For communications service providers, the name of the game is operations automation – and it’s a requirement to stay in business, says Klaus Martiny, Senior Program Manager, Deutsche Telekom, who delivered a keynote at Action Week in Lisbon on Monday.
How do we get from this…
That’s the question Martiny posed to other network operators and suppliers gathered here in Lisbon for the Forum’s semi-annual Action Week event where network operators and their partners collaborate on solutions to some of ICT’s most pressing challenges.
“We have been talking for a while about how to automate operations,” Martiny said. “We haven’t been very successful, but now it has to be done or we are going to lose business.”
Deutsche Telekom’s vision is one of no human involvement, he said, adding that “achieving 100 percent zero-touch will be difficult, but in principle we’re hoping for success.”
The company is focusing in three areas: zero-touch operations, optimization and user experience management. In terms of operations, it is focusing on self-restoration, self-healing capabilities and security while also working on opportunities for optimization, such as self-configuration and resource management. The company is also looking at ways to automate customer experience.
“The user, of course, is a huge, important part in this concept,” Martiny said. “We can’t ignore them – we have to know what kind of quality we are delivering to our customers because that is where the money is coming from.”
Out with the old
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that most network operators are still running their businesses using outdated, siloed operational and business support systems (OSS/BSS), and the sophistication of network management “remaining mostly in the Stone Age,” according to Martiny. This must change, and simplification is key.
“We are, as human beings, masters of complexity – it’s one of our strengths,” he said. “But we have to go for more simplicity. If you look at the introduction of 5G and [network]slicing, you can imagine how complex the world will be if we don’t find a better way to manage our networks.”
Martiny pointed to an Albert Einstein quote for inspiration: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The burgeoning internet of things (IoT) also demands a new ways of management. Martiny shared a sobering slide showing the number of devices networks are expected to support in the future.
This also means use of a lot more small cells – likely hundreds of thousands per telco – so centralized management will be impossible. It will have to move to the edge.
To meet the new requirements, operators must implement real-time management, which must be defined through collaborative efforts in standards-development organizations (SDOs) and open source groups.
“We need a lot of new definitions,” Martiny said. “What does ‘real time’ mean? What does slicing mean?” Different SDOs have different visions and there is a need for cooperation and interaction among all of the SDO and open source players.
Deutsche Telekom’s architectural vision, shown below, is similar to AT&T’s ECOMP.
Requirements to realize the vision include:
- full automation, a model-driven approach toward zero-touch;
- use of big data analytics and artificial intelligence;
- collaboration among SDOs and open-source groups; and
- real-time management to leapfrog the user experience
Let’s come together
Industry agreement on common information models and how to move forward also are key, Martiny said, adding that Deutsche Telekom recently hosted a workshop on network and service management that was attended by more than 160 people who discussed how to manage all the challenges operators are facing.
Personally, Martiny is active in multiple SDOs. He has been Vice Chairman of the Network Operator Council in the ETSI ISG NFV since 2014, and also is also active in the NGMN as Project Lead of the Network Management and Orchestration project and of the NGCOR I and II projects to define operations requirements for converged networks.
“The idea is to figure out the obstacles to achieving automation,” Martiny said. “There are many information and data models across the industry and we should find at least a common information model.”