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News in Brief: Hard to tell where telco ends and cloud begins

Contributing Editor Annie Turner rounds up the latest automation highlights.

Google announced it has joined the O-RAN Alliance to help drive and accelerate the realization of O-RAN initiatives using its expertise in a blog. It outlined five areas in which it feels it can contribute, including AI for autonomous and self-healing networks. The blog said, “digital transformation will require architecting, designing, and deploying intelligence across a distributed cloud network that is fundamentally powered by AI and closed-loop automation. Our vision is to work with the O-RAN Alliance to enable cloud-native intelligent networks that are secure, self-driving, and self-healing ­– bringing Google’s wealth of software experience and global leadership in the areas of machine learning, massive data processing, and geospatial analytics.”

Google Cloud is to partner with Ericsson to jointly develop 5G and edge cloud solutions to help operators with their digital transformations and unlock new enterprise and consumer use cases. They are building on the experience gained in Italy with TIM at Ericsson’s Silicon Valley D-15 Labs innovation center where solutions and technologies can be developed and tested on a live, multi-layers 5G platform.

Photo by Michele Bitetto on Unsplash

At the same time, Italian operator TIM and its cloud division, Noovle, said they will launch the first 5G cloud network in Italy. The operator reckons this will lead to faster deployment of 5G applications through the automation of industrial processes and the implementation of services in real time, thanks to edge computing, based on specific requirements. The project will use TIM’s Telco Cloud infrastructure, Google Cloud’s solutions, and Ericsson’s 5G Core network and automation technologies.

According to TIM, the solution will enable, “Faster deployment of the 5G digital applications through the automation of industrial processes and the implementation of services in real-time, thanks to edge computing, based on specific requirements”.

IBM is expanding its portfolio of automation software for operators with offers designed to help them to stand up and manage 5G networks faster (in minutes, not days), on-premise or in the cloud. The IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation provides automation tools for implementing 5G and edge services that manage multivendor, software-based network functions. The Pak includes analytics to help operators discover hidden patterns and trends in their 5G network data. The offer integrates with IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps and IBM Edge Application Manager to allocate network bandwidth and resources dynamically when and where required.

IBM cemented a further deal with Verizon. The US operator chose IBM and its subsidiary Red Hat to provide a hybrid cloud platform for its 5G network. IBM and Verizon have a long history of collaboration. Steve Canepa, Global GM & Managing Director, IBM Communications, said, “I’m delighted to announce the next major step in our partnership. Verizon has chosen IBM and Red Hat to help build and deploy an open hybrid cloud platform with automated operations and service orchestration as the foundation of its 5G core.”

Meanwhile, Orange said it will launch “the first” experimental, fully end-to-end cloud-based 5G Standalone (SA) network at Lannion, in Brittany, France, next month. The operator added that this is the blueprint for future infrastructure.  Richard Webb, Director, Network Infrastructure at CCS Insight, commented, “This is a significant announcement by Orange on several fronts: firstly, the fully cloud-based aspect, not only indicating Orange’s roadmap towards fully automated, software and AI-driven networks, but also its commitment to Open RAN principles of vendor diversity – with some notable absences from the named technology partners.

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@bookcrafters?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Joe McDaniel</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/orange-cloud?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a> “Secondly, this sort of project is vital not only in giving operators like Orange a clearer understanding of how Open RAN solutions interoperate but also how cloud-based, software-defined, intelligent networking transform the operator itself, in terms of its own operations. This is a 5G Standalone network, considered by many to be the ‘true version’ of 5G in which a richer services environment can be fully realised. Although this experimental network is small-scale to start with, it could provide proof points for enhanced user experiences.”

Start-up Augtera Networks has raised $13 million, in a round led by Intel Capital, and is backed by executives from firms including Cisco, Juniper and Gainspeed. This brings its total funding to $18 million: other investors include Bain Capital Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital and Acrew Capital. Augtera uses AI, including machine learning, technologies to detect and fix networking troubles. It is already in use by Orange and Colt Technologies, and Dell and Netone are selling the solution. Augtera claims its Network AI can prevent 40% to 50% of network incidents, has 90% faster detection of critical issues and 50% to 60% reduction in resolution times.

Earlier in June, Nokia announced it would supply a 10Gbps infrastructure for DELTA Fiber in the Netherlands, where the deployment of FTTH is progressing rapidly. The contract covers both the network and customer premise equipment. The network can be upgraded to run 25Gbps when required. DELTA will manage the network using Nokia’s Altiplano Access Controller which enables network automation, faster innovation and simplified operations through software-defined access network (SDAN) solutions. The deployment will combine Nokia’s SDAN technology and developer ecosystem with Microsoft Azure’s cloud-based services.