Learn to Love Your Network Again

Contributed by Christian Uremovic, Director of Marketing, Infinera.

Top Six Key Learnings from Automated Orchestrated Network Migration

To leverage the opportunities of 5G and Converged Interconnect Network (CIN), operators need to introduce new technology into their networks that is significantly more scalable, cost-optimized, programmable, and automation-ready. However, rack space and power limitations often prevent the installation of additional hardware.

One way to dramatically save costs, free up rack space, and reduce power consumption is to migrate services to new equipment, eliminating legacy equipment from the network.

In spite numerous benefits, network migration continues to be the most postponed task in our industry, and often is deferred until there is no alternative. Operators report that one of the top reasons for continuing to drag their feet is that 50% of the service migrations they have executed have gone wrong.

It is fair to say that the key reasons network migrations fail are a lack of software automation tools and a lack of know-how or experience. When asked what their number-one barrier to migration is, operators report that it is lack of end-to-end service visibility. Services today operate throughout the network, traversing multiple layers and various equipment from different vendors and vintages. In many cases, it is very cumbersome to capture all the required information systematically and accurately. Other challenges include a disconnect between network data and planned network data, no cleanup in past years, equipment still operating despite being at end of service, a complex NMS/OSS landscape, complicated processes, and error-prone manual handover information.

But all these challenges result in the perfect case for SDN!

Automated Orchestrated Network Migration

SDN-orchestrated network migration can overcome all the issues outlined above. Utilizing an SDN orchestration solution, in combination with a good amount of experience and networking know-how, makes for a very powerful approach to mastering network migration.

Network migration typically has the following steps: discovery and visualization; analysis, optimization, and planning; and migration execution.

We have taken a closer look at how an orchestrated approach can help operators improve their efficiency. Here are our learnings.

Top Six Key Learnings from Automated Orchestrated Network Migration

#1: Put Your Puzzle Together

The first major hurdle when migrating almost all large-scale networks is performing adequate network discovery and analysis in a multi-vendor environment. For example, the OSS/BSS and/or other support systems may not provide the required end-to-end information, so manual work is required to capture that information and build a database.

Capturing accurate network information in an automated way is a huge migration process improvement and provides the fundamental basis for all other activities that follow. A centralized SDN controller that captures information from various vendors, vintages, and layers is the main tool that enables this.

The target is to create a single and accurate data source and topology for planning. Collecting data can sometimes be very tricky, and multiple sources need to be considered to ensure accurate information on equipment and services. In many cases, we have seen different information presented with different sources – e.g., planning, OSS, and network elements can have different information. Once we identify the proper source or sources, the information is consolidated into the SDN orchestration system, and end-to-end service visualization and topology is available.

#2: End of Life Will Kill You

Every proper automation effort needs human intelligence to plan it.  The first step for planning is to identify and agree on the migration strategy. The requirements differ from operator to operator and from network to network. What is most effective: per-node migration, per-technology migration, or per-network-segment migration? It all depends on the specific situation and case.

Typically, most operators focus on end-of-life (EOL) equipment first when it comes to migration prioritization, as EOL equipment:

  • Poses the highest risk in the network for failing
  • Is ineffective in terms of power and space consumption
  • Has high maintenance costs
  • Lacks automation capabilities
  • Is running out of spares

#3: Nobody Wins Alone

The lack of comprehensive visualization and reporting in a multi-vendor environment is a well-known problem in the industry.

Leveraging the single database from our first migration step, we can now create reports for the selected nodes and respective technologies. The right analytics software, including a data ingestion tool, a search engine, and advanced data visualization and dashboard capabilities, perfectly align with the analysis, optimization, and planning process step, providing answers to questions and requests like:

  • Show me all circuits that are using this EOL equipment, for this customer and passing these sites.
  • If I select circuits for this customer, where do I already have the capacity in the new network to do the migration?
  • Show me all vendors’ hardware.
  • Show me sites where this equipment is located.
  • Show me protection information per circuit.
  • Show me equipment with low- and high-capacity use.
  • Show me customers affected by a planned migration.

As we look back, we cannot emphasize enough how important the planning and analysis step is to the migration program – an investment in comprehensive analytics pays off multiple times.

#4: Measure Twice, Cut Once

My father used to tell me you can’t add centimeters back to a board you already cut – so measure it twice and cut once. That was sound advice for working around the house, but it holds true when transforming the network as well.  In the past, operators had no means to perform thorough feasibility analysis for their migration tasks due to distributed service information across multiple vendors’ platforms and OSS systems.

Migration often fails due to lack of proper up-front information, which forces rollbacks. The feasibility check enabled by orchestrated solutions offers alignment between the migration and the rollout of the new network technology platform. You can create migration scenarios and run them in a simulation environment before committing them to the network. Combining the feasibility check with migration and rollout scenarios also provides a good view on what will provide the highest return on investment.

#5: Be Agile

While we have seen different networks, different site conditions, and different migration tasks depending on multiple factors, the key to achieving a high run rate AND high quality of execution is to make sure that the standard migration workflow is understood and automated to the greatest extent possible – without losing flexibility when priorities change. A workflow automation engine that enables both manual and automated (e.g., Python, Ansible) task generation is critical to define a seamless workflow, from the decision to migrate a circuit to the detailed planning of its migration and ending when the migration has been executed. Notifications, follow-up, and status updates, as well as work order generation, end-customer information, documentation, and automated OSS/BSS updates are some extremely useful tasks that can be included within such a workflow.

#6: Don’t Ask the Plumber to Be a Carpenter

You wouldn’t call the plumber to build you a table or frame out a new room on your house.  The same is true with network migration.  Go to an expert with the right knowledge and experience. All the latest tools and functions are not effective without the right technology and process know-how and experience. Operators need a reliable partner when it comes to migrating live traffic and mission-critical data – a partner with decades of experience in networking repeatedly proven through successful network migrations. Combining the right software tools with networking know-how provides the optimal setup for service providers to plan and execute any network migration, paving the way toward a successful transformation journey.

The network transformation train is rolling, and today or tomorrow you will need to migrate networks. The flexible automation approach discussed above is helping network operators to effectively master the “most-hated” network operation task in the telecom industry.


This content has been adapted from a series of Infinera blogs, published during 2020.

Infinera’s Teresa Monteiro, Director Solution Marketing, Software and Automation is a keynote speaker at the FutureNet World virtual event on the 20/21 April – register here