At first glance, NaaS and edge transformation may not seem closely related, but as Blue Planet’s Kailem Anderson explains, NaaS is a fundamental enabler for the autonomous.
Increasing complexity at the edge
While edge transformation offers the promise of unprecedented improvements in service agility, performance and availability, it also challenges current operations models. In fact, the complexity of service activation, management and assurance across a myriad of multi-vendor physical and virtual elements deployed in hundreds or even thousands of edge locations make outdated operational processes - and the reliance on manual intervention - all but irrelevant.
Traditional operations environments tightly integrate network domains with the Business and Operations Support System (B/OSS) infrastructure. Each and every time new network elements and services are introduced, they must first be integrated with the B/OSS, which involves proprietary interfaces and one-off code development. Once operationalized, technicians must manually access the B/OSS to gather information to design, activate and assure services.
This legacy approach to operations results in high costs, slow time to market, and limited scale, and is wholly unsuited to edge transformation, because it cannot efficiently support cloud-based business models, on-demand services, or even new technologies like 5G. Instead, intelligent automation and a NaaS framework are needed to realize the autonomous edge.
What is NaaS?
Network as a Service (NaaS) lets CSPs decouple the network ‘layer’ from the B/OSS ‘layer’, and uses standards-based architectures and open APIs to provide a consistent, standardized way for these layers to ‘talk’ to each other. This allows innovation within any layer without disrupting any other layers.
Some common NaaS misconceptions are that it is just a new way for CSPs to sell virtualized services to enterprises, that its only about B/OSS transformation through open and programmable APIs, or that it means the same thing as software-defined networking (SDN).
Instead, I like to think of NaaS as a network, operations and business framework that is open, agile and automated, helping CSPs reduce operational costs, increase innovation, accelerate time to market, and improve customer experience.
Building on SDN to Move Toward Automation
NaaS also lets CSPs fully embrace SDN to accelerate their automation initiatives. SDN enables network domains to be ‘programmed’ - controlled centrally and intelligently - using open interfaces to simplify traffic engineering and service provisioning. NaaS builds on SDN to allow CSPs to modernize their operational processes with automated orchestration, assurance, analytics, and policy control.
Blue Planet worked with seven CSPs in a recent TM Forum Catalyst proof of concept that used zero-touch service lifecycle automation to deliver Edge Compute as a Service (ECaaS). The team used standard reference architectures and APIs to show how CSPs can implement NaaS and to cut time to market for new services by 50 percent.
Blue Planet is also working with several CSPs that are developing NaaS architectures, and we are helping Australian fibre provider Vocus, who is implementing an automated NaaS architecture that will eventually consolidate six networks and eight B/OSS stacks. The company is adopting NaaS, NFV and SDN as part of its “Future State” strategy and is using the Blue Planet Intelligent Automation portfolio as the foundational platform.
Key for Vocus - and all other CSPs - is seeing measurable benefits throughout their NaaS journey. These include:
- Accelerated time to market for new services, which leads to new revenue and differentiation
- Rapid service activation, with customer self-service options, which accelerates ROI
- Lower operations and integration costs, which improves margins and competitiveness
- Reduces the risks associated with adopting new technology and delivering new services
CSPs will have also have better visibility, and will be able to troubleshoot problems easily. This will have a direct benefit in terms of improving customer care.
Start the Journey to the Autonomous Edge
NaaS and intelligent automation are not only critical to strategic edge transformation initiatives, they are required to bring the autonomous edge to reality. And while CSPs too often think NaaS is not ready for prime time and its benefits are abstract, that, too, is a misconception: the benefits are measurable - and available - today.
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