Communications service providers (CSPs) must make significant operational shifts to enable 5G. As CSPs traverse new operational models to make it easier for developers, businesses, and MVNOs to conduct business, managing quality of service to provide a positive user experience will be crucial. By focusing on quality of service, CSPs can trial new revenue-generating services – with reduced risk.
Core to achieving these operational improvements is visibility into the full network, which is where Networking-as-a-Service (NaaS) comes in.
A dual challenge: improving user experience and monetization opportunities
To enable 5G, CSPs are on a journey to build a uniquely capable standalone network. The business case driving this investment is predominantly tied to enterprise growth opportunities.
The expected growth from 5G in the enterprise is tied to new portfolios of service innovation. To facilitate this innovation, CSPs need tools to empower developers to create new intelligent services, which require a higher level of performance. Beyond low latency and high bandwidth requirements, developers want to create new services with the ability to offer customized experiences on demand. Providing access to control the network is key to enabling these new revenue streams, but it causes challenges for CSPs who want to ensure optimal user experiences for this broadening portfolio of services.
One of the major hindrances to achieving the parallel requirements of monetization and optimized user experience has always been a lack of full visibility. Typically, service providers rely on a number of patchwork solutions with siloed focuses within the network. This creates siloed visibility, making it all but impossible to truly reap the full range of benefits of new 5G technologies.
Creating a more consolidated view with networking-as-a-Service
If the goal is eventually to give access to program the infrastructure – to enable developers to leverage the value it can provide – then you need the ability to deliver assurance to support that infrastructure. And you need the ability to deliver it in an automated way.
To do this, you need a solid infrastructure that delivers network assurance and application assurance components in near-real time through AI/ML-driven automation. This dynamic control provides the ability to automatically address failures or optimize the network service as conditions change. This means that as developers start to develop on top of the infrastructure, they gain insights into the networks’ behavior so they can develop applications that ultimately deliver a better customer experience.
In the past, CSPs have used a disaggregated solution to try to fix the lack of visibility and performance issues. This approach means that CSPs have different tools for visibility into different components of the network and applications. Just as CSPs learned ten years ago that siloed network architectures restrict their capabilities, they're now recognizing that it’s time to reconsider this disaggregated visibility method.
A holistic view (what’s called full-stack visibility) with automated control across the entire network and infrastructure changes the game. This is the promise of NaaS. It’s all about visibility.
Overcoming 5G challenges via end-to-end visibility
To gain full-stack visibility that’s integrated and automated, you need a network management and service monitoring solution that offers features and capabilities including:
- A single pane of glass view providing operations teams with quick insights and automated actions.
- Integration with and links to virtual or containerized environments like VNFs, and CNFs with physical equipment (hosts, switches, and routers).
- End-to-end functionality, spanning across multi-domains (local area, wired and wireless access, transport, and data center networks) and multiple layers (up and down the stack from network to application).
- Auto-discovery of physical and virtual topologies: Sophisticated auto-discovery capabilities mean a solution can quickly determine the virtual, physical, tenant, and service topology of an entire network and provide operators with a detailed, graphical topology view.
- Automated root cause analysis: To root out problems quickly and reduce unnecessary alarms, you need the ability to analyze network incidents across physical, service, and virtual cloud environments.
- Self-adapting engine: The solution should make use of an advanced multi-dimensional, deterministically model-based engine instead of a rules-based engine that needs to be updated constantly.
- Management of multi-tenancy, multi-vendor environments: Look for multi-tenancy and multi-vendor support that enable your service provider company to monitor and proactively manage numerous customers with varied environments within one ecosystem. This will allow you to visualize, evaluate, and improve their environments to facilitate quicker resolution times, offer high availability, and adhere to strict SLAs.
A more holistic view of what’s happening in the network will allow you to deliver visibility in a way that lets developers develop on your network. That’s where monetization opportunities come in. Developers will be able to start using the APIs to access the network and leverage insights from the infrastructure underneath. That’s the game changer – providing something they can create revenue-generating value from.
While the sky's the limit, here are a few examples of the value NaaS provides to the enterprise:
- Service observability: To understand the status and health of your devices, services, and network, and stream data at close to real time (works for a combination of public and private networks).
- Simple connectivity services: Establish fundamental 5G network connections, turn on your devices (like drones), and manage their life cycles.
- Testing as a Service: Test your network's configuration, performance, and cost projections (applicable for private networks).
Eventually, delivering a NaaS model could enable service providers to ultimately build a programmable network that can be "sliced" into different configurations for a wide variety of customers, including MVNOs, large enterprises, utilities, and others.
Putting the 5G pieces together
As service providers look to reap the benefits of 5G, they’re still struggling with how to make it successful both in terms of revenue generation and user experience. Part of the problem is a lack of visibility of the full network, which leaves significant gaps in efficiency, automatability, and an understanding of customer experience. A NaaS model can address these challenges. Use the recommendations noted above to make sure you are combining all the components you need to capitalize on 5G and better serve your customers.
Edouard Karam is the senior director, product strategy & technical business development at Accedian. Stephen Spellicy is vice president, product marketing & solutions, telco & edge cloud BU at VMware.