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FutureNet Asia: Review by Appledore Research

Contributed by Robert Curran, Consulting Analyst, Appledore Research

Europe’s telcos are, broadly speaking, much like one another. In Asia, it’s a much more varied story. 

FutureNet’s first Asia-focused event was an ambitious undertaking. Asia is home to a around 60% of the world’s population. It includes 48 countries, two of which are the world’s most populous nations – China and India. It covers 11 timezones. FutureNet Asia did indeed cover a lot of ground (and sea). The challenges and contexts of an M1 (one of four operators in Singapore – total population just short of 6m) are radically different to those of say Reliance Jio or Airtel (the world’s second and third largest mobile operators with over 440m subscribers each). No doubt that the Nordic countries have challenging topography, but Telenor’s Asian interests include Pakistan (pop. 226m), Bangladesh (pop. 166m), Thailand (pop. 70m) and Malaysia (30m).

What Asia doesn’t know about connecting people probably isn’t worth knowing.

The Future: Not What it Used To Be

Ciena Blue Planet’s Kailem Anderson was the first but far from the only speaker to point out that telcos are no longer at the top of the food chain: a future of interdependent partnerships is the only model for success in 5G and edge. M1’s Chief Digital Officer, Nathan Bell, predicted a wary co-existence between hyperscalers and telcos going forward.

In the session on 5G and Edge, Singtel’s Director of 5G Customer Engagement highlighted the critical difference about 5G relative to previous Gs: its impact will be on industry. But regulation of spectrum for private 5G varies from country to country – one of the factors that limit the ability to see private 5G as a single global market.

In the same session, Juniper’s VP for 5G was all in on network slicing being the key to success of 5G. By which he meant not just the network tech, but the operational reality that must come with it: orchestration, AI-enabled closed loop automation. (Something we’ve covered extensively here).

At least Singtel actually has some network slices (sort of). However, they reckoned it is still another 18 months before a service orchestrator can handle heady visions of dynamic network slicing.

Beyond Connectivity

Airtel’s CTO argued that telcos must find new value beyond connectivity, with millions of connected devices (and related requirement for analytics) offering one route forward. Nathan Bell for M1 already sees the future in a new model of cross-functional service creation teams, and telco as a platformTelstra’s Kim Krogh Andersen, Group Exec for Product & Technology, gave a good account of how Telstra is going about supporting digitization in three major verticals – and it’s not about how good their connectivity is.

Edge isn’t a panacea. It’s not even always necessary – in smaller countries, latency might already be good enough without edge. For NTT DoCoMo, however, having a 5G network is all about having the edge. And it’s something they already have over 100 customers using.

AI, Automation, Orchestration

No conference on the future of telecom is complete without Rakuten, and FutureNet Asia was no exception. The thing to remember about Rakuten is that they are not offering just a blueprint of the future – they are already living in the house they built. When their Global Head of AI shares that he shifted from “federated AI” to “democratized AI”, that’s important information to take on board.

Teresa Monterio from Infinera urged operators to walk before running with Zero Touch Automation, and to be sure to focus on selecting business problems first rather than selecting technology.

The discussion of automation is evolving rapidly: automating for efficiency is already an out-dated ambition. Automating for resilience (or security) is the new mission. It’s a topic that got TelstraRobin.io and Airtel talking. It’s a topic Appledore has covered extensively.

For me, the standout discussion was on Dynamic Orchestration, which leaned towards the IT architects in the audience. Telstra’s Chief Architect Mark Sanders explained the new foundations needed even before dynamic orchestration: domain-driven design, discoverable services, intent and (of course) AI in a closed loop driving policy changes.

Airtel stressed the importance of data factors in orchestration – only once a decision is made can an orchestrator act. And that’s when things can get complicated: how to deal with sub-domains provided by hyperscalers? How to respond when end user devices are in motion, not at rest? How to take account of network congestion when scaling an application out? How to orchestrate across both internal and external systems (In Airtel’s case, just buying a SIM involves 16 internal and 6 external systems…)? (Appledore has a good deal of published research on Orchestration).


Judged on this event, there’s a breathy excitement about the future of telecom (and telcos) in Asia. But there is quite a lot of foundational adjustment still to do. Automation isn’t really about efficiency anymore. Orchestration is much more than workflow. 5G is about a lot more than just radio. Telcos need strategies that see them taking a smaller part of a much larger pie.

Thankfully, I heard just the one reference (each) to robot surgery and dumb pipes, which is a sign both of progress and of attentive curation from the FutureNet organizers. Judge for yourself.

See more from Appledore Research

Reinventing operations through cloudification, automation and disaggregation

Thomas van Briel is SVP, Architecture & Strategy at Deutsche Telekom. He talked to contributing editor Annie Turner about DT’s end-game ambitions – creating value for customers.

Thomas van Briel has worked in architecture-related roles at Deutsche Telekom (DT) in Germany for five years. His background is as a software developer, starting with Nortel in 1998 then a long stint with Swisscom. “The denominator that always draws me is a combination of technology development, organisational development and business development. That’s the heart of what I do and it fits very nicely with the topic of network automation,” he says.

Bridging the innovation gap

Reflecting on progress since he joined DT, van Briel comments, “DT has always been innovative and at the forefront of shaping technology, especially at group level, but we had something of a chasm between innovative parts of the organisation and the operational shopfloor. We have managed to bridge that gap quite a bit, [enabling] people to work together, to build new skills and bring new stuff into operations, leveraging DT’s excellent engineering and execution capabilities.”

One example is DT’s voice operation in Germany which has been rebuilt, he says, “in a cloud-native manner and [we] brought in brutal automation to realize the ‘three-two-one-zero vision’. This sets the  goal of three months to roll out a feature (compared to the typical one-to-two years in a traditional IMS environment), two days to deploy new software after it is released by a vendor, one day to implement a new bug or security patch, and zero ‘nightshifts’.”

Another example is the transport network and IP core, “where we’ve introduced orchestration solutions such as accelerating setting up new network links or handling failover when a link goes down,” van Briel adds.

Organisational transformation is always challenging and difficult to set up properly. He explains, “To build or acquire competences, the way we work crosses functions and [involves] partners. We built cross-functional teams with internal people in other parts of the continent like in St. Petersburg, to bring expertise in software development, and modelling and orchestration to the existing operational units. That’s a very effective way to change the spirit in an organisation, to put teams [together] and persistently work on a subject…to make it work in practice.”

Making ONAP operational

DT has been intensively involved in the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) community for some time and originally had lab deployments before deciding, “that if we really want to give it a chance, we need operational scope. We combined it with our O-RAN efforts, to do O-RAN automation in a pilot production via ONAP,” van Briel says.

The agile delivery structure means operations in the O-RAN trial deployment were automated from the start, and DT is now focused on building and “delivering one use case after another in an independent service management and orchestration platform that can eventually scale. We make sure those innovation islands, ONAP is just one of them, have a degree of freedom so they can adopt new practices. That is the journey of the last couple of years,” he explains.

Drive Network Automation

Is there a grand plan to join up the islands? Van Briel says, “It’s where our vision comes in. We call it DNA for Drive Network Automation…It’s about customer experience, velocity and efficiency – to become an orchestrated network of networks and services”. How will this come about?

Van Briel says at domain level, DT uses a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, a test automation framework, real-time inventory, controllers for applications, cloud and infrastructure as well as data analytics and messaging, security capabilities and last but not least, intent driven-orchestration.

“Those are pretty much the components that we need, and most of them have degrees of open source tools in them. The degree of open source utilisation varies – from vendors that integrate open source components in their automation products to complete open source approaches like ONAP. We pick and choose our approach from the complete range of options.

“Some components are reused across domains, but not individually instantiated, like a data lake, or Kafka bus or common data ingest. Some parts of the CI/CD pipelines are engineered, and operated centrally, but then you still instantiate your own pipeline locally: you build your own practices, your own models, and put the things together there.”

Each DevOps team is in charge of its own automation process. “They create a bounded context within a domain that can live on its own, adding resilience, independence and also a means to deal with complexity overall,” van Briel elaborates.

Next, all the services are exposed from the domains, “So that they become usable by overarching services or by other domains – that’s where standards like ETSI’s Zero-touch network and service management (ZSM) and TM Forum’s Open APIs come in. We use [the APIs] for catalogue management, for configuration and lifecycle management, and wherever we find them useful,” he says, noting that as they are of necessity generic, it takes some effort to make them operational.

“Having a set of common standards, guidelines, interfaces, practices etcetera applied, no matter where this automation is happening, will enable us to put the bricks together and make it work across a huge organization – a challenge in itself,” he continues.

Lessons from virtualisation

Like most operators, DT learned hard lessons about automation through virtualization efforts. Van Briel says, “When we tried to deal with [virtualized] workloads, we always ended up with specific infrastructure tightly mingled with the application at hand, and limited automation…We also tried a group-wide set of services to be operated in a cloudified fashion and that proved difficult, mainly because the available workloads and underlying technologies were immature.”

In short, often the technologies hadn’t been created for that purpose and DT is determined not to repeat the experience. Van Briel explains, “We developed standard test cases so if any vendor says it is cloud native, we go into the lab and have a look against the use cases because we were burned in the past. For me, that’s a foundation.”

Creating value

Vendors are under pressure in another major area too: disaggregation. He states, “It is very important to us as a means to accelerate innovation; to make sure that we have sufficient choice within the vendor landscape and new players. This has some consequences: you must go deeper into value creation yourself, in integration, in testing, in automation, and adopt different practices to deal with that.”

He continues, “In that sense, there are three changes in the industry: cloudification that enables it all; disaggregation for smaller components to be handled and integrated; and automation to deal with the complexity and deliver services from all of it. This hattrick is changing the way operations run.”

Having created some value through its islands of innovation, “Now it’s about making it broader, and making sure that things can be orchestrated across networks and domains, and across layers to deliver more complex solutions to the customer,” van Briel says.

He sees 5G as foundational to creating value, pointing out that the 5G Core architecture was designed to be cloud native and to support better automation. He says, “By having a decomposed architecture, it is possible to combine pieces from different vendors to bring something like slicing to life where we combine aspects of the RAN, transport and core networks to deliver end-to-end service to a customer.”

How far are we from 5G slicing being a commercial product and a self-service one at that? Van Briel says, “This will evolve in steps. It’s a matter of how quickly the markets will adopt [them]…The technological capabilities are pretty much ready to go. The question now is how to bring it to the marketplace.”

Managing a network of networks

He adds, “I think we will first see some deployments in campuses and we are exploring other approaches like exposing APIs which you can use for slicing or more generally to control the quality of your connectivity and enable revenue streams that go beyond our own company’s through B2B2C models.”

 In other words, an operator could expose its services to another operator to run over that second operator’s infrastructure, thereby extending the originator’s footprint to serve its own customers or its customers’ customers.

Van Briel says, “That’s the end-game. We call it managing a network of networks. There are a number of flavours. One is being able to integrate a connectivity service from a partners to deliver – especially in the beginning – to B2B customers.”

The intention is to orchestrate the provisioning, “by combining overlay and underlay services on- and off-footprints, making sure they deliver connectivity solution to B2B customer. That’s the first goal”.

He agrees the end-game is ambitious and challenging but points out, “This is not just driven out of the networking department, but a strategic imperative we set ourselves. We have great visionaries…they are thinking in terms up to global orchestration. We must be able to integrate our services, with the multi-cloud approach from the customer’s perspective, and make it work.

“It might be to the point where we enable innovation by utilising our services sitting on top of our network capabilities…we are then integrated into the value chain without having the end-customer relationship in every single instance.”

Van Briel concludes, “If we don’t build the muscle to integrate all that as quickly and as flexibly as customers expect for their multi-cloud solutions and applications…over time, we will lose relevance and be pushed down the chain in value creation. We’re in a great position to ensure that we are the ones to help our customers solve their needs…As we reach out with our capabilities – be that in security or connectivity for underlay networks or other things – we will really shine.”


DISH add Helium to 5G, IBM buys Volta to manage cloud resources

News in brief: a lot went on in October in network automation. Were you paying attention? Contributing Editor Annie Turner reports.

DISH Network announced it will expand its 5G network using the infrastructure that start-up Helium is creating through its customers. Helium’s customers own and operate 5G transmitters and are paid in cryptocurrency for carrying traffic – it’s the biggest effort yet to build decentralised wireless infrastructure. Chris Ergen, Head of the DISH’s Office of Innovation, said in a statement: “As we build out Dish’s 5G facilities-based network, we will continue to look for innovative technologies and business models that complement or support our wireless business”. Dish signed an agreement in 2019 with T-Mobile and the US Department of Justice to start providing commercial 5G services across “significant portions” of the US from 2022.


Nokia and research house Analysys Mason have been collaborating to quantify the benefits of network optimisation. A new study found that IP network automation can save operators 65% of operational costs, based on evidence from operators worldwide, covering 60 data points. For example, the study shows that avoiding cost in the domain controller is a due to combination of factors: process automation reduces labour time taken by manual workloads by up to 68% which, in turn, means that the time to roll out new services is reduced by up to 88%. Fewer manual tasks result in fewer human errors and more predictable outcomes. Elsewhere, standardised scenarios lowers order fallout and other issues requiring manual correction overall reducing the time to fix errors by 85%. Automating alarm correlation and root cause analysis can cut mean time to repair by 71%.

IBM acquired Volta Networks, whose cloud router is esteemed by telcos as it enables customers to run tens of virtual routers on cheap hardware. Volta was set up in 2015 by former Cisco and Juniper execs, and has raised about $23 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Andrew Coward, GM of Software-defined Networking at IBM, was reported by Light Reading saying that, “We acquired Volta Networks to extend our leadership in network automation and analytics. We’re applying the Volta technology to help manage cloud network resources, and this will fit into a wider framework of our Cloud Pak for Network Automation (CP4NA), IBM Edge Application Manager and IBM SevOne products.”


Australia’s rising start, CSG, has continued its buying spree, acquiring DGIT Systems. Ken Kennedy, COO and President of Revenue Management and Digital Monetization at CSG, said few configure, price and quote (CPQ) products address the specific needs of telcos like DGIT’s does. DGIT also does order management. Kennedy stated, “DGIT’s products make processes easier through automation and intelligence, rather than simplifying functionality and limiting the capabilities of the CSP to take to market.” The two firms have been partners for several months and seen, “positive interest and results from our combined solutions,” he said.

Juniper Networks reported its revenues were up 4% year on year in Q3, but while cloud revenues grew 20% year on year and enterprise grew 7%, its service provider revenue declined 6%. CEO Rami Rahim said that it still achieved double digit growth for service providers, but that revenues were impacted by timing issues caused by “supply constraints”. He nevertheless remained optimistic about the future growth of Juniper’s automation software, and metro routing portfolios as service providers’ 5G deployments take off over the next year.

On that note, Ericsson and MTS Russia’s largest mobile operator and provider of media and digital services are to develop private 5G-ready networks for industrial enterprises in Russia. Since 2019, the two have implemented more than 15 pilot projects for private networks across various industries. “This agreement signals a new era of cooperation between MTS and Ericsson. Dedicated networks are vital infrastructure that Russian enterprises need for digitalization and automation of key production processes” according to Inessa Galaktionova, SVP Telecom, MTS. Target industries include mining, metallurgy, oil and gas, petrochemistry, energy, engineering and transport and logistics she added.


Meanwhile, China is looking to narrow its use case focus, moving away from more showy, look-what-5G-can-do applications to more humdrum commercial ones. The Economic Observer [translated via Google Translate] reported that “model-room” use cases – – like remote surgery and VR in stadia – had been supported by the government to spark innovation and interest in 5G, but 2022 will be a pivotal year in which it will be up to the mobile operators and industries to show that industrial 5G services can be profitable and scalable. Hence the main 5G players are more interested in mines, ports and steel plants, and have begun to build 5G bases stations out to more remote industries that are important in terms of the national economy and employment.

Panel: Intelligent assurance for next-gen services & dynamic orchestration: Evolution or Revolution?

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet Asia on the 27th October 2021.

    • James Crawshaw, Principal Analyst, Omdia
    • Prabhat Dubey, CXX – Product and Technology, Vodafone Idea Limited
    • Shahar Steiff, AVP New Technologies, PCCW Global
    • Marco Gatti, Head of 5G Product, Solutions, and Strategy, Anritsu

Panel: Intelligent operations for new 5G and Edge ecosystems: A game changer?

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet Asia on the 27th October 2021.

  • Mei Lee Quah, Associate Director, ICT Research, Frost & Sullivan
  • Miro Salem, Global Head of Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Networks, Rakuten Mobile
  • Rasantha Hettithanthrige, CTO, SLT Mobitel
  • Vinod Joseph, Technical Leader of APJ & China, VMware
  • Saad Sheikh, Telecom Principal Consultant, Dell Technologies


Keynote Panel Discussion: 5G & Intelligent Edge – Unleashing the potential

Watch On-Demand. Broadcast live at FutureNet Asia on the 27th October 2021.

  • Paul Berriman, Former CTO, PCCW & HKT, Non-Executive Director, Spark NZ
  • Zaif Siddiqi, Executive Director, Global Head 5G & IoT Enterprise Business, NTT DoCoMo
  • H.L. Gupta, President – Network and Service Operations, Reliance Jio
  • Vishnu Bhan, Director 5G Customer Engagement, Singtel Group Enterprise
  • Constantine Polychronopoulos, VP, 5G & Telco Cloud, Juniper Networks


Leading The Edge – The Cloud Native Future Telco

Contributed by Vaibhav Dongre, Business Head, EMEA & APAC, Robin.io.

I have been involved with this big idea of The Future Telco for the last several years and since the early days it was clear that networks of the future will have to behave like the human neural system – predicting, anticipating, continuously learning, adapting and autonomously self-correcting.

Now, as we get closer to the EDGE, there is increasing evidence of data and network intensive applications, leveraging advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies, demonstrating the exact same behavior – dynamically responding to the demands of millions of connected devices which are in-turn aiming to manage critical functions in day-to-day life pushing automation to scale. This behavior is similar to the autoimmune functions in the human neural system. Our Future Telco networks need an application lifecycle management system which is always ON, manages hundreds and thousands of applications in a fully automated, secure and scalable manner without any human intervention – a neural network, just like our human neural system.



Drawing on the parallels in the telecom world, open-source container-orchestration systems such as Kubernetes are gaining popularity for deployment and automation of Application Lifecycle Management (LCM). While Kubernetes is great for deployment, scaling and management of stateless applications, for complex data intensive and stateful applications such as Open RAN deployments, orchestration of CU & DU et al, Kubernetes has some inherent challenges such as,

  • Always On – How can data be always available even if Pods, Disks and Servers fail?
  • Simple – How DevOps teams can manage Stateful Apps without becoming storage experts?
  • High Performance – Predictable app performance is critical in a shared cluster
  • Business Continuity – Snapshots, Clones, Backup & DR are required for business continuity
  • Observability – Observability is critical for maintainability and operations

For several promising 5G EDGE use cases such as remote operations, autonomous and hyper-connected devices, machine-to-machine communications for IoT and smart city use cases, cloud-native approach to LCM automation and infrastructure orchestration does seem to hold promise if these challenges are addressed.



Kubernetes is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for deployment and LCM of cloud-native applications and thanks to the award-winning innovations in the space of persistent data management, the challenges associated with data management of stateful applications on Kubernetes have been addressed at the architectural levels. With the world’s first end-to-end cloud-native deployment of 5G network in the far east, these patented innovations are paving way for hyper convergence and scalable automation. These capabilities have now been proven in deployment and are ready to become the underlying fabric (cloud-native platform) for the Future Telco networks – dependable, secure, autonomous, self-healing & auto-scaling, responsive & predictable, delivering high performance for data hungry applications and enabling real-time decision making to unlock the full potential of ORAN and EDGE deployments.



While the EDGE promises to unlock a multitude of opportunities worth billions of dollars for operators and private enterprises, it is a high constraint and demanding environment. Imagine a few nodes at the edge location trying to feed into a bunch of data and network-intensive applications all contesting for compute and storage resources simultaneously while the applications themselves have to guarantee the highest performance and real time decision making to deliver the promises of low latency, high throughput data and network intensive 5G applications.

The underlying cloud-native fabric (platform) which is most ideally suited for the edge environment will be the one that offers carrier-grade networking, advanced compute and storage capabilities (hyperconverged platform), fully automates day 0/day 1 activities such as auto healing, auto scaling, snapshots, backups et al (Zero Touch Automation ZTP) and is a lightweight operator (application) built for managing very large scale operations right from bare-metal provisioning to LCM, and orchestrates workflows at scale across multi-cloud, multi-cluster environments and offers a single pane of glass management without leaving a significant footprint.



While the EDGE promises to unlock large-scale potential opportunities across segments such as Enterprise 5G, Media & Entertainment, Industry 4.0, IoT, and Smart city, there has been little progress in the past due to various challenges. For example, the solutions for various industry verticals need the specific domain expertise to deliver an efficient end-to-end solution and most of these use cases need an ecosystem play beyond just connectivity and managed services.

The Future Telco (read progressive regional operator) has lately been engaging in bringing together various best of breed ecosystem partners such as application providers, infrastructure providers and cloud providers to bring to life the end-to-end use cases in the identified segments of their enterprise customer footprint. Various consortiums, test beds and production ready labs are on the prowl across regions that are actively trialing such solutions for monetisation of 5G network infrastructure. There is also an increasing interest in taking the success stories to other operator peers who then do not need to reinvent the wheel. Alongside the disaggregated technology stack, operators are now cherry picking the best players in each of the solution component categories to stich these solutions together.



With over 72 patents in the cloud-native space and 3 award winning products Robin.io has brought several key innovations to Kubernetes to make it ideally suited for EDGE deployments. Robin’s  industry leading Cloud Native Storage (CNS) is ranked as the most performant software defined storage and is purpose built for Kubernetes. Robin CNS Provides full automation for day 0/day1 operations and multi-cloud mobility.

Robin’s Cloud Native Platform (CNP) supports both VNFs and Containers within the same platform and brings the much desired hyperconverged capabilities with carrier grade networking and enterprise grade storage stack with advanced data management capabilities, LCM with single click deployment of complex application pipelines and with provision for CI/CD integration.

Robin has also built a highly scalable orchestration product called Multi-Datacentre Automation Platform (MDCAP) which orchestrates a variety of workloads including appliances such as baremetal, servers, switches, routers and up to a million elements.

Robin platform and orchestration solution has been one of the first commercial end-to-end cloud-native deployment of 4G/LTE and 5G workloads in production and at scale for a greenfield operator in the far east. Robin is presently engaged with several industry leading operators across regions for solutions related to deployment of ORAN and MEC use cases to accelerate the cloud native transformation, drive automation and simplify the lifecycle operations.

Removing Telco Ecosystem Complexities through End-to-End Service Orchestration

Free Download.

The telecommunications industry has undergone major transformations over the years. As many Communications Service Providers (CSPs) continue to evolve and virtualize their networks, the introduction of 5G brings in another set of complexities and concepts. With enhanced connectivity and new services, such as network slicing coming to the fore, CSPs face challenges and bottlenecks that stifle innovation and hinder the delivery of End-to-End (E2E) services to customers…

By ABI Research, sponsored by Amdocs.

View Whitepaper

How to Untangle Operational Complexity to Maximize SD-WAN Service Revenues

Contributed by Ofer Farkash, Product and Solutions Marketing Director, Amdocs.

How to untangle operational complexity to maximize SD-WAN service revenues

As the effects of the pandemic and rapid digital transformation spur enterprises to deploy SD-WAN services, Ofer Farkash, product and solutions marketing director at Amdocs shares his perspectives on where the complexities lie and how to overcome them.

How has COVID-19 been a gamechanger for SD-WANs, and where is the market heading with the technology?

When the pandemic hit and the pace of virtualization took off in ways no one ever expected, SD-WAN became the first port of call for enterprises that needed to increase their inter-office network capacity as they moved workloads and applications into the cloud.

According to the analysts at Futuriom, in 2020 alone, the market grew by 34%. Needless to say, this
makes SD-WAN a significant opportunity for CSPs. But if they want to fully exploit the opportunity, they first need to untangle a range of service complexities in a way that allows them to deliver managed SD-WAN services efficiently and head off a fragmented field of competitors.

How should CSPs differentiate themselves to position themselves for success?

As with any burgeoning market, SD-WANs have attracted an array of players, ranging from pure-play vendors through systems integrators to hyperscale cloud companies. In such a competitive environment, differentiation is critical if you want to capture a slice of the lucrative pie.

In a recent survey conducted by Heavy Reading, they found the most popular options for differentiation to be customizable SD-WAN and security service bundles, enabling customers to select from a set of vendor solutions, and enterprise self-service portals. But because a ‘one size fits all’ solution simply doesn’t exist, if CSPs are to address all their different customer needs, use cases, preferences and budgets, they’ll have to onboard a range of SD-WAN and security providers. The survey also revealed that more than half of CSPs offer their enterprise customers two SD-WAN vendor options, while close to a quarter make three to four different solutions available.

Another point of differentiation is the customer portal. More and more CSPs now understand the importance of having such a feature in their managed SD-WAN service offering because fundamentally, customers expect the same ease of use and speed of spinning up of new services from their CSPs that they are used to from their cloud providers.

It’s almost ironic that the network services that enterprises use for their digital transformation and modernization are often sold, contracted and ordered in a high-touch way that relies on manual intervention. We see the results in long service delivery times and a significant impact on customer experience. So when it comes to seizing the SD-WAN opportunity, there are some unique challenges for CSPs.

What’s the extent of these operational challenges?

To garner a bigger slice of the managed SD-WAN services ‘pie’, CSPs need to expand into more market segments and address a wider number of use cases, which means offering an ever-wider range of features, prices and supported vendors. And of course, they won’t just want to offer SD-WANs but also a wide array of other enterprise services – requiring them integrate more and more value-added services within their existing operational infrastructure.

So there’s little surprise that 9 out of 10 CSPs in the Heavy Reading survey found the resulting operational complexity challenging or very challenging, while 8 out of 10 said they struggle with limited ability to offer a customer experience that’s on par with the hyperscalers.

There are two main reasons for this.

The first is a proliferation of tools to manage SD-WAN services as more vendors get onboarded – commonly, CSPs use anything between three and five management tools. The other is that, because shortcuts have been taken to get services to market quickly, they’re often not fully integrated with the CSP’s operational and business support systems.

This leads to disjointed, fragmented SD-WAN silos and connections that require manual ‘stitching’ for the provisioning of new services, with the resulting ‘spaghetti’ connections preventing end-to-end automation and leading to drop-offs in the speed of service delivery. This affects both the customer experience and hampers CSPs’ ability to pivot quickly towards new opportunities in the marketplace.

How do CSPs bring their SD-WAN services to a level that enables them to fully exploit their investments in new networks and technologies?

CSPs already understand that to maximize such a lucrative opportunity they must transform how they manage SD-WAN services − urgently. For example, more than 8 out of 10 CSPs in the Heavy Reading Survey advocated a single, vendor-agnostic orchestration system that ties the ‘spaghetti’ together and dramatically simplifies the operational complexities in a multi-solution environment.

One such system is Amdocs’ End-to-End Service and Network Orchestration solution (E2ESNO), which centrally aggregates the management of all SD-WAN and associated services across all aspects of service lifecycle management – from service design, planning and deployment to configuring, orchestrating and assuring networks and services.

By using open-source and vendor-agnostic service modeling, it reduces the complexity and cost of integrating new vendors, partners and offers. And with its unified service and resource inventory, the solution enables closed-loop service assurance, providing enhanced visibility and control, helping operations personnel correlate SD-WAN network underlay and service overlay events more easily while managing service performance end-to-end across multiple systems and domains.

So not only do CSPs benefit from greater operational efficiency, speed and adaptability, but they can also reduce costs, boost their infrastructure’s scalability and tap into new revenue streams.

Read Amdocs solution brief to learn more.

FutureNet Asia, Rakuten Speaker Interview

Miro Salem, Global Head of Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Networks, Rakuten Mobile, is speaking on a Panel at FutureNet Asia on 27th October. We recently caught up with Miro to get his thoughts on the panel topic: Intelligent operations for new 5G and Edge ecosystems: A game changer?

How do you start building intelligent operations for a 5G and edge world?

A solid foundation is key. Intelligent operations require the right tools and culture, from efficiently extracting and understanding network data to taking intelligent action. Without a stable ecosystem of tools (e.g., data platform, AI platform, usecase backlogs, etc) and full synchronization across the organization (e.g., RAN, core, cloud, security, devops, etc), intelligent operations will be siloed, duplicated, and inefficient. They require alignment and buy-in from all stakeholders. Only with this clarity can true intelligent operations across various layers and elements of the production network flourish.

Should CSPs adopt a multi-cloud model for delivering immersive, multi-access edge computing services and use cases?

Yes. 5G brings new opportunities and challenges that we must overcome. One of those challenges is the much lower latency requirement all the way to the physical layer.  5G has a much shorter Transmission Time Interval (TTI) than its predecessor, 4G. This means processing and round-trip delay must be carefully considered, especially for mmWave use cases. Pixel streaming gaming is an example application use case that demonstrates the need for edge computing services. More and more applications will need to use edge for low latency (e.g., AR, VR, etc).  The need for the multi-cloud model becomes stronger when considering inter-operator edge clouds.

How can CSPs embed the right capabilities and technologies for scalability and automation in their 5G propositions when the business case for growth remains unclear?

The digital transformation of telco has given operators, what I believe to be, the ultimate enabler: virtualization. Embracing the fact that new technologies, services, and applications can be deployed within minutes, even seconds, including in the RAN, we can tailor best-fit solutions and adapt as we go. A fully virtualized, containerized, modular end-to-end network allows operators to respond based on customer needs, not vendor requirements. Like any entity in search of a business model, agility and speed to adapt to customer needs are essential. Business models are discovered, not dictated.

How important is automation’s role in intelligent operations?

The role is fundamental. Automation is the first practical step towards autonomous networks, which is our final goal. Intelligence is a key enabling suite of technologies and mindsets to take the next step towards autonomy. That said, it is important to remember that sometimes automation is sufficient for the task at hand. As with all things in life, it depends on the problem we are trying to solve.

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FutureNet Asia, NTT DoCoMo Speaker Interview

Zaif Siddiqi, Executive Director, Global Head 5G & IoT Enterprise Business, NTT DoCoMo, is speaking on a Panel at FutureNet Asia. We recently caught up with Zaif to get his thoughts on the topic of his panel: 5G & Intelligent Edge – Unleashing the potential.

What do CSPs need to do to operate at the edge?

CSPs are strategically positioned whereby they provide network and services. Bringing edge into this picture means they can leverage both of these areas to their advantage and also choose to collaborate with ecosystem partners including the hyperscalers. Therefore, CSPs should ramp up their capabilities with highly skilled talent in the edge to be able to advise clients how to optimize the infrastructure and develop new business models with lower costs. This will bring in new revenue streams and open more doors for the CSPs to further capitalize on the infrastructure and the solutions they provide.

How big is the opportunity?

There are big estimates given by a number of sources but we will become aware of the outcome only after real massive deployments take place. Examples would be expressways, railroads and general public infrastructures. There could also be cases for specific location solutions such as in stadiums, hospitals and business complexes. At DOCOMO, we already have our own edge known as the docomo Open Innovation Cloud (dOIC). It offers an AI embedded feature and allows partners to develop applications. We already see many uses cases in areas of XR and Intelligent Edge Security.

How much will better quality of experience owe to a dynamic, distributed cloud-based model?

With dynamic and distributed cloud-based model, data can literally be anywhere whether on-premise, public cloud or edge. From a user standpoint, it may really not matter how the mix is as long as user experience is not downgraded and security not compromised. The distributed cloud model allows easier management of the clusters. This means that you pretty much end up with a true  “open cloud” that executes the services at any point and operate it with full customization.

What are the implications of edge for the network and are they well understood?

Edge allows data processing closer to the source and alleviates the traffic on the main network. This leads to lower latency since the physical distance is reduced. The question is how much better can it get? If you are operating on a small island with a small population, will edge be a must? If the benefits outweigh the cost, sure it can be deployed but somebody will have to look after that extra box. Both in the consumer and enterprise sectors, for many, edge is something on the learning curve. As more players deliver end to end solutions whether by themselves or through partnerships, sectors that require that extra low latency are studying the benefits of the edge. We often hear of smart factory, smart mobility, smart hospital, smart building and not to forget smart city. Once these become more prevalent, and they are, the edge will surely be better understood and used to enrich our lives.

To hear more insight from Zaif, join the event and register here