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BT Case Study – 5G Customer Cases- what new use cases can be monetized, and how

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 10th of May 2022.

  • Neil McRae, Managing Director & Chief Architect, BT

Keynote Panel Discussion – Automation Now: Role of automation in running a network with disaggregation technology

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 11th of May 2022.

  • Patrick Kelly, Founder, Partner, and Principal Analyst, Appledore Research Group
  • Neil McRae, Managing Director & Chief Architect, BT
  • Terje Jensen, Senior VP & Head of Global Network Architecture, Telenor
  • Franco Messori, Chief Product Strategy and Transformation Officer, Infovista

Opening Keynote Panel – Future Networks: Injecting intelligent automation into network and service operations

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 11th of May 2022.

  • Amy Cameron, Principal Analyst, STL Partners
  • Juan Manuel Caro, Director Operations Transformation, Telefónica
  • Jean-Benoît Besset, VP IT & Network Strategy, Orange
  • Azhar Mirza, Group Vice President, Applications GBU, Oracle Communications

BT private 5G partnership buoys Ericsson, while declarative code gets a grip

Contributing Editor Annie Turner looks at some of the market and technology moves around network automation over recent weeks. 

BT and Ericsson (UK and Ireland) signed multi-million-pound partnership to provide commercial 5G networks. The two claim this is the first commercial 5G private network agreement of its kind in the UK. They also said it would “combine BT’s expertise in building converged fixed and mobile networks with Ericsson’s leading 5G network technology and enterprise solutions”.

Ericsson ended May on something of high, having had a torrid 2022 so far. In January it reported what Bloomberg called “stellar results”, with year-on-year profits up by 41%, but activist investor Cevian Capital, took the opportunity to complain about the Swedish vendor’s low share price, its $6.2 billion Vonage acquisition last November, and a lack of clarity about the enterprise market. Ericsson’s share price and reputation subsequently took a serious battering when allegations of payments to ISIS in Iraq surfaced.

https://newsroom.bt.com/bt-and-ericsson-sign-multi-million-pound-partnership-to-provide-commercial-5g-networks/
BT’s Paul Murnaghan with Joe O’Neill from Belfast Harbour

Remedial measure

In the face of fierce criticism, in mid-May Ericsson announced it was restructuring to drive growth, which includes setting up a new division for Business Area Enterprise Wireless Solutions, comprising Cradlepoint and Dedicated Networks. George Mulhern is appointed head of the unit and will join the Ericsson executive team. The new structure will be in place from 1 June.

BT and Ericsson have worked together on major projects incorporating private 5G networks, including Belfast Harbour in Northern Ireland. They say their contract paves the way for BT to sell 5G products to enterprises in sectors from manufacturing to defence, education, retail, healthcare, transport and logistics.

Getting your ducks in a row

Sinéad Pillion, Head of Operations Ericsson Athlone, with Minister of State Robert Troy and Denis Dullea, Head of R&D Ericsson Athlone

Just before the contract was announcement, BT said it would invest almost £100 million over the next three years in its Division X unit which is supposed to accelerate the development of customer solutions which embed tech including 5G, IoT, edge compute, cloud and AI. Division X is led by Marc Overton.

For its part just ahead of the announcement with BT, Ericsson said it would recruit will hire 250 cloud native software developers, engineers and architects to its Athlone R&D centre in Ireland to work on 5G projects.

Ericsson says its Irish operation has grown 25% over the past five years and that it also intends to attract software developers, data scientists, architects, cloud and mobile communication engineers to the centre over the next three years.

Denis Dullea, Head of R&D at Ericsson Athlone said the moves are “to enhance our capability to deliver the benefits of cloud native technologies to our global customer base via our RAN, Management, Automation and Orchestration offerings.”

DIY declarative code gathers pace

There were some interesting findings in the Nemertes Network Automation Research Study 2022, published in May 2022. It looked at how organisations with a lot of Cisco kit in their infrastructure implement network automation. Turns out that fewer than 20% use its flagship DNA Center network controller and management dashboard to automate provisioning and change management.

By contrast, more than 40% of those surveyed provide their own automation solutions from a combo of imperative scripting or programming (Python in the main), while about half use a model other than imperative or in addition to it – declarative automation.

We explored the importance of declarative coding in our recent interview with Philippe Ensarguet, Group CTO of Orange Business Services. In short, declarative coding (such as HTML) describes the desired outcomes and achieves them using reconciliation loops to fix any deviations from the pre-set desired state.

Most programming is imperative – a series of ‘If this happens, do that and then if X happens do Y’. Accuracy is critical: it is not forgiving if the sequence isn’t correct or the coder includes more or less than is required.

The study found 33% of the organizations interviewed used Red Hat’s Ansible for network automation because of the increased use of DevOps and its infrastructure as code approach. It started out as imperative but then graduated to declarative around five years ago. Gluware is designed for network automation in Cisco-heavy environments.

As M. Ensarguet explained, a declarative approach can support full automation so that as data centres, networks and storage are softwarised, the people working in these areas make all employees affected by this shift “more effective, more productive,” He added. “If you are not able to automate longer or deeper than with the CI/CD [continuous integration/continuous delivery], then you have no lever to manage the scaling – and that’s critical to the whole [automation] thing.”

It looks like that message is increasingly well understood from the Nemertes research, and we’ll leave them with the last word from the study (see ‘Recommendations’ image).

 

Edge- Hype vs Reality

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 10th May 2022.

  • Yesmean Luk, Principal Consultant and Practice Lead, STL Partners
  • Terje Jensen, Senior VP & Head of Global Network Architecture, Telenor
  • Joanna Newman, Global Edge Computing and 5G Principal Manager, Vodafone
  • Ari Banerjee, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Netcracker

Simplifying the Edge Opportunity with Automation

Contributed by Susan White, Head of Strategy and Portfolio Marketing, Netcracker.

Enterprises need edge compute for many reasons – enabling low latency for real-time IoT services, reducing backhaul costs for video processing and keeping sensitive data local – to name a few. It’s becoming a core strategy for many companies in vertical markets to boost productivity, performance and increase customer satisfaction.

However, most enterprises cannot deal with the complexity of putting all the piece parts together and running these mission critical services with strict SLAs. The choice and location of edge cloud platform, connectivity options, security solutions, distributed 5G core and MEC applications presents a hefty project that requires extensive design, testing, validation, deployment and continuous assurance.

Enterprises need simplicity.

This creates an ideal opportunity for CSPs to remove this complexity and at the same time deepen their engagement and value in enterprise and vertical markets. However, no CSP has all the piece parts that are needed to offer enterprise customers a successful edge solution. It’s a multi-partner play that requires a great deal of cooperation and integration across the ecosystem.

This is why automation is essential to build and monetize a successful edge business. Whether it’s part of a private or hybrid 5G network, automation is required at both the operational and business levels.

 

Unifying and Scaling Edge Operations

Operations automation of the edge domain is essential for three key reasons:

  1. Unification of operational processes within the edge cloud. Today, edge platform automation (on-premise or network-edge) is separated from the service lifecycle of VNFs and CNFs, which in turn is separated from high value MEC applications. This results in high complexity and manual intervention. These processes must be streamlined to commission the entire edge platform, services and even network slices with zero touch.
  2. E2E view across highly distributed edge locations, transport and core. Edge services are highly complex and may have stringent latency and performance requirements. Resources can reside on multiple edge hosts (CSP and hyperscaler) and multiple locations (on-premise, network-edge, regional, core). Edge service deployments extend beyond the edge. An E2E view is essential to automate edge services.
  3. The ability to scale to many customers. Silo private 5G and edge networks make replication and scale impossible. This in turn makes the business case harder to justify. A unified operations environment is needed that can start small and scale to many businesses.

Netcracker has built these capabilities into its Edge Orchestration solution. We are helping CSPs globally, including Etisalat, develop a successful edge business. It goes beyond the intelligent placement and lifecycle management of edge services to also ensure the RAN has the right QoS enabled, connectivity between all edge hosts is ready (CSP or hyperscaler) and the 5G UPF breakout function is enabled for edge hosts. With its modular architecture and multitenancy, CSPs can scale their edge services across public and hybrid 4G/5G deployments.

 

Giving Enterprises Visibility, Control and the Right Partner Solutions

Enterprises are demanding faster access to their services with the simplicity of selecting, activating and managing their services on-demand from an intuitive portal. This necessities automation at the business layer also. Back end processes such as product catalogue, customer management and revenue management need to be streamlined with the front-end portal to enable automation from customer order to activation.

Serving vertical markets with right edge service will require a dynamic ecosystem of partners to address their specific business needs. The resulting multi-party solution will require a new approach for partner management that automates the myriad of processes from on-boarding partners to cataloguing, product management, pricing, partner management, and settlements.

Netcracker’s Digital Marketplace solution brings all these capabilities together to help CSPs give their customers an easy way to purchase services with complete visibility and control. The integrated Partner Management solution, adopted by T-Mobile US for its wholesale MVNO and IoT business, helps CSPs to build a vibrant partner ecosystem that will be essential to compete in the edge market.

Edge is a complex business – but it has the potential to be a very lucrative one with the right automation in place that brings simplicity and value to enterprise customers.

 

Dynamic Orchestration- Driving end-to-end network automation and service

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 10th May 2022.

  • Francis Haysom, Partner and Principal Analyst, Appledore Research
  • Javier Garcia Jimenez, IT Chief Architect, Telefonica
  • Jad Meouchy, CTO, Bad VR
  • Pål Grønsund, Chief Cloud Platform Architect, Telenor ASA
  • Atul Purohit, Head of Technology, Europe, Nokia

Automation? It’s just a milestone on the route to the Zero Touch Experience

Contributed by Atul Purohit, Head of Technology, Europe, Nokia.

Automation has been near the top of everyone’s agenda for a long time – which department of a CSP doesn’t want to make better and more extensive use of automation?

But do we have a clear view of what this automation is actually for? What is its ultimate converging point?

When anyone in a CSP speaks about automation, they will most likely mean automation of operations or processes, such as tool sets, alarms and/or ticketing. But automation is a much bigger concept and goes far beyond the CSP’s operational aspects.

In a recent discussion at FutureNet World, I was part of a panel of CSPs and developers who delved into automation, its true goals and what it could ultimately mean for end users.

We hear a lot about Zero Touch Automation, where automated tools elevate people to the status of observers who can intervene if needed. This is great but it is only one step along the road – the ultimate destination is the Zero Touch Experience, where everything the end user needs happens in the background without them having to think about it. According to research by Nokia, some 60% of new revenue in 5G will come from B2B2X business models, making partner ecosystems increasingly important.

If we look at Uber or Airbnb, the starting point is not the architecture but the end customer experience – for them, it’s all about how they can offer that Zero Touch Experience.  Essentially, automation is a fundamental building block towards that seamless experience – the customer has come to buy or access a certain service and everything in your organization needs to collaborate to make that point of value exchange as painless and seamless as possible. We need to start with the Zero Touch Experience and work backwards to build the Zero Touch Automation that can make it work.

 

One service to bind them all

What CSPs have perhaps been lacking so far is a common theme which they can build their Zero Touch Automation around. History tells us that football binds nations – there are goals that an entire nation can get excited and work seamlessly towards. Perhaps CSPs need a similar binding act, a rallying goal for all departments to converge on. With 5G offerings like network slicing, this might just happen, a concept that CSPs can actually use to tie everything together. On one hand, network slicing can lead towards an outcome like a defined use case and on the other, it could lead to multiple domain specific automations. We need a ‘religion’ (like football) to bind all these aspects and network slicing could be the right way forward for a CSP.

It’s clear that the services of the future will not be completely within a CSP’s own environment. Up until now, telecom services have been very much vertically integrated and completely self-contained. But with 5G, things disaggregate, and you have elements of service which will be outside a CSP’s control. Without an overarching philosophy such as network slicing, this could lead to automation being tackled in different parts of the organization with varying degrees of maturity.

In the 5G era, the concept of customers has grown to include third parties such as developers as a new revenue generating demographic. The ability to provide network as code or APIs to developers is something which 5G brings to the table – the developers often have a simple and clear ask from the network and it is up to CSPs and vendors like Nokia to deliver on that promise.

This new era of services for developers was outlined by Jad Meouchy, CTO of Bad VR, who told us what he is looking for from CSPs: “I’m looking for an API, or access points, or information or datasets or something that I can start exploring and understanding and discover the possibilities. Use cases like streaming and gaming are very interesting and we are keen to see how we can make use of them – we’re always looking at what the system thinks it’s supposed to do and thinking about how we can use that to meet our needs.”

 

A pick and mix approach

Developers such as Bad VR clearly want a Zero Touch Experience, the ability to easily pick and choose what works for them. At an industry conference some years ago, 20 service providers were presenting their edge strategy towards developers. At the end of all these presentations, a developer was invited to comment. She said, “Believe it or not, gents, I’m here for the booze and free food. I don’t care about your 20 different distinct ways to interact with your specific ecosystems – I don’t have the time and the patience to go through all of them.”

Developers obviously do not want to do different things when interacting with different service providers. Nokia is playing its part by using automation to open up APIs with almost all of our products. As with other vendors, we need to open up our APIs via a sandbox environment, which developers can test and trial to see how applications can work. Automation is the key to this.

As my fellow panellist Pal Gronsund of Telenor said: “Zero touch is a vision that we are all striving towards.”

Javier Garcia Jimenez from Telefonica added: “Enterprises are knocking on our doors and automation is crucial for scaling our capabilities.”

These enterprises clearly want to innovate on top of CSPs’ 5G platforms. They want to pick up the right slice based service for their needs from the CSP’s catalogue and define and adjust their own SLAs. Once their CSP confirms the order, it is automatically deployed and assured for them.

In terms of what we are seeing in the market, there are a number of Proofs of Concept happening and most of these are proving technology. Repeating these multiple times is a costly proposition – at Nokia, we blueprint these POCs so that there can be a fair degree of reuse across various customers.

As well as the technical side, there are also other aspects we need to consider. Javier emphasized this when he said: “It’s also about culture, organization, transformation, not just about the technology – it’s about how we implement the new operating model. Managing the lifecycle is crucial when we manage the end-to-end 5G slice, and ultimately to provide a Network as a Service type of approach.”

We need to deliver value to end customers – opening up networks via APIs and using automation to give developers and enterprises what they want using zero touch operations, is the way to achieve it.

FutureNet World 2022 – Review

Contributed by Robert Curran, Appledore Research.

Back to the Future(Net)

May 2022 saw the welcome return to London of an in-person FutureNet World. This consistently well-produced event series attracted a more than decent crowd, and the size and format encouraged a more relaxed and revealing set of presentations and panels.

And this meant good news and bad news. The good news: there is now a greater awareness of the need for, and challenges of, automation. The bad news: awareness isn’t necessarily translating into progress. At least, not the pace of progress we were all envisaging three years ago…

There’s no question that the mood was positive, and certainly some progress here and there (the worthy award-winners offer fair evidence of that). But as an industry, these still seem to be the exceptions, the pioneers, the mavericks. While these accelerate off the starting line, mainstream telecom seems to be still struggling to tie its shoelaces (and even a little uncertain where the finish line actually is).

FutureNet World 2022 fairly reflects the state of the industry on automation: it’s early days. But operators in particular should not be lulled into thinking that means there is plenty of time available to address it. The dawning reality of 5G, the rapid progress of hyperscalers, action on climate change all point to the need to make automation a top priority now. And more than a few on the vendor side have already invested ahead of the curve.

Black Holes and Revelations

TMForum’s Mark Newman kicked off the event by reflecting that the biggest change in the telecom industry in the last three years has been the increasing importance of “the hyperscalers”. The statement that the most significant change in telecom comes from outside of telecom somewhat set the stage for a series of other refreshingly frank admissions from presenters.

In the opening panel, BT CTIO Howard Watson was honest enough to admit that “We [in telecom] missed the boat on IoT.”

Telus’ Ibrahim Gedeon, later recipient of a Technology Leader Award for outstanding personal contribution to automation, declared that “the [telecom] cost structure has to come down by a factor of 10.”

Telefonica Germany’s CTO Mallik Rao popped another bubble: “People don’t care about slicing. What problem are we solving?” BT’s Neil McRae echoed the sentiment later: “5G is about collaboration, not slicing.”

Blue Planet’s Rick Hamilton offered a bald reality check: “5G is finally forcing us to rethink how we do business”. Although with “the year of 5G” first declared as long ago as 2017, it seems a long time for the industry to only now be realizing what it really means.

Orange advised peer telcos that Managed Service contracts for networks might represent a major hole in strategies intended to make use of vast amounts of network data, since access to data is not typically part of such deals. Worth checking the small print…

Huawei shared some details of network automation work with MTN Group, where the automation challenge is made more urgent by the need to cope with 150 fiber cuts per month (3 would be plenty for a typical telco.)

Open RAN

A panel on Open RAN surfaced some other honest admissions. Remco Helwerda, Advisor to KPN, acknowledged that open platforms are the way to go, but that KPN for one just does not have the people needed to deploy and work with them.

But Open RAN champion Andrea Dona (Vodafone) cautioned operators to look past the complexity of open RAN and focus on the opportunities it creates. “We won’t fix profitability if we stay closed.”

According to Netcracker’s Ari Banerjee, “lots of private 5G networks are single vendor” adding that more open architectures would be needed to deliver the nimbleness that enterprises will want.

Telecom & Hyperscalers

Disaggregation pioneer Deutsche Telekom at least offered a clear demarcation between hyperscalers and telcos: “Telcos ought not to be in the cloud infrastructure business. But running telco workloads in that cloud – that’s what telcos should be good at.” Microsoft’s Martin Taylor (former CTO at Metaswitch) echoed that, adding a reality-check on edge, at least in Europe, where a national data center effectively is the edge, capable of delivering sub-10msec latency reliably.

5G Standalone

Normally progressive Swisscom was happy to let someone else be first to market with 5G Standalone: “not yet”, acknowledging BT’s comment that 5G SA is “an inflexion point for automation”. 5G SA finally turns a network management challenge into a set of large-scale distributed software management challenges, with multiple software releases per month, and new supporting operational disciplines are needed to enable that. And for good measure: “Orchestration is not a differentiator”, an interesting comment that Lumen might disagree with. On the credit side, Swisscom does claim a strong zero-touch implementation, at least for its RAN, with 25 closed-loop use-cases up and running.

HPE was one of many presenters and panelists to talk about the potential for much faster decision-making in the network, when data arrives without the 15- or 30-minute lag that frames conventional OSS.

Cloud-Native

Panel Discussion: The Cloud Native Telco – next generation operating models

Cloud-native is where the industry needs (and wants) to be but is facing severe challenges: fierce competition across all industries for suitably skilled staff for one. The lack of credible roadmaps from key vendors was cited as another.

Now part of Rakuten Symphony, Robin.io reiterated how central cloud-native has been to the Rakuten Mobile vision from the beginning. Interestingly, Partha Seetala, now President of Rakuten Symphony’s Cloud business unit, highlighted how cloud-native is an innovation-focused paradigm, more to do with accelerating how products are built, and less about how they run in live operations.

Disaggregation

In a standout panel moderated by Patrick Kelly on Automation and Disaggregation featuring BT (Neil McRae), Infovista (Franco Messori), Telenor’s Teje Jensen shared that it has automated over 60% of its technical processes – though mostly through “simple robotics”.

But sentiment on disaggregation itself was varied. The truth is that telecom is troubled by disaggregation. It does not know how it will define SLAs for customers where it does not own the entirety of the service. It is not certain where customers see sufficient value to pay for.

“If automation isn’t in your top three things to do then you’re in trouble”, Neil McRae, BT Chief Architect.

Slicing

5G Network slicing increasingly feels like something the industry is supposed to want, like Cherry Coke, a free U2 album, or a Clubhouse account, but really can’t find a compelling enough reason. Sooner or later the industry will move on and solve actual problems.

BT’s Neil McRae offered some real-world examples of problem-solving, 5G-enabled applications from logistics and transportation. Applications that use network in a different way; simple things that are made possible by 5G. The question is not how fast 5G is, but where it is. For example, data from the 478 sensors on a train that can be used (and presumably, pooled across an entire fleet), to predict potential failures. BT referenced various projects underway at UK ports where there are numerous possibilities to combine wireless data and analysis to control cranes, schedule vehicles, use drones to inspect equipment, ensure safety, use AR to help maintenance and so on. (Ports are an area that Three UK is also exploring. Three is the largest holder of UK 5G spectrum),

“Stupid Automation”

Juan Manuel Caro, Director of Operations Transformation for Telefonica has automated traffic management in its international network, re-routing traffic onto optimal routes to keep within SLAs on QoS or cost. It’s basic, but it works.

But there are significant cost savings available from basic automation of less technical work. Juan Manuel referred to an invoice reconciliation process saving tens of millions of euros. Network smarts aren’t the only way to reduce cost, and telcos can still be satisfied with less ambitious targets. “We need to go fast, but not superfast”.

Enterprise

Clearly, telcos and enterprises are having some difficulty engaging. Especially on anything more interesting or sophisticated than straight connectivity. (Some evidence for that in the latest re-org of BT’s Enterprise business unit. This handles BT’s UK business customers (BT Global handles its multi-national business). In February 2022, BT established “Division X”, now folded into BT Enterprise, with a mission to innovate solutions for enterprises leveraging IoT, Edge and the like to enterprise. 2022, people.)

Enterprise customers want simple solutions, to actual problems. As a telco, if you don’t know what *actual* problem you are solving for your customers, don’t waste time telling customers how great your network technology is.

Sustainability

In a late panel session on Sustainability, Orange, Nokia and Three UK provided some insights into how its approach to ESG objectives.

According to Nokia, only about 20% of energy used is in transporting data. The other 80% goes on cooling, lighting, heating. Energy consumption is measured by (frankly) reading the meter and totalling up invoices from electricity providers.

A sustainability consultant brought in to advise Orange provided her initial assessment of the state of energy monitoring in telecom, as “like being in the Middle Ages”. After 6 months, she revised it… to “pre-historic”.

That said, Orange has stable consumption of 2.2GWhr/year – decommissioning of older equipment is certainly a major factor, as is the switch from copper to fiber. But these are not yet the sort of sophisticated, AI-enabled, data-driven, micro-changes that the industry imagines.

Three concurred. Three has committed to switching off its 3G network in 2024 (although 3G data accounts for only 2% of its data traffic).

Awards

The FutureNetWorld awards represent a manageable set of acknowledgements for progress on the road to full automation:

  • The Operator Award – best example of a successful automation deployment – Rakuten Symphony
  • The Automation Solution Award – leading solution for network automation – Blue Planet, a Ciena Company
  • The Orchestration Award – The most innovative automated service orchestration solution – VMWare
  • The AIOps Award – The best operations solution incorporating AI functionality – Huawei
  • The most innovative application of AI & Automation – to enhance customer experience – Nokia and China Mobile
  • The Technology Leader Award – Outstanding contribution to automation throughout their career (by nomination only) – Ibrahim Gedeon, Telus.

Wrap up

The event was very well supported, and not just according to the headline attendee numbers but also the quality and mix of attendees, speakers, sponsors, analysts and commentators.

To its credit, FutureNet World does not get unbalanced by a fixed perspective. It includes some 5G talk but isn’t a 5G event. It includes discussion of APIs and open interfaces but isn’t pushing itself any particular standards agenda. It of course accommodates Open RAN, but as an event, it isn’t necessarily flying that flag either. And that’s good. Because the challenges that face the industry demand that people step away from preconceptions about technology, or individual causes – or even from decades of accumulated experience. As the old saying goes: “Fortune favors the brave”. In pursuing automation, it’s time to be bold.

Closing Keynote Fireside Chat: The Industry Vision of a Hyperscaler

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 10th May 2022.

  • Amy Cameron, Principal Analyst, STL Partners
  • Martin Taylor, Partner Software Engineer, Microsoft

Keynote Presentation – An Intelligent Automation Roadmap for 5G and the Edge

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet World on the 10th May 2022.

  • Rick Hamilton, Senior Vice President, GM, Blue Planet, a division of Ciena