Effective Automation & Orchestration: The Ticket to Network Modernization & Monetization
Contributed by Lorcan Burke, Director, EMEA Service Provider and Edge, VMWare.
Today’s Automation & Orchestration Landscape
The Service Providers’ transition from physical to multi-cloud networks is driven by the promises of enhanced service experience, complete resilience, operational agility, and optimized capital expenditure. On the other hand, it is a radical departure from the traditional single-purpose hardware appliances model. Service Providers must now design and operate their service deliveries across a web of data centers, bridging physical and virtual ecosystems while enabling interoperability across a more diverse multi-vendor ecosystem. An automated approach (i.e., orchestration) that abstracts the multi-cloud complexity and removes tedious manual tasks, is mandatory to achieve the Telco Cloud’s expected efficiencies.
Most vendors in the automation and orchestration market propose a top-down or blueprint-first approach to orchestration and solutions that primarily work in siloed stacks. These approaches do not consider the complexity and rapid evolution of cloud technologies, which can create continuous integration challenges or deficient onboarding, placement and management processes.
Transformation can offer opportunities, but also present fast-paced changes which require new mindsets, skills, practices and solutions. As Service Providers rapidly try to adapt to these changes, the complexity of their operations increases exponentially with each change.
Service Providers are beginning to see the value in their operations to curb the complexity and cost curve (see Figure 1 below). Service Providers benefit today by implementing these capabilities. Service Providers that wait to orchestrate and automate their networks, on the other hand, will miss revenue-generating opportunities and see costs and complexities increase. It comes as no surprise, then, that by 2024 according to Appledore Research the global service orchestration market will reach $1.9B, at a staggering 93.2% CAGR.
Building a Solution for Network Modernization: VMware Telco Cloud Automation
The ideal automation solution must manage 4G, VNF-based networks, help a Service Provider graduate to 5G, CNF-based networks and support cutting-edge automation to unlock new revenue sources.
With this mindset, VMware built VMware Telco Cloud Automation—a product that provides extensive network automation for 4G and 5G-based networks.
The pith of this approach was VMware’s ability to build native integrations at each layer and to continuously synchronize the south-bound infrastructure stack (i.e., VIM/CaaS/IaaS) with the upper service and application management stack (i.e., NFVO/xNFM/EMS/SOM/xAPPs/rAPPs). VMware, in short, constructed an automation solution that addressed the immediate needs of Service Providers, while also enabling a path for future network growth and development.
How does Effective xNF Management Create a Modern, Monetizable Network?
VMware Telco Cloud Automation is a multi-domain, multi-layer automation and orchestration platform that accelerates time-to-market of communication services while igniting operational agility through unified automation across networks and clouds. It delivers modern, multi-cloud automation for each layer of the Telco Cloud—from infrastructure to xNFs to network service and slicing—and streamlines the Service Providers’ end-to-end automation journey (see Figure 2 below).
VMware Telco Cloud Automation offers robust management of network functions through a generic network function manager (G-VNFM) that unifies and standardizes the lifecycle management of network functions across hybrid technologies as depicted in Figure 3 below. This automation layer allows for easy onboarding and instantiation of new network functions and the corresponding lifecycle management of their Day 0 to Day 2 operations. This layer also permits additional CNF-based automation, such as late-binding for Kubernetes nodes customization.
VMware Telco Cloud Automation’s xNF management capabilities are fundamental for any network seeking comprehensive VNF management and/or CNF deployments. Below we present capabilities central to VMware Telco Cloud Automation’s xNF automation layer to illustrate how its features enable seamless workload deployments for any network at any stage of maturity.
Design Network Functions and Services Through an Easy‑to‑Use Visual Composer. The visual composer provides an end-to-end environment to design new or modify existing ETSI-MANO compliant TOSCA templates. The network function template integrates elements such as VDU, HELM, network, resources, automation interfaces, and other artifacts.
Easily Onboard Network Functions and Services. Telco Cloud Automation enables onboarding of SOL001/004-compliant network functions and services. Telco Cloud Automation provides a simple UI for network function onboarding. Network Function certification through VMware Ready for Telco Cloud  ensures smoother implementation.
Access All Network Functions and Services in a Single Location. The centralized catalogs offer access to all onboarded xNFs including those onboarded using Telco Cloud Automation and others managed through third-party S-VNFM.
Intent‑Based Placement (“Cloud‑Smart”). Continuous synchronization between Telco Cloud Automation and the VIM/Kubernetes clusters enables effective intent-based placement. Telco Cloud Automation automatically optimizes workload placement on the most suitable cloud, matching the descriptor requirements with the cloud profiles.
CNF, VM and Kubernetes Node Customizations. Telco Cloud Automation automates the Kubernetes node customizations, in a process known as “late-binding.” Late-binding addresses a fundamental issue for network operators: how to balance a set of heterogeneous vRAN and 5G core vendor requirements with consistent operations. Telco Cloud Automation’s late-binding configures cloud resources on-demand based on the network function requirements and then (re)applies these configurations during cluster scale-out or upgrades.
Automated Lifecycle Management. Telco Cloud Automation offers automation capabilities driven by a workflow engine that executes operations described in VNFD and NSD, plus custom-defined workflows. These policies apply to the entire lifecycle management (Days 0 – 2 operations) of network functions and services for lean operational processes. They also remove complicated, tedious and repetitive tasks while maximizing overall resource utilization through dynamic scaling and multi-cloud workload mobility.
Network automation and orchestration are key components to supporting Service Providers at any stage of workload deployment—from 4G-based VNFs, to hybrid xNFs to pure 5G-based CNFs. VMware’s Telco Cloud Automation support for 4G and 5G-based workloads can—through easy onboarding, instantiation and centralized lifecycle management—walk a Service Provider through network modernization efforts, all while reducing costs and opening new revenue sources.
 Ready for Telco Cloud is one of the most adopted programs in the telco industry, with 255+ pre-certified network functions from 40+ vendors (including both virtual and modern applications).