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NFV is here to stay. Ignoring it won’t make it go away

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NFV adoption challenges

1 of 8: Now is the time for telcos to read-in and skill-up on the transition to NFV

As many of you know, it’s been my honour and privilege to collaborate with the fine folks at Ericsson in various forms, blogs, articles, podcastsvideos, events etc.

You may also know, just maybe, that I am a HUGE fan of Fifth Generation mobile ( 5G ).

So much so I’d love to see a 5G icon on my phone tomorrow if Santa could make it my Christmas wish. Regardless, no matter how you look at it, 5G and NFV are coming, some might say they are already here.

So consider me biased in my efforts here – Ericsson have put in so much work to complete their own digital transformation, transitioning to Software Defined Infrastructure ( SDI ) and Software Defined Network ( SDN ) capabilities built on an OpenStack cloud platform, and mapping out what it looks like for the rest of us/industry, that we’d be fools not to learn from them (err, was that my out-loud voice?). I often say that Ericsson are their own first customer in this space.

A key foundational component underpinning SDN is that of Network Function Virtualisation ( NFV ), which in it’s own right is a heady topic to come to grips with. To address this, Ericsson have recently published a series of 8 ebooks on the topic of NFV transition.

This is the 1st in what will be an eight part series of blogs where I’ll review and share key highlights from those ebooks here, and I heartily encourage you to download your own copies and dive in yourself at ericsson.com/nfv.

I’m not going to belabour the point of “why should we”, or “do we have to.” The fact is “yes, we do”. To “do” 5G, telco operators and carriers *must* move from physical network functions ( PNF ) to virtual. The scope is daunting and the transition will not be easy ( Ericsson estimates it’ll take on average 2 to 3 years. *gulp*. ) The good news though, is that both the business and technology benefits have been validated and confirmed by early adopters, and the technology is performing well.

Ericsson quotes the telecom research analysts Heavy Reading with their list of the top 8 technical challenges, from security to power consumption, but Ericsson’s own list of challenges-to-anticipate looks different:

  1. Lack of quantifiable business case
  2. Multiple vendors and lack of accountability for breakdowns
  3. Immature technology
  4. Telco culture not ready for cloud
  5. Components and source code not ready for plug-and-play interoperability
  6. Lifecycle management requirements (tools, processes, skills) are intense and more multidisciplinary than existing telco workforce’s highly-specialised skill sets
  7. Meeting & maintaining fault detection and uptime requirements in a cloud infrastructure
  8. It’s complicated. Hardware-defined networks are very hard to mix w/ virtual network functions, making staged migration difficult and resource intensive

To paraphrase Sun Tzu, it’s best to know thy enemy ( and some might say to keep a packet of Nurofen or Advil handy ). But fear not, have faith, we can do this, especially with the help of the team from Ericsson and their partners, and we are already learning from Ericsson’s experiences thus far.

They themselves have made the shift as part of their own Digital Transformation, and have subsequently helped several other operators through their own pivot to virtual.

Like all journeys, it starts with a first step. I recommend everyone’s first step be to map out basic high level requirements – i.e what does “good” look like in your world:

  • Integration, integration, integration. I will blog more on this. Just make sure that integration capabilities factor hugely in your planning. Pre-integration solutions are out there and may be worth considering.
  • Automating and orchestrating all can seem complicated but it is essential. Luckily there’s been good progress made on standards-based management and orchestration architecture management and orchestration ( MANO ), which means you can expect and require interoperability between vendors.
  • Don’t skimp on security. As if we needed to be told. Do your due diligence on the new security management tools, make sure they’re comprehensive across the entire stack.
  • Be prepared to do this from scratch. Updating existing code to cloud has been tried and is an out-and-out fail. Skill-up for cloud-native development. New or refactored code may be required in some areas.
  • Similarly, take the time to get your head around a software dominant infrastructure. The physical environment *goes away*. That’s massive. But, with the speed at which cloud moves, and the scale of new growth and consumer demand, automated software is critical.
  • Make sure you plan to move your Business Support Systems ( BSS ) and Operational Support Systems ( OSS ) and tools over as well, so that you get the business rewards from all this.
  • Performance optimisation strategies are different on cloud. Prep for technologies such as SR-IOV, vSwitch optimisations and cloud-native design principles.
  • Open Source is at the heart of these new systems and tools, where possible leverage open source for all the obvious reasons, and be wary of proprietary closed systems, integration of open source and open API’s is likely to be far less challenging. Require clearly defined capabilities, APIs and a transparent roadmap.
  • Put on your thicker skin, you are going have to make changes. Prepare to be Agile, get used to the Fail & Fail fast ethos, this is the world we live in now – Cloud & NFV move faster than anything you’ve seen before, and current or legacy telco service, business and development environments are all going to have to adapt.

Have I mentioned you need to do this, now? Waiting is likely to be deadly. Anyone arriving late to the NFV party is bound to simply be left behind. It’s very much a case of adapt or be eaten. There is no doubt though, that investment to transition is worth it, the benefits to NFV are massive

Benefits of NFV

  • CapEx lowered by up to 30% and OpEx by 25%
  • Mobile private network on-boarding time reduced from 21 days to 1 minute
  • Global enterprise network on-boarding reduced from months to days
  • Time to add NFV capacity reduced from 60 days to 2 hours
  • With automation, troubleshooting time reduced from 60 to 3 minutes

I remember discussing many of these benefits with Mats Karlsson, Head of Solution area OSS at Ericsson last year when I was visiting the Ericsson Digital Studio in their head office campus in Kista, Sweden, as part of the first of my Transmissions from the Future themed podcast shows. Matts was actually my first Ericsson guest on the show. At the time he was Head of R&D and Portfolio, and he referred to the dramatic shift from eight months to stand up an environment to a mere eight minutes ( you can tune into that podcast show here ).

Ericsson points to their own ( and partner ) rollouts to validate those percentages. You know your hourly costs of operation. Simple math.

As I mention there’s a complete series of eight ebooks from Ericsson, which break the transition down step-by-step. I strongly recommend you grab all eight of them, and consume them at your own pace, in bite-sized chunks to avoid choking – this is a long-term strategic play, you’ll need your strength. Grab your copy of all eight free NFV eBooks from Ericsson here => ericsson.com/nfv

That’s it for part one in this eight part series, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in part two.

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What can we expect from Huawei? Innovation, 5.5G and much more.

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At this week’s Win-Win·Huawei Innovation Week, in a keynote speech entitled “Innovation, Lighting up the 5.5G Era”, David Wang set out the next evolution of 5G technology, which the company terms 5.5G. He also laid out an industry innovation roadmap for the next five to ten years.

“Looking ahead to 2025, the sheer diversity and magnitude of network service requirements will create huge new market potential,” said Wang. “We’re here to discuss these opportunities with operators and industry partners, and explore the innovations we need to help pave the way for 5.5G.”

First proposed by Huawei at the 11th Global Mobile Broadband Forum in 2020, 5.5G has more recently been supplemented by F5.5G (or fixed 5.5G) this April at the Huawei’s Global Analyst Summit (see Elnion’s coverage of the event).

A wealth of new requirements will raise the bar for next-generation ICT infrastructure

According to Wang, new developments in digital technology need to support a truly real-time, engaging, and more immersive experience in the digital world, and gradually make a 10 Gbps network experience available everywhere on the planet.

On the industrial front, digitalisation has already entered the fast lane. AI will be fully integrated into enterprise production processes, and the size of the 5.5G IoT market will grow rapidly. Collaboration between robots and people in complex scenarios will impose greater requirements on next-generation industrial field networks.

Currently, bottlenecks in computing, such as memory walls, unbalanced utilisation of data center resources, and low energy efficiency, are hindering the rise of new computing demand. To address these challenges, Huawei is looking to help the industry needs innovate at the architecture and system levels to boost computing supply.

Six features of 5.5G – New value for digital life and development

The first is a 10 Gbps user experience. 5.5G will deliver a 10 Gbps experience through MIMO technology that boasts larger bandwidth, higher spectrum efficiency, and higher-order modulation. With next-generation technologies like FTTR, Wi-Fi 7, 50G PON, and 800G, F5.5G will bring a 10 Gbps experience everywhere.

At the event, Wang proposed Net5.5G for the first time, defining the evolution of IP networks to meet the rising demand for computing power by intelligent applications. “As digitalisation takes hold, intelligent applications will see large-scale commercialisation and computing resources will be located across multiple clouds,” said Wang. “Enterprises need to make use of computing power from multiple clouds at lower costs, with greater agility and flexibility. To this end, we need to keep innovating based on IPv6 to help the industry thrive. This is why we proposed Net5.5G.”

Second, the business scope will go beyond connectivity. 5.5G will go beyond connectivity to include sensing, which will result in a wealth of new scenarios and applications. Wireless sensing and fiber sensing technologies will be used in vehicle-road collaboration and environment monitoring. Passive IoT will integrate cellular and passive tag technologies to create 100 billion potential connections. 5.5G core networks will redefine architectures and foundational technologies to enable new service scenarios, such as industry private networks, industrial field networks, and new calling.

Third, diversified computing will enable diversified applications. In the 5.5G era, computing architectures will be redefined to increase computing efficiency by 10-fold through chip engineering and full peer-to-peer interconnection architectures.

Fourth, data-centric storage will break through existing limits in storage architecture. Future storage will improve storage performance by 10-fold through data-centric hardware and software architecture and diversified data application acceleration engines.

Fifth, full-stack AI native will make L4 highly autonomous driving networks (ADNs) a reality. ADNs have become a common goal of the industry. Full-stack AI native, from network elements to networks and services, will accelerate breakthroughs in ADN technology. The results of new innovation, such as compression algorithms for hundreds of network indicators and unknown fault identification by AI foundation models, will be widely applied in the 5.5G era.

Lastly, developments in green technology and system-level innovation will increase energy efficiency. The ITU-T has adopted Network Carbon data/energy intensity (NCIe) as the unified energy efficiency metric to guide the industry’s green development roadmap. Huawei has developed innovative solutions for green sites, green networks, and green operations to increase network capacity and cut energy consumption per bit. These solutions will empower operators in the 5.5G era.

“As we move towards the 5.5G era, all industry players need to work together to bring standards to maturity and cultivate a thriving industry,” said Wang. He proposed three recommendations to conclude his speech.

  • The industry needs to work closely together to define the vision and roadmap for 5.5G.
  • The industry should define technology standards within the standards frameworks set by 3GPP, ETSI, and ITU.
  • All industry players should work together to promote a thriving industry ecosystem by incubating more use cases and accelerating digital, intelligent transformation.

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Next-Gen Networks & 5G, Facilitating Enterprise Business Transformation

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Enterprise Business Transformation

The prospective industrial network is taking the same route as that of Operations Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT). Varying from WAN and LAN, holding a third-party network to outsource cloud-based SaaS solutions via public clouds.

Presently, the sole aim of most organisations is to acquire real Business Operations Transformation while acquiring more significant business concessions, ROI from network technologies acquisitions, and services sustaining their business core.

Perhaps I can witness the enterprise IT transformation, as the businesses have been continually developing systems, indulging in crafting designs, plans and following the trial and error to roll out Private Converged enterprise networks, with a motive to leverage 5G in particular, regardless of their size and shape. 

But what’s unfortunate is the challenges the enterprise business transformation has brought along due to a lack of experience and skills. This frequently leads the HR departments of the enterprises to struggle while sourcing in-house expertise and understanding of digital enterprise transformation networks. As a result, the challenges bind them to bring those powers to their organisations from the market for a Partner of Choice. 

The difficulties enterprises face when embracing and operating consolidated digital enterprise transformation networks, and 5G solutions are the expertise, as these aren’t their core business. Instead, they ought the suited technology and telecoms counterpart to function with to yield flourishing results.

I recently hosted and mediated a live-stream discussion featuring two globally leading telecom executives, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient, and Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation. Horizon Power, for Cyient, titled CXO Cyience – Designing Networks of Tomorrow.” 

Our conversation was near and around the emerging transition in converged networks as enterprise IT transformation by assembling their own remote converged networks. Our discussion also covered some of their distinctive insights and stances on conceiving a savvy infrastructure. 

Though there wasn’t much that we could cover in our short conversation, after concluding our live stream, I realised that there were two major takeaway points that I believed needed to be heightened for you people. So here are two essential highlights I brought away from our live-stream event and what Aashu and Ray had to articulate on each matter when I requested them both to confer on them.

Takeaway #1

Early adopters witness prospects for instantaneous triumphs, and early adopter yields from Next-Generation Networks mainly fused personal networks across firms, which are usually prepared to leverage 5G, are flaring up prospects on multiple fronts, resulting in the advancement of creative business prototypes as new use cases for Customer and Business conditions arise.

I’m witnessing an inflated number of prospects for corps to attain influential Enterprise Business Transformation via Next Generation Networks by embracing new functioning models and use cases that access the technology that enables consolidated and Next Generation Networks.

Undoubtedly, this was conferred in profundity during our live-stream affair. Still, I felt there was more that my ace visitors could convey, so I contacted Ray and Aashu Virmani and requested them to elaborate the topic with instances of where they are witnessing possibilities for both prompt victories and early adopter returns. So here is what they had to state:

“Cyient is internally organised across ten industry verticals, from Communications to Utilities, Mining, Rail, Aerospace, and Medical – just to name a few. Within the past six months, we’ve seen over a dozen of our clients, with whom we were previously engaged for their vertical-specific use cases, start initiatives around communications and developing their own private networks — all in the context of their own enterprise transformation. More and more, we are recognizing internally how our Communications business is fast becoming ‘horizontal’ across all of our other verticals when it comes to private networks. We are simultaneously engaging with our CSP customers to help them develop and expand their implementation practices around offering private networks to their enterprise accounts.”, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient.

“Quick wins are a great and important way to prove out and demonstrate the value of next-generation network investments, and certainly in the space we occupy there is no shortage of examples. For example, five years ago, we installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to underpin our Smart Grid goals and objectives. Initially, we used it to collect, send, and analyse consumer energy consumption data. Since then, we’ve leveraged the same data sets to automatically detect neutral integrity issues. Looking to tomorrow, we want to leverage the abilities of our AMI infrastructure to self-heal, support demand-side DER management, and enhance energy efficiency.”, Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation, Horizon Power.

Takeaway #2

The content of architecture industries can currently think when enforcing personal networks persists in flaring up assertive new prospects for enterprise business transformation. Multiple believed the things of telcos & carriers are now obtainable to enterprise consumers across the range.

The emphasis now is not solely to construct it correctly the foremost time, but likewise, construct it ‘intelligently’ so that process & administration evolves actually and efficiently.

Corps have become ever more critical to find the best probable Partner of Choice to defend them to accomplish such transformative developments. But, unfortunately, it is not usually the core business for most institutions to enforce, function, or drive Next Generation Networks.

Similarly, I conferred this extensively with my visitors during our live-stream event. Still, I desired to proffer my ace visitors the chance to convey more on this. So I requested them to elaborate the topic with instances where they witness prospects. So here is what they had to convey:

“When it comes to intelligent network architectures, an important learning for us was that it’s not simply a case of one size fits all. If you focus on your use cases, then the right architecture/s become apparent. Once we resolved that, it was exciting to see other opportunities emerge. For example, in our case we started by looking at a use case that supported our Operational requirements, however, we subsequently realised that the architecture that emerged from this, offered support for a wide range of use cases we hadn’t considered that sat outside of our Operations group and that these particular use cases offered us the potential to develop a significant new revenue stream. In an environment where there is considerable pressure on costs and revenues, opportunities such as this are game-changing.”, Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation, Horizon Power.

“Developing the right architecture for a private network depends on the eventual use case (or cases) the customer is attempting to solve, and which of the following six criteria are most important drivers: coverage, latency, density, QoS, security, and cost. The right architecture, and which OEMs we use for the customer depends on which variables we are attempting to optimise, and can range between being an extension and densification of the CSP network at the enterprise premises, to being a completely air-gapped stand-alone network owned and managed by the enterprise, to a hybrid between these two extremes. The important thing to realise is that no two networks are equal because the business problem for a mining customer may be drastically different from that of a manufacturing plant owner. Having an understanding of various industry verticals gives us an advantage when it comes to tailoring a solution that is optimal for a customer.”, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient.

What I can conclude from what I was able to absorb and comprehend based on my prior knowledge about the related topic and the insights I received from our hearty discussion is that it is time to act as those waits are surely going to miss the opportunities that early adopters and next-gen network embracers are going to avail cause of begin, not just early but skilful birds.

Besides, please do listen via the link below if you haven’t already tuned into the exclusive panel conversation I had with Ray and Aashu. I look ahead to resuming this discussion with Ray, Aashu, and the crew at Cyient in the future.

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Enterprise Mobility Solutions, is your business ready to admire itself?

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Enterprise Mobility Solutions

The pandemic has not only affected healthcare but also has left businesses across the globe struggling in this practically completely altered world that’s boasted with new technologies. Where the tech was just an add on to enterprise mobility solutions for a few, for others, it emerged as an essential enabler for all aspects of their business. Irrespective of the size and importance of tech in past business, we all can relate to the fact that the future of business will be mobile.  

Recently I had a chance to talk to Jason Inskeep, Director, 5G Centre of Excellence at AT&T Business, and share a divine conversation on mobile solutions for enterprise. We spoke on an array of related topics starting right from the scope of changing service function to how 5G will change business and the share of AT&T in it. 

Understanding mobility in the context of Industry 4.0 and COVID-19

COVID-19 has practically changed the way we used to comprehend tech. It has certainly shown us we did rather underestimate its potential. The traditional definition has been eradicated through mobility in use cases. The need of having remote-first workers be connected securely to fetch immediate help to first responders has shifted the connectivity paradigm. 

Software-defined networks had supported us in fulfilling those commitments shown stability in trading with the hasty shift in behaviors and magnitude upsurge when we were in dire need of it.

Further, the inherent resilience and security built into the networks are growing stronger with each passing day. Now we are moving towards finding a solution that would help bridge the securities embedded in different technologies. 

But there’s likewise the subsequent level of a prospect to promote business opportunities while mitigating risks near the ‘welding points’ of data flow – not only into endpoints but likewise in how the edge is connecting.

AT&T Mobility Solutions

Encouraging mobile and secured networking that can be adapted and mounted as per use case

AT&T mobility solutions are devised to bear the idea of enterprise-grade security past the confines of the workplace and furnish them at the point-of-need – wherever business is transpiring. So, irrespective of your location, mobile networking solutions are prepared to furnish the speed, latency, and protection you ought, not just for seamless connectivity but decision-making on the motion in a vibrant environment, where circumstances develop and transform around you every moment.

Best way to enforce 5G? Ignore the G!

Customers are required to unlearn the ‘G’ and consider networking in terms of ‘the journey of the data packet’ to prepare an optimal consumer experience. 

As Jason puts it, “The good news is that the software is virtually ready to handle anything you throw at it. That’s also the bad news.” This implies its upto us to craft new paths and mitigates risks for an optimal 5G consumer experience. 

Use cases will determine the technology instead of the other way round

The potential of 5G is virtually limitless. What’s limiting us is our hesitation to embrace another iteration of networking. The need of the hour is for enterprises to comprehend 5G – not just from a technical viewpoint but operational or a financial standpoint of businesses. 

The continuum of command has developed for businesses, and with the commoditization of the scope, there is a possibility of paralysis by analysis. The trick is to remain calm and embrace the right way to upscale your business!

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