On the Road to Operations Automation

Metaswitch has been busy lately working with industry efforts on operations automation and sharing our expertise in cloud native software design. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) want to automate network operations processes as much as possible to reduce operating costs and increase service agility, which were some of the benefits that made Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) so attractive in the first place. Indeed, operational efficiency is the main reason for many CSPs to embrace virtualization.

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But automation and the resulting efficiency gains are proving to be elusive for CSPs that have deployed NFV so far. There’s a long way to go, but we’re working on it.

While NFV requires automation at many different levels, one of the most important factors in operational automation is whether the Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) are inherently designed for the cloud. Simply porting monolithic code from purpose-built equipment onto industry standard hardware doesn’t go far enough to deliver the full potential of operational cost savings. The software itself needs to be cloud native.

Cloud native software design methodologies leverage microservices, which are small, reusable software components that are developed and deployed independently but interwork and operate in unison to form a complete application. Applications built using microservices are easier to deploy, orchestrate and scale. This is how Web-scale companies, like Amazon, Google and Netflix, build applications and create highly agile development environments.

Here’s a snapshot of how our cloud native software know-how is contributing to the development of operations automation:

  • Metaswitch contributed its cloud native Clearwater Core virtual IMS to the first Proof of Concept, called ServoCloud, organized by ETSI’s Zero touch network and Service Management (ZSM) Industry Specification Group (ISG). The group’s goal is to “have all operational processes and tasks (e.g., delivery, deployment, configuration, assurance, and optimization) executed automatically, ideally with 100% automation.” The ServoCloud PoC is a cloud native implementation of the ZSM group’s principles. Specifically: “The objective of the PoC is to make specific, targeted, implementation-independent contributions to the ISG ZSM that help enable efficient end-to-end automation of Network Services at scale (reduce OpEx), which assures customer Quality of Experience (improve customer retention), while optimizing the utilization of network resources.”
  • Metaswitch and Telia Company published a guide to Cloud Native VNF Operation Automation. The white paper focuses on the architecture of a Virtual Network Function (VNF) and how the VNF should interact with the cloud environment to simplify the automation of lifecycle management. The paper provides clear directions on the underlying functional requirements for the VNF to achieve such automation and is designed to enable the entire telco community to achieve faster, error-free operational management of their cloud-based virtual network infrastructures.
  • The European Advanced Networking Test Center (EANTC) validated the automation capabilities of Clearwater Core vIMS in a recent rigorous test. The test demonstrated that Clearwater can automate the instantiation of a Clearwater Core deployment for 20 million subscribers on Amazon EC2 in 72 minutes. For more details on how Clearwater performed on instantiation and scaling, the full test report can be downloaded here.
  • Metaswitch is also involved in the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) open source project, building on our experience with AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP). ONAP’s mission is to create a platform for real-time, policy-driven automation and orchestration of physical network functions and VNFs so that service providers can introduce new services rapidly and support lifecycle management.

Metaswitch welcomes working with network operations engineers and our vendor peers whether it’s in open source communities or under the auspices of an industry standards body. Leading with our cloud native software design expertise and proven cloud native VNFs, we’ll continue to drive efforts to make operations automation a reality for CSPs.