Today quality of service must be measured across networks — regardless of infrastructure, device, or location. The explosion of data related to network health and performance is already offering complex challenges to existing assurance solutions. With the introduction of network functions virtualization (NFV) and virtual networks, the level of complexity is unprecedented and is forcing service providers to re-evaluate their approaches to network management in 2018 and beyond.
A Hybrid Approach to Transformation
Operators have also learned that virtualization is not an overnight process, and risk around service delivery is not a trivial matter. While telcos need to be prepared for the near- and long-term future, they cannot neglect the present. Assurance that supports hybrid infrastructure, both physical and virtual, is critical to quickly identifying and resolving network failures and outages. Having a solution in place to accommodate a hybrid infrastructure will allow future network scale-ups to become a much more manageable process than the currently-needed top to bottom overhaul.
This converged approach to service assurance, featuring an end-to-end view of network performance and customer experience, is absolutely necessary. Older monitoring tools were often a complicated jumble of separately developed products, making any attempt at a holistic view of performance effectively impossible. Especially in a hybrid environment, a unified service assurance tool with the capability to correlate problems in previously siloed parts of the network, ensures that problems are pinpointed as quickly as possible back to their source rather than just to their symptoms.
Intelligent and Automated Solutions
Today’s network demands are forcing assurance solutions to prepare for the changes they are about to encounter. Things like the ability to pre-program automated actions based on data analytics is becoming critically important. Similarly, as we move toward more dynamic virtual networks, zero-touch operations are becoming a reality. While today’s solutions still have a long way to go to fully meet the changing network demands required in a virtual environment, operators should be looking at solutions that can evolve with the network – specifically those solutions that offer agility, flexibility, and automated and dynamic business intelligence.
The importance of business intelligence tools cannot be emphasized enough. For today’s operators facing transformation, the more proactive the solution can be in identifying issues in real-time, and the more intelligent analysis based on current and historical information, the faster the resolution of problems.
As today’s communications service providers prepare for network virtualization and thus network and business transformations, investing in strategic service assurance solutions is critical. While we cannot yet fathom the extent of services to come, we do know that service providers should be thinking about holistic and agile solutions that can easily scale and evolve with the network.
Here are some things to consider:
- A hybrid assurance solution should have out-of-the-box support for OpenStack as well as industry standard virtual network functions (VNFs).
- Virtual and software-defined networks (SDN) will enable automated service optimization and remediation. This will need to be driven by the assurance solution, so it should have demonstrated closed-loop feedback automation to orchestration systems.
- An assurance solution for SDN/NFV should have the ability to visualize end-to-end and top-to-bottom service chains across both the physical and virtual assets to facilitate troubleshooting, identify service impact, and automate correlation.
The lessons learned over the past year have taught us that virtualization is not a quick or easy process. It is an all-encompassing network transformation that needs to be phased to ensure continued satisfaction from the customer. That means that while service providers need to be future-proofing, they must also be taking systematic and thoughtful approaches to change. They must be re-evaluating their existing assurance solutions to ensure that they are ready for SDN/NFV, and flexible enough to manage change while working toward complete network virtualization and transformation.
With the right strategic investments in service assurance now, service providers have the ability not only to address their current network needs, but also to prepare themselves for all of the unknowns, excitements, and complexities that the future has in store.