms of end-through-end visibility. Mobile operators will need tools that provide holistic visibility to these cloud and container environments for real-time monitoring and to inform the orchestration layer so it can manage these extremely complex networks. These tools will help to automate heretofore manual routines, including determining the root cause of service issues for more detailed investigation, improving triage response time.

To learn more, read the full article “Why Network Optimization and Automation Are Key to Realizing the Promise of 5G Evolution.”