This piece is sponsored by Huawei Global Technical Services.
The problem with simplifying networks is it’s complicated.
Every operator today is planning to virtualise – the promise of a flexible, software-driven network is vastly more attractive than the traditional proprietary architectures.
But getting there is harder than it looks.
In other words, a set of boxes to tick on the path to virtualisation.
As Michele Zarri, technical director, networks at GSMA, explains: “This movement from circuit-switched to software is probably the most revolutionary transformation. It is important to get it right and to make sure we know what challenges we are facing.”
Together the three have built a framework “that looks at six scenarios that may go wrong in a production environment and how can we address them.”
One of these critical areas is reliability, where the challenge is to ensure networks are at least as reliable as today, Zarri says. “Operators will not be satisfied with less than what they currently have.”
The others are benchmarking – being able to compare different products – migration – choosing the right strategy to move from physical to virtual – orchestration, interoperability and security.
The group said in a statement they aimed to jointly build “a scalable and comprehensive framework that will enable proactive, flexible and analytical network maintenance for telecoms operators. This will eliminate potential network risks and help to build a network with higher reliability, increased stability and better connectivity for the delivery of digital services.”
Lily Kong, NFV project manager for China Mobile, says the established ATCA specification has focused solely on the reliability of a single set of equipment.
“By introducing NFV, we have coordination between different layers, which poses more challenges for operators,” she said. “Operators now have to learn the technical skills of NFV modules, from hardware to virtualisation to MANO.”
One of the big problems was the shift to a multi-vendor environment, she said.
NFV brings multiple vendors into the operator’s network, making the network immediately more complex.
“With multi-vendors, we should take the end-to-end reliability into consideration. I think what the carriers need is network reliability.”
Byron Gao, head of Huawei AMS marketing department, echoed the point.
“This is very important. It’s a big challenge for operator to be managing an environment that is multi-vendor and also multi-layer.
“If we are thinking about NFV standards for operators, we can understand that individual vendors are very focused on their own solutions. That isn’t helpful for the operator. That’s why Huawei wants to build this assessment framework, and we hope that all vendors and solution providers can join us to make it better.”
Kong says currently operators expect each vendor to provide its own reliability solution.
“We would like to work together to create this solution. Any results we achieve we want to share through the GSMA. Operators should be able to take these and apply them to improving the whole system’s reliability.”