Contributed by Kailem Anderson, Vice President, Portfolio & Engineering, Blue Planet, a Division of Ciena.
For Communications Service Providers (CSPs), the first step in turning their 5G vision into reality is a modern inventory system that provides an accurate, current, and networkwide inventory of all physical and cloud-based resources and services.
5G is a game changer
Before network operators can fully monetize 5G investments and achieve their business goals, they need to automate network operations. And, before they can automate these operations, they need a current and complete view of their network and services inventory, end to end across the RAN, transport, 5G core, and cloud domains. In fact, accurate near real-time inventory data is the foundation for every step of the 5G journey—from planning the deployment of cell sites and fiber nodes and determining the optimal placement of virtual resources to delivering high performance network slices to online gamers on demand, and everything in between.
Unfortunately, CSPs often build their 5G networks on top of legacy inventory systems that are limited to a single domain or vendor. This approach forces highly skilled engineering and operations teams to manually gather and correlate network inventory data from multiple systems to manage networkwide capacity and to design end-to-end services, which add cost and delay to a myriad of routine tasks, like new service activation, and prevents the delivery of dynamic slice-based services.
CSPs attempting to operate advanced 5G networks with legacy inventory systems have several paths forward. They can assign precious technical resources to develop a homegrown inventory solution, or they can engage a vendor or system integrator to build a new, use-case specific inventory system.
But most CSPs don’t have the resource availability or expertise to build their own inventory solution, and none want another closed inventory system that requires expensive customization and imposes vendor lock-in. Instead, operators need a partner with open, modular, vendor-agnostic solutions that can evolve with their changing needs.
Overcoming 5G challenge with dynamic inventory
Blue Planet’s Dynamic Inventory lays the foundation for 5G. It uses open APIs and other robust technology to federate data from legacy inventory systems, network management systems (NMS), and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) controllers—and uses this data to dynamically create and maintain an accurate, current, end-to-end network resource inventory and to visualize the service topology.
By automating the collection and federation of network and service inventory data from multiple sources, Blue Planet provides a networkwide ‘single source of truth’ and a unified end-to-end service view. This approach not only simplifies key operations, but it also lets CSPs replace their legacy inventory systems at their own pace, without the risks and costs associated with ‘rip-and-replace’ upgrades.
“Blue Planet is a key component of our 5G platform, allowing us to dynamically manage all our network inventory and service orders in real time. With Blue Planet’s open, agile, and programmable approach, DISH can rapidly deploy services and allocate resources to wholesale and enterprise customers, enabling them to provision network slices based on SLAs.”
Marc Rouanne, VP and Chief Network Officer at DISH Wireless
Beyond dynamic inventory
Of course, the complexity, scale, and ‘newness’ of 5G challenge more than just legacy inventory systems. 5G introduces new service and technology demands, new levels of complexity, and requires new skills for engineers and technicians. In response, Blue Planet offers two additional modular state-of-the-art automation solutions that help CSPs manage this complexity, keep OPEX down, and profitably realize their 5G-related business goals.
Our Network Lifecycle automation solution streamlines operations and reduces the burden on already strained IT teams by automating the:
- ‘Day 0’ deployment of virtual resources in the RAN and 5G Core, including centralized and distributed units (CU/DU), an essential first step toward accelerating your 5G deployments
- ‘Day 1’ configuration and activation of virtual resources such as the Next Generation Node B (gNB) as well as the transport interfaces that interconnect the gNB with the 5G core
- ’Day 2+’ monitoring of all network resources and services, which supports ongoing operational tasks such as optimization and troubleshooting activities, with a roadmap that includes configuration and change control
Our Network Slicing Automation solution helps CSPs monetize their 5G investments with highly differentiated on-demand services. The solution provides zero-touch slice lifecycle management, automating the creation, assurance, and deactivation/deletion of dynamic network slices in mere moments without manual intervention.
All Blue Planet 5G solutions are modular and standards-based and can be deployed together or in conjunction with third-party inventory, orchestration, and assurance systems— giving CSPs the ability to protect their existing investments and build best-of-breed IT/operations environments.
Pulling it all together
Today, CSPs are looking to automation to overcome the complexity of 5G—manually activating and troubleshooting pre-defined static services must be replaced with open and cloud-native automation solutions to provide high-value on-demand services that drive customer satisfaction and profitability. But automation starts with—and is dependent on—an accurate network and service inventory.
We have a mantra at Blue Planet: ‘You can’t automate what you can’t see.’ By automating the discovery, federation, and reconciliation of inventory data from multiple legacy OSS and other sources, we create a ‘single source of network truth’—a dynamic inventory that accurately shows the current state of the RAN, transport, and packet core network domains. This accurate, real-time view of network resources and the service topology is the essential foundation for 5G automation—and monetization.