Home Asia-Pacific III 2014 The Orchestration Arms Race and the Rise of Unified Network Management

The Orchestration Arms Race and the Rise of Unified Network Management

by Administrator
Prabhu RamachandranIssue:Asia-Pacific III 2014
Article no.:6
Topic:The Orchestration Arms Race and the Rise of Unified Network Management
Author:Prabhu Ramachandran
Organisation:WebNMS, a Zoho Corp company
PDF size:331KB

About author

Prabhu Ramachandran has over 14 years of experience at Zoho Corporation creating WebNMS suite of products and solutions for the Telecom network management market. He handles strategic areas of WebNMS such as product management, customer support and professional services for telecom network management products and M2M/IoT based remote management products. WebNMS offers multi vendor, end-to-end Network and Service orchestration solutions for telecom Networks including Carrier Ethernet ,MPLS, Broadband, LTE and Satellite domains.

Prabhu holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communication from Madras University,Chennai, India.

Expertise: Telecom Network Management, Machine to Machine

Article abstract

Network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) signal the escalation of an agility arms race between the demand and supply of dynamic network services. Network service providers must embrace automation to keep pace with cloud IT workload agility, whose on-demand compute resources are automated by centralized orchestration software. To deploy competitive, on-demand services, carrier network orchestration needs to unify network management across the service network, from end to end. The scope of this orchestration in a service provider network presents unique challenges. Network management software vendors have an excellent opportunity to help service providers transform their networks into agile, service delivery engines.

Full Article

Carrier NFV and SDN Adoption

Quite logically, carriers are driving the NFV initiative to enhance their infrastructure with cloud computing technology. NFV converts network functions implemented with proprietary hardware systems into a cloud workload of virtual machines on a flexible pool of commodity servers. As one of many cloud workloads, NFV leverages the cloud’s economies of scale in system development and manufacturing. More importantly, the cloud provides the resource flexibility, on-demand agility and scalability that carriers need to control their operational costs as the demand for dynamic services grows.

In fact, clouds themselves are the major driver of dynamic service demand. Cloud workload flexibility requires responsive networking services. Developed on the cloud itself, NFV and SDN highlight the escalation of an agility arms race between the demand and supply of dynamic network services.

Under the efficiency of clouds lies the principle of automation, achieved through centralized orchestration. The network must embrace the automation principle within its own operations to stay in the race. For example, to take full advantage of NFV resource agility, the management of virtualized network functions (VNFs) must respond in kind with automated interface creation, element configuration and service provisioning.

Similarly, SDN architectures, emerging from enterprise and data center clouds, are intrinsically and explicitly automated through network orchestration. By definition, carrier SDN services will use orchestration to automate service delivery.

However, enterprise-class, SDN-only network orchestration is insufficient for carriers. Carrier orchestration must unify SDN and traditional network service provisioning as well as the management of underlying multi-vendor network elements, transport network elements and dynamically provisioned NFV functions.

Unification Benefits

New applications that operate at a large scale, where application-driven network efficiencies are meaningful, will adopt SDN and expect rapid, flexible SDN service provisioning from their networks. In this case, the need for network automation is obvious. Providers who cannot provision these services on-demand will cede the business to competitors or, in a small number of large volume cases, to in-house private networks.

Not as obvious, but probably just as important, carriers must also automate traditional service provisioning. Over time, existing IT workloads will migrate to cloud infrastructure, and new applications will be developed for cloud architectures. Many of these applications will not justify the investment in SDN application control of the network. However, as dynamic cloud workloads, they will expect comparable agility from the network. Therefore, automating traditional IT services will help streamline cloud migration, perhaps to a carrier cloud, and reduce the investment needed in translating applications to SDN. Carrier Ethernet, MPLS and broadband services all have extensive, sophisticated mechanisms to facilitate the automation of service activation, performance monitoring and fault management.

Providers that automate both traditional and SDN services will further benefit from unifying their network orchestration across the two domains. A unified platform will facilitate the transition of existing services to an on-demand model where justified by a business case. New services will have ready access to the carrier’s existing optical, Carrier Ethernet and MPLS infrastructure for transport, overlays and interworking.

Figure 1 – Unified Architecture for Carrier Network Orchestration

Unique Carrier Challenges

Leveraging the strategic value of their network infrastructure introduces unique challenges for carrier network orchestration. This extensive infrastructure includes the packet network elements themselves as well as underlying transport elements that scale the service provider’s footprint to regional or global scales. Carriers have deployed network and transport elements from multiple vendors which require orchestration platform fluency in multiple protocols.

Additional carrier-specific orchestration challenges arise from the sheer number of network services under management, often sharing infrastructure amongst services with a variety of SLAs. Carrier-scale network operators must reliably provision and monitor all of these services while assuring each customer of performance through pro-active troubleshooting, portals and reports.

This unified architecture requires a powerful software platform adaptable to complex network and service modeling, reliable at scale and fluent in many protocols. Developing such a platform from scratch would be uneconomical and delay the deployment of these important new services. Therefore, service providers are looking at extending the capabilities of existing software platforms to provide network orchestration.

Consolidation of Management Silos

In today’s networks, network management software (NMS) coordinates element management and service provisioning. However, operational silos often create barriers that prevent end-to-end automation in these networks. Silos fragment information and control thus creating the need for ad hoc manual process steps.

Network operational silos have arisen from the use of point NMS solutions. Carrier network management systems often rely upon distinct management applications from each of their equipment vendors and several function-specific applications from their NMS vendors. Commonly, these applications also span organizations within the service provider, for example, transport and service organizations. These organizational boundaries tend to reinforce functional silos and spawn silos of their own.

Evolving Management into Orchestration

Despite these existing challenges, multi-vendor, carrier NMS vendors have an excellent opportunity to leverage their existing technology into carrier network orchestration platforms. These carrier orchestration platforms must unify the diverse management aspects of carrier networks to help service providers eliminate their operation silos. Once unified, a flexible, extensible NMS platform would provide an ideal framework in which to embed automated business logic, customized to each service provider’s requirements.

Figure 2 – Unified Network Management enables Network Orchestration

Leading carrier NMS vendors have extensive, field-proven solutions capable of unifying management across several dimensions. First, unification requires a comprehensive, integrated FCAPS suite of NMS functions to consolidate all of the point solutions currently deployed as NMS silos. Supporting multi-vendor networks is mandatory. Solution modules can help expedite this consolidation for common networks such as Carrier Ethernet, MPLS and broadband access. Integrating traditional networks requires extensive libraries of management protocols to efficiently integrate multi-layer and multi-vendor network equipment as well as legacy service operation and billing support systems (OSS/BSS).

Forward-looking NMS vendors have already advanced SDN orchestration by integrating with SDN controllers through their northbound, REST APIs. REST APIs, fast becoming the standard interface of next-generation IT technologies, will also enable network orchestration to coordinate with the cloud for NFV provisioning and to seamlessly federate information with other IT frameworks such as big data analytics. Big data analytics promises to guide service providers in refining their businesses, partly based on the real-time information repositories of the network itself.

With orchestration automating routine network operations, these dynamic information repositories will serve another vital purpose, namely, visibility into network and service status by several organizations. Within the provider, network operations, network planning and customer service, all require dashboards to visualize the network. Troubleshooting and help desk tasks require intuitive navigation tools to drill down into problem areas. A filtered view of this same information will be exported to real-time customer portals, which will also help service providers market additional services and accept on-demand service requests.

An Open Orchestration Ecosystem

To evolve into carrier network orchestration solution providers, NMS vendors must engage and collaborate with the entire ecosystem. They must track emerging requirements from standards bodies such as the ETSI NFV working group and industry groups, e.g., the Carrier Ethernet Forum. To reduce carrier development and maintain multi-vendor capabilities, orchestration platforms can integrate with equipment vendor and SDN controller partners, promoting an open environment.

Finally, as flexible, extensible frameworks, carrier network orchestration platforms must provide robust tools for service provider customization. By offloading the unification of network management and supporting extension tools, NMS vendors allow service providers to focus their development resources on methodically defining and automating their unique business logic.

The collaboration between HFR, Inc., Korea’s representative vendor of wired and wireless network equipment, and WebNMS demonstrates the ecosystem’s value. HFR needed an end-to-end service orchestration solution for their HA-800 series of mobile backhaul systems. Rather than introducing silos, HFR chose to integrate the WebNMS Carrier Ethernet Management Solution, which provides a comprehensive, end-to-end network management suite, including discovery, service activation, service assurance, fault management and security.

Not only was HFR able to quickly deliver an end-to-end management solution for mobile backhaul, they have armed their service provider customers with an extensible framework. By adding their own business logic on the WebNMS framework, these service providers can further unify and automate their network operations. Either through intuitive graphical interfaces or REST APIs, the WebNMS framework also enables providers to offer on-demand service portals that further enhance their service agility.

Although carrier orchestration presents significant challenges as described above, network service providers have a clear need that creates an excellent opportunity for NMS vendors. The market is caught up in the service agility arms race, highlighted by NFV and SDN. On-demand service providers have no choice but to embrace automation to remain competitive. Carrier network orchestration, built on a unified network management platform, is a prerequisite for this automation. By leveraging their existing technology, multi-vendor NMS vendors should enhance their value by delivering carrier network orchestration platforms that boost carrier service agility in the escalating arms race of dynamic services.


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