Richard Fulwiler

To meet the growing demand for enhanced applications and a new level of user experience, telcos are eyeing the need to move to a cloud-native architecture for their 5G standalone (SA) network to satisfy the throughput and latency requirements of those use cases. The 5G SA radio access network (RAN), multi-access edge computing (MEC), and core will become reliant on an inherently cloud-native open and modular infrastructure. This architecture allows new network functions to be implemented rapidly and at scale as needed by these next-generation services and applications. 

However, as 5G SA migrates to a cloud-native architecture, telcos will face a new set of challenges. These challenges include disaggregated control and user planes, lack of visibility into business-critical traffic as telcos migrate to the edge cloud and maintaining visibility of the signaling traffic as it migrates to a virtual service-based architecture. 

A New Edge for Telcos: MEC 

5G SA also brings a new telco edge: MEC. The MEC platform combines 5G with hyper-scale services to allow enterprise customers to develop large-scale, high-throughput-demanding, and latency-sensitive applications at the edge. Multiple consumer and enterprise applications will count on this technology to drive a new level of user experience.    

MEC is particularly important for telcos because of its revenue potential. In fact, a recent study found that the MEC market is expected to reach $23.36 billion by 2028, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42.6 percent over the forecast period. As a result, edge computing will drive the next generation of modern applications—from cloud gaming and business applications based on extended reality to remote surgery and the robotic factory floors of tomorrow. By moving information from the core of the network out to the edge, enterprises will benefit from dramatically improved bandwidth, better control of data, and ultra-low latency.  

Almost everything we touch at home, work, or play encompasses some aspect of user-plane transactions. Ensuring the service-level agreements (SLAs) of those transactions is business critical, if not life critical. Having visibility of those user-plane transactions from RAN to MEC to core is critical for ensuring the telco is providing the negotiated SLAs needed to drive real-time latency-sensitive applications (less than ten milliseconds) through the transport network—and if not, why not.

The Growing Importance of Visibility into Cloud-Native Architecture

The success of 5G SA will depend on an effective service assurance monitoring strategy that delivers visibility into a multicloud-native architecture—RAN, MEC, and core—providing the ability to monitor the key SLAs of all services and applications by subscriber and by slice. Legacy approaches simply won’t be sufficient. The migration to this virtual environment requires a cost-effective solution that assures business-critical applications are monitored properly, regardless which network equipment manufacturer (NEM) and hyper-scale are providing the network components and virtual functions.
NETSCOUT provides a multifaceted, scalable deep packet inspection (DPI) solution that can run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware or in a cloud-native environment. This provides the ability to acquire and process packets within MEC-based hyperscalers via the core telco network. The solution is optimized for the cloud and capable of being deployed within a Kubernetes-managed environment as a pod or container to bring deep visibility of the virtual functions. It provides precertified plug-ins that can receive NEM-specific vTap service-based interface (SBI) traffic for analytical processing and packet forwarding as needed. This solution replaces the need for legacy tapping environments and reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the telco.

NETSCOUT’s enhanced always-on new MEC monitoring visibility solution provides continuous, real-time monitoring, by application or subscriber/device, of critical transport links—one-way and in both directions. Coupled with NETSCOUT’s scalable DPI software-based probes, the solution provides a more cost-effective approach to monitoring user-plane traffic than has been possible in the past. 

NETSCOUT understands the tremendous investment telcos are making as they migrate to a cloud-native infrastructure and the challenges this migration brings. NETSCOUT’s enhanced capabilities can help telcos overcome these challenges while maintaining packet-level visibility for service assurance enhanced by our next-generation artificial intelligence/machine-learning applications.

Learn more about future-proofing your 5G network.

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