Holistic 360° assurance: the key to unlocking the journey to autonomous networks
Autonomous Networks have recently emerged as game-changers in the rapidly evolving landscape of modern telecommunications and networking. 5G, Private Networks and IoT bring unprecedented network demands and complexities, particularly as enterprises seek carrier-grade services and stringent Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This necessitates a paradigm shift in the way networks are operated, placing automation at the cornerstone of driving efficiency, cost savings, and an exceptional customer experience.
As Communication Service Providers (CSPs) advance in their journey towards fully Autonomous Networks, establishing the right capabilities from the outset becomes crucial. This journey begins with a renewed approach to service assurance — one characterized by real-time data intelligence, openness, and automation.
Data intelligence driving automation
Automation can be classified into two primary areas: data intelligence, and orchestration. While orchestrators serve as automation engines, they lack the intelligence on what exactly to orchestrate. Operators must first transform network data into intelligence to furnish the Awareness and Analysis required to drive decision-making and intent-driven automation – this is the role of a new generation of automated assurance tools.
TM Forum Whitepaper: Autonomous Networks: Empowering Digital Transformation for the Telecoms Industry
The initial challenge lies in comprehending the vast volumes and diverse data types to enable precise automation. This requires intelligent correlation, allowing the understanding of how an issue identified in one network domain, for example low user throughput in the core, can be linked to a cause in another, such as a capacity problem on the radio. Correlation also offers insights into how network resource problems impact Quality of Service (QoS), SLAs, and customer experience, facilitating the prioritization and resolution of network issues based on intent. Without comprehensive and intelligent data analysis, orchestrators remain blind to problems that need addressing, potentially leading to incorrect changes within the network.
Therefore, the new generation of automated assurance solutions must provide a unified, 360° visibility across all network dimensions. In today’s virtualized environments, applications run on clouds where each network function exists over a dynamic containerized infrastructure, potentially distributed over multiple clouds. Such huge architectural change requires a complete vertical and horizontal understanding of the communication processes within and across network functions and applications, and how they impact service delivery and customer experience.
An exemplary scenario illustrating the significance of 360° assurance is 5G slicing, where strict SLAs can only be guaranteed by monitoring the end-to-end slice health, including the network, services, applications, users, and devices, with the ability to seamlessly drill down and troubleshoot across the sub-slice domains - RAN, transport, edge, core and infrastructure.
A 360° assurance capability, complemented by AI/ML for enhanced detection and prediction, allows users to draw on the intelligence necessary for proactive, business-driven decision-making and confidently unlock the true potential of automation.
With a holistic intelligence, operators can automate complex, time-consuming, and error-prone tasks that repeatedly consume valuable time and resources. This encompasses anomaly detection, correlation of data and alarms, root-cause analysis, and more. These capabilities are now essential for understanding and resolving issues faster, delivering an enhanced customer experience, and guaranteeing SLAs.
While automating workflows yields tangible benefits, orchestration represents the ultimate objective for achieving a fully autonomous state. However, reaching this goal requires a fully interconnected ecosystem, where assurance tools seamlessly integrate with systems like fault management, trouble-ticketing, and, more importantly, orchestrators. Assurance systems are pivotal in network and service orchestration, offering insights for dynamic resource allocation, service lifecycle management, closed-loop automation, and more.
Yet, to allow seamless integrations, systems must be open, interoperable, and compliant with industry standards.
The importance of Industry Standards
TM Forum plays a pivotal role in the evolution of autonomous networks by fostering openness, collaboration, and standardization within the telecommunications industry. It actively contributes to shaping the future of autonomous networks by developing and promoting best practices, frameworks, and standards.
Best-of-breed automated assurance solutions such as Infovista’s Ativa™ Suite not only comply to TM Forum's Open API Program, but also align with its Open Digital Architecture (ODA), offering a unified 360° view across both Resource Performance Management (TMFC038) and Service Performance Management (TMFC037) domains.
At DTW23, Infovista and BT Group showcased the successful application of these principles, demonstrating how the rapid integration of Ativa within BT’s environment streamlined the automation of anomaly detection, analysis, and the creation and enrichment of alarms in their trouble-ticketing system through open APIs.
In DTW24, partners continue their collaboration through a catalyst project titled “Business driven automation enabled by 360º observability and intelligence”, which incorporates the highlighted themes discussed in this blog.
What Is Achievable Today
The quest for achieving fully autonomous networks is an ongoing journey, but the tangible benefits are already within reach. With the right capabilities, operators can embark on a transformative path today, streamlining workflows, reducing operational complexities, and improving customer experiences.