Multi-access edge computing (MEC), virtualised network function (VNF) and 5G give service providers powerful new ways to maximise scalability, flexibility and operational efficiency while enabling new services and revenue streams.
However, to capitalise on those opportunities, says Sharon Dileo, director of product management at iconectiv, service providers first must have a highly accurate, industry-standard way to identify and manage all of their infrastructure, including their physical and virtual assets.
Those capabilities enable them to quickly provision, activate, charge for, manage and troubleshoot the services that infrastructure supports. As a result, they can roll out their 5G networks faster than rivals that don’t have these capabilities, giving them a competitive advantage.
For example, service providers now must be able to track each VNF and cloud-native network function (CNF) in three ways:
- Physically: the portion of the VNF/CNF linked to the computing platform where the software is hosted.
- Logically: the E2E service chain for each VNF/CNF.
- Logistically: the license usage permissions that the VNF/CNF software owner grants for each instance placed into service at that time.
In a new IDC whitepaper, Simplifying 5G Deployments by Leveraging Established Operational Tools, the author Karl Whitlock noted that from a service assurance and service-level agreement (SLA) perspective, the physical and logical portions of a VNF/CNF must always be accounted for to maintain end-to-end (E2E) service integrity.
The paper further noted that from a business and infrastructure perspective, specific knowledge of the physical / logical environment is essential for revenue tracking and partner settlement needs whenever partner-provided functionality is used. Mixed with all VNF/CNF capabilities is a hybrid assembly with existing physical network functions (PNFs) that must be tracked and managed.
These and other types of information also need to be expressed in a common nomenclature for sharing, both internally and externally. For example, an industry-standard nomenclature makes it easier for two service providers to share interconnection information. It also helps service providers keep up with the needs of the burgeoning amount of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
For instance, 5G standards include Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), a set of capabilities that enables networks to support up to 1 million devices per square kilometre. As a result, each service provider must be able to identify potentially tens of millions of new network connectivity points across all of its IoT customers.
Enabling private 5G networks and global footprints
Service providers with these capabilities also can be more attractive to business partners, such as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) operators. Another example is a service provider that owns networks in several European countries and needs a U.S. partner to expand into North America.
To offer a service that spans an entire country, continent or the world, those partners will need to work with multiple facilities-based mobile service providers. They’ll prefer ones that can identify and manage all of their physical and virtual assets because those capabilities enable them to better support partners, such as by enabling a fast, EMEA-wide rollout of a 5G-powered connected vehicle service.
“In order to unlock the value of 5G, we need an ecosystem of collaborators that have granular, actionable insight into their networks. A common nomenclature is the most efficient way to identify the location, capabilities and capacity of each and every network asset supporting those IoT devices,” says Jim Brisimitzis, 5G Open Innovation Lab general partner. “This will allow service providers in our ecosystem to innovate faster and share their experience more easily with their peers.”
Another use case is enterprises, whose traditional role as customers is evolving, thanks to regulatory and technology-standard changes that enable them to operate their own private 4G and 5G networks. One example is a manufacturer that builds and operates private 5G networks for its factories around the world.
Like mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and communications platform as a service (CPaaS) operators, these enterprises will need to work with multiple mobile service providers to ensure that their employees and IoT devices always have a connection.
“Understanding the physical and logical placement of assets is strategic to several internal operations functions including network planning, asset accounting, inventory, service orchestration, catalogue, activation, network assurance, SLAs, policy, rating and charging,” IDC says. “The multilevel construct of the underlay and overlay connectivity infrastructure and the E2E partner-aided services to customers of all types brings additional layers of asset tracking complexity that must be addressed by each of these business and operations management domains.”
The author is Sharon Dileo, director, product management at iconectiv.
About the author
Sharon Dileo is responsible for setting the strategy, roadmap and feature definition for TruOps Common Language. Her role entails collaborating with a cross functional team to ensure strategic and tactical alignment of goals and resources for the delivery of the product and services both domestically and internationally.
Dileo has more than 30 years of experience with IT products and solutions in the telecommunications and finance sectors. Before joining iconectiv, Dileo served as executive director at Bell Communications Research and most recently as vice president for Morgan Stanley information systems. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and statistics from The College of New Jersey and a Master of Business Administration in finance and decision sciences from Rider University.