The TM Forum Catalyst project, 5G digital marketplace – Phase II, tackles fundamental themes for telcos as they explore new enterprise-focused use cases for 5G.
Giving an edge to the 5G digital services marketplace
The Catalyst project, 5G digital marketplace - Phase II, is part of a series that tackles fundamental themes for communication service providers (CSPs) as they explore new enterprise-focused use cases for 5G networks. The first phase demonstrated a digital services marketplace (DSM) involving the composition of cross-industry services and the provisioning of appropriate 5G network slices.
This phase of the Catalyst captures the enterprise customer’s business intent, which is used to determine the appropriate downstream connectivity as a service (CaaS). A Digital Services Marketplace (DSM) enriches the way the CSP delivers connectivity++ offers to simplify the consumption of connectivity and enable new vertical industry solutions at scale. The use case they have chosen for their solution is the sports fan experience.
In this second phase, the aim is to show the creation of the underpinning network services/slices in the appropriate form (virtual network function/VNF or containerized network function/CNF) and their placement in the appropriate location, which could be a data center (VNF), the deep cloud (CNF), or edge cloud (CNF on edge).
The project is led by Cognizant Technology Solutions with the involvement of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is providing the hosting environment for the DSM including AWS Outposts, as well as ServiceNow, Sterlite Technologies, and Subex. It is also championed by two leading CSPs: Colt Technology Services and Verizon Communications.
The DSM platform aligns to TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) philosophy and is built using cloud native, modular technology components with inbuilt artificial intelligence (AI) support.
Cognizant acted as project leader for the first phase, when the focus was on demonstrating a digital marketplace for cross-industry vertical product offers such as the sports fan experience, automated agriculture or healthcare supported by the appropriate 5G network slices.
There are many burgeoning B2B2X use cases, ranging from remote robotic surgery for the healthcare industry through to drones measuring the moisture in the soil content for the agriculture industry, traffic management in smart cities and video surveillance in remote mines, among others.
While the previous phase centered on the implicit (bundled) ordering and provisioning of VNF (data center)-based network services, the latest phase of the Catalyst is focused on resolving the problem of latency by using MEC and CNFs — otherwise described as stateless and immutable infrastructure that is better orchestrated using a mature, open-source Kubernetes platform.
Essentially, this Catalyst demonstrates how deploying solutions on edge clouds using CNFs can radically change the architecture of enterprise network services, enabling businesses to provide low-latency services much faster than before.
Naveen Suri, Head of Communications Industry Solutions Group at Cognizant, summarized the situation by explaining that the DSM platform is an ODA-compliant reference architecture that is agnostic to various industry sectors use cases and “seeks to deliver the promised business benefits of faster time to market of new services, zero-touch onboarding and intent-based orchestrated operations and achieve a digital native customer experience.”
The premise underpinning this Catalyst is that CSPs need to offer composite services that are underpinned by ‘network services on demand’ to enterprise customers. This in turn allows CSPs to offer services that require extremely low latency, enabling them to gain additional market share and create new revenue streams.
Such a scenario requires the establishment of a platform for optimal composition of services that can utilize containerized network functions deployed on edge clouds, orchestrated through Kubernetes and following CI/CD principles.
This involves setting up an ‘MEC on demand’ (edgescaler). One of the goals of the Catalyst is to build a component that will be able to provision an MEC given the placement details from the engine.
Furthermore, the containerization of network functions will require a service mesh for orchestration. In a 5G use case, these involve non-standard, legacy protocols that are not supported in a standard Kubernetes Istio Service Mesh. The Catalyst is the usage of cncf.io’s network service mesh to provide multiple interfaces to the containers.
The following use cases are demonstrated:
For the Catalyst, the team selected a sports industry use case delivering a smart football stadium concept that will provide an immersive fan experience to showcase the platform’s capabilities.
Throughout the lifecycle of a football match, there are multiple personas to support and service: the broadcasters, the content rights owners, the league owners of the event, digital advertisers, facility management, and the fans.
Manju Kygonahally, Vice President, CMT at Cognizant, said the team is confident it has built a unique proposition “which will enable our champions and other CSPs to have a platform which will allow for 5G lower latency industry vertical use cases to be supported, orchestrated and managed at the edge with simplified operations. The TM Forum standards have helped the Catalyst to deliver connectivity as a service with ease.” Visit the Catalyst space for more information from the team.