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5G network automation relies on accurate real-time topology

With 5G being top of mind for service providers right now, network automation and orchestration are definitely buzz words that aren’t far behind on their list. As 5G challenges include greater network complexity, service providers will be heavily dependent upon network automation to support the agility and service quality that 5G demands—all the while keeping operational costs under control that are necessary to make it profitable. This mix of manageable costs plus excellent quality of service can only be achievable through network automation.

Network automation features a long list of benefits. Some of the advantages include: increased efficiency, reduced probability of human error, freeing up people to handle more interesting and less mundane tasks and implementing standard operating procedures. All of this can help operators attain their goals, whether they be tackling 5G installation challenges or putting important network testing programs into place.

For large-scale network automation in 5G to succeed takes proper planning and careful implementation including the use of all available and current data contained within various OSS and BSS databases. Also included in the category of “what’s needed” is 100% visibility into network assets—an exhaustive list stretching form one end of the network to another. Only with that information in hand will it be possible to determine areas of weakness in the network that might affect QoE. Sounds straightforward and quite logical. But with only 15% of CSPs recently surveyed by EXFO1 agreeing that they have a fully integrated view of network and service topology, there’s clearly work to be done.

With 5G, the key to success includes the implementation of a proactive service assurance strategy—anything less is more than unacceptable, it’s unimaginable. Proactive service assurance relies on accurate, easy-to-understand, customer-to-infrastructure dependency analysis—information provided by real-time, active topology. The presence of a real-time, cross-domain network and a live service topology model covering both legacy and next generation networks and services is the key to both a successful SOC and automation stack. Getting 5G network automation right requires a correct understanding and description of network, service and customer infrastructures. That accurate understanding becomes an even more powerful tool to operators when it’s populated with richer data that has been contextualized in relation to services and customers.

EXFO Ontology’s automated common cause analysis solution consumes performance and real-time data across a range of networks: enterprise, broadband, mobile backhaul and now 5G. From the real-time data, a ‘symptom set’ is created and analysed to find common and shared performance issues that appear across a large set of entities within the infrastructure. Common, repeated and simultaneous symptoms imply a common and singular root cause, this means that the symptom set can be used to automate a topological analysis algorithm called “common cause analysis”. After a symptom set is created and fed to the EXFO topology engine, the system uses it’s cross domain topological model to find the unique set of network nodes upon which all entities in the symptom set share a dependency.

Sound interesting but still not sure how that helps operators interested to get network automation done right? Read my recent article in RCR Wireless to get a closer look at how EXFO Ontology is working today to help 5G network automation become a reality for our customers—including how we helped a Tier-1 North American operator working on achieving inventory federation following major acquisitions.

You may also be interested in our new podcast, “Know your network,” featuring thought-provoking conversations around key management challenges facing today’s carriers.

Footnote 1: Statistics taken from Heavy Reading Custom Survey for EXFO, 2019-07 Auto-Assurance Survey Results Summary