Understand Today,
Automate Your Next-Gen Network Tomorrow

As with any transformational technologies, SDN and NFV have introduced more than their fair share of buzz-words and promises over the past few years.

Vendors, open source projects and SDOs extoll the virtues of the agile network of the future and the coming wave of AI-driven automation. Faced with an aging workforce and increased competition, these superficial bedtime stories can be very appealing for Service Providers.

Go grab a coffee while the network re-configures itself. Sleep soundly tonight while your autonomous network self-optimizes. Good luck with that.

The first step in network automation is understanding

As I travel and meet with Service Providers from across the globe, one thing is clear: the first step in automation is understanding.

Most CSPs agree, there are several drivers to adopting automation.

  • First, the ability to respond to issues before they occur, or right after, is essential to maintaining a seamless customer service experience and keeping opex low. Today’s customers are demanding accountability and CSPs can’t afford to keep the amount of staff it would require to implement real-time network and service validation.
  • Second, the current manual service assurance approaches will be insufficient to provide detection of performance and network issues within NFV frameworks.
  • And finally, without data-driven automation, CSPs cannot keep up with the efficiencies that will be required. Self-healing and continuous testing are the only ways to deliver continuously improved service experience which is crucial to improving customer satisfaction and reducing churn.

While these insights may appear obvious, it’s surprising how few organizations have actionable plans to bridge their business into the future.

In a recent survey conducted by Heavy Reading’s Thought Leadership Council, the majority of CSPs (79%) said analytics and closed-loop orchestration will be critically important to their service assurance strategies over the next three to five years.

Service providers need a practical roadmap

As an industry, we appear to be waiting for the end-point to magically materialize. The time for talking about the destination is past…Service Providers need a practical roadmap to get there.

Despite these frustrations, much has been accomplished over the past five years. Automation technologies have dramatically improved. Check. Standards bodies have developed common frameworks and vernacular. Check. Open Source projects have democratized the technology stack. Check. So why is the pace of adoption so agonizingly slow?

It is becoming increasingly clear that among the largest obstacles is a fundamental lack of understanding of how these new networks behave. It is human nature to mistrust something you don’t fully understand (particularly when your reputation depends upon it). The hype of ‘auto-magic’ networks fails to meet a simple human need…to understand what is going on.
Until the rank and file gain more understanding and trust in automation, the promises of next-generation networks will remain just beyond reach.

Building the Confidence to Change

Over the course of decades, Service Providers have built-up organizational wisdom. This hard-earned knowledge gave operators the intuitive confidence needed to effectively weigh risks, even in the absence of objective data. Gut feel could be trusted. While not always comfortable, organizational wisdom was valuable and could be counted upon.

It’s this same wisdom that Service Providers are now looking to automate. In an effort to streamline automation, SDN and NFV have introduced new levels of abstraction between people and the underlying technologies. In a human sense, however, these have counterproductively introduced new complexities; the implications of which have not yet been fully internalized.

Data in point: Thirty-nine percent of CSPs surveyed in a recent Open Networking Survey Report indicated they were already deploying SDN. And 44% of CSPs say that SDN is critical to their ‘NFV data center evolution’, however, not all CSPs were in agreement. Some cited that SDN is secondary to NFV and will be implemented after SFV, and even still some responded by saying that SDN is not required for NFV and will implement without it.

Clearly, there is still work to be done to achieve consensus.

So what can business leaders do to accelerate organizational wisdom in next-generation networks?

Don’t Curb your Enthusiasm, Shift It

As network services become more abstract and cloud-like, Service Providers must look for opportunities to nurture a new collection of higher-level knowledge.

From an assurance perspective, this means confidently understanding where degradations have occurred, how your automation reacted, and how the desired outcomes were validated. From an engineering and planning perspective, this means understanding how multiple services can effortlessly scale across shared commodity infrastructure.
The excitement of automation is contagious. Equally so can be the analytics discoveries you make along the way. Embrace it!

Functionality for your entire team.

From Network to Field Operations, Big Data and Care teams, SONAR4 provides complete situational awareness of cloud network issues and root-cause traceability across the enterprise. Advanced automation keeps performance at its peak.