FutureNet World announced the world-beating winners of its prestigious industry awards during its eponymous, award-winning event on 20 and 21 April.
The Operator Award for the best example of a successful automation deployment went to Telefonica and Blue Planet, a division of Ciena. Telefónica set up the iFUSION project up to accelerate the transformation of its transport network.
It is an agile, programmable transport network that supports rising traffic levels at less cost and is ready for 5G and use cases like network slicing.
iFUSION uses open standard interfaces including the Open Network Foundation’s (ONF’s) Transport API (T-API) within the optical network and IETF-based APIs in the IP/MPLS network. It allows Telefónica to deliver differentiated, on-demand connectivity services to customers that offer a “cloud-like” experience to end users.
After the initial project’s success, Telefónica will roll out iFUSION to its opcos, and greatly widen its scope, as Cayetano Carbajo Martín, Director of Core and Transport, Telefónica CTIO, explains.
He says, “Maintaining diversity in our network and avoiding dependency on one vendor required that we implement the iFUSION transport SDN architecture based on standard interfaces enabling both open network programmability and device configuration.
“Telefonica and five other top operators (Telia, Vodafone, MTN, Orange and Deutsche Telekom) are defining a common and vendor-agnostic transport SDN architecture within TIP/MUST group. In Germany, we have rolled out Blue Planet’s software to automate Telefónica’s network and enable partial optical disaggregation with full automation capabilities in a multivendor network.”
Telefónica selected Blue Planet’s Multi-Domain Service Orchestration as the hierarchical SDTN controller to manage the multi-vendor optical network in Germany. This helped Telefónica lower its OpEx while optimising its network to offer services including 5G. It also reduced the number of northbound interfaces (NBIs) by more than 70% through using T-API as a single NBI.
Rick Hamilton, Senior Vice President, Blue Planet, commented, “Telefónica is taking strategic strides to support its users’ demands for 5G, cloud services, artificial intelligence and more. Utilising Blue Planet’s software is an important first step for Telefónica to create, deploy and automate end-to-end service delivery across its network and meet its consumer’s needs.
“Industry validation from FutureNet World reinforces our goal of enabling more open, automated networks so end users can have stellar customer experiences.”
The Automation Solution Award for the leading solution for network automation/autonomous networks was won by Robin.io. Partha Seetala is Founder and CEO at Robin.io, which is based in Silicon Valley, and a serial entrepreneur. Six years ago, “One thing became very clear, that the underlying infrastructure should become invisible to applications: it should not matter whether you’re running application on premises or in the cloud,” he explains.
The Robin Automation Platform is designed to hide the complexity while understanding what the applications need, which means they can be deployed very quickly. Seetala said, “the whole cloud native momentum…gave us the tailwind to accelerate our journey.”
The platform focuses on three areas: helping operators monetize 5G as a business services platform; improving operators’ engagement with customers through data-driven experiences; and increasing operational efficiencies across core telecom systems.
Robin helps customers solve critical Day 0 and Day 2 challenges of Stateful, 5G and edge apps on Kubernetes. The Robin Automation Platform includes an application-aware automation fabric with built-in, application-aware, high-performance storage, ultra-high-speed networking and data management features to support new applications for wireless providers, IoT, and hyperscale application providers.
Kubernetes enables stateless, containerised apps to move between clouds. As each cloud has its own method of automation, deployment, and monitoring for stateful apps, migrating the apps is difficult.
Robin provides a unified platform that delivers a consistent operation across physical network functions (PNF), virtualized network functions (VNF), and containerized native functions (CNF).
It also lowers the total cost of ownership of 5G networks through automation and orchestration, and these capabilities lower OpEx for the RAN and core too.
Robin.io claims it can reduce CapEx by 50% by enabling Open RAN (O-RAN) and core networks to run on commercial hardware, plus it can speed time to market by 80%, activating sites in minutes rather than days per site.
Seetala comments about winning the award, “I think it’s a great validation of the work that we have put into building the platform. And there’s a lot of IP that we have built over the last six years, we have about 31 patents in this area – you can imagine turning in patents in key areas like networking, storage, automation are all very important.
“The fact is we were in a very competitive category here of automation, and beating out the likes of Huawei and others is certainly something we are very proud of, and I’m thrilled about.”
The Award for the most Innovative application of AI and intelligent automation (IA) to enhance customer experience (CX) was won by Guavus (a Thales company). Guavus-IQ provides a multi-perspective analytics and XAI experience for CSPs: it correlates outside-in insights on each customer’s experience and inside-out insights on how their network operations are impacting each customer.
Providing this perspective from both sides helps CSPs identify subscribers’ behavioural patterns and better understand their operational environments. This is critically important yet extremely hard to achieve, and will become more so due to the greater complexity and scale of 5G networks.
The analytics insights it generates enable CSPs to increase revenue opportunities through data monetization and improved CX, and reduce costs through automated, closed-loop actions.
Anis Chemli ,VP of Marketing and Sales at Guavus says, “Our solution is vendor agnostic so we provide whatever the data is there in terms of outcome, problems or in anticipation problems”. He adds that the solution also needs to be “very operator friendly” rather than requiring data scientists to interpret and act on it, which takes the cost and complexity of handling big data out of the equation for operators.
Guavus-IQ uses advanced big data collection, in-memory stream processing edge and AI-based analytics to ingest, correlate, analyse data in real time. CSPs are using it for root cause analysis, to analyse subscribers’ behaviour and new vertical industry services, plus IoT services among other use cases.
It needs 50% of the compute/processing-related hardware required by traditional analytics solutions, meaning data collection from more than 200 data sources is half the cost, potentially saving operators millions of dollars in CapEx and OpEx.
The reductive storage capability enables the solution to ingest and analyse data, auto-summarise and prune historical event and alarm data from its platform repository, and leave only the most relevant data for analysis.
The data pipeline of previously ingested data can be automatically re-instantiated for use in network and service operations – operators don’t need to become big data experts to leverage the value of the data they’ve collected. Guavus-IQ’s proven data science methods to do the heavy lifting.
Chemli concludes, “For us, this award is further recognition of our innovative solution that has been gaining traction worldwide…We’re very excited to have received this recognition from FutureNet World and believe your industry experts have confirmed the value and innovation capabilities we provide.”
The Orchestration Award for the most innovative automated service orchestration solution was won by Nokia. This was something of a coup, as Nokia won this award for its recently launched Digital Operations Center at FutureNet World 2020, which is the platform that enables automated network slicing for 4G and 5G.
As Bill Stanley, Marketing, Nokia, notes, “It’s very gratifying to win for the launch project last year and to win this year for the product in action”.
He explains that Nokia saw a big opportunity to launch network slicing ahead of it becoming available through 5G Standalone networks, which for many operators are still some way off.
So Nokia turned its attention to enabling automated slices on 4G/5G NSA as 4G-only networks, through the management stack that sits on top of the ‘plumbing’ in the network.
In February 2020, Nokia launched an upgrade to its radio controllers then in October, it profiled the RAN, transport and core controllers that support the underlying connectivity, all the way to the applications on public and private cloud networks.
The Nokia Digital Operations Center complements and leverages those networking capabilities and enables them to run their businesses differently. This is because it simplifies how they manage the round trip for the slice and digital service lifecycle in multi-vendor, multi-domain and multi-technology environments.
The Digital Operations Center provides the orchestration layer between network controllers and commercial services, connecting the network to the business and automatically and dynamically translating business intent into the required configurations and settings. This streamlines slice design, deployment, optimization and assurance of Service Level Agreements.
Nokia has proven the technology in its own labs, customers’ test labs an in real-life deployments. For instance, A1 Austria trialled the network slicing with key enterprise customers such as train operator ÖBB and Vienna International Airport. Slices have, in effect, given them private networks that meet their specifications without them having to build and maintain their own infrastructure.
The Saudi Arabian CSP Mobily is also trialling slices for its fixed-wireless access initiative.
Clearly 5G SA networks will open-up even more slicing opportunities, but in the meantime, Stanley observes that those CSPs who are trialling Nokia’s slicing capabilities now are ramping up experience and knowledge about the applications customers might want to use slicing for, rather than tackling business issues on top of mastering a new technology when 5G SA is available.