Increasing the speed of service activation, alongside optimizing network services pricing is still causing headaches for communications service providers (CSPs). Incremental network technology improvements and other tactics haven't quite been able to cut it, and CSPs are looking toward new technologies such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) to bridge the gap. This was confirmed in a recent Heavy Reading survey, where it was revealed that service agility and flexibility is the key factor influencing companies' NFV deployment decisions.
So, what's the catch? To be in a position to realize the benefits that agile network services present for operators, they must first make organizational changes, upgrade their Network Management Solutions and fully deploy end-to-end instrumentation of their existing network services. In fact, 57 percent of Heavy Reading survey respondents understood that considering service assurance prior to the deployment of SDN was critical.
To succeed with NFV and SDN, business service providers must strike a balance between delivering a consistent quality of service (QoS) and increasing their network services agility. This requires an update of the current inflexible service assurance systems that were designed for legacy networks and are unable to handle the increased complexity and agility that make up today's network service architecture.
The exponential increase in the number of virtual network functions (VNFs) will lower engineering's and operation's visibility on network function capacity and performance. This visibility issue can be overcome by offering holistic dashboards that are agnostic from the virtualization stack.
By upgrading their OSS to become “real-time,” CSPs will allow real-time provisioning/synchronization between various elements (activation, configuration, performance, billing, etc.). By bridging siloes and making organizational roles clear, network and IT engineers can increase their cooperation and succeed in introducing a new IT stack in their network's architecture.
As lofty of a goal as this “real-time” OSS may seem, it is possible, it is worth it and it can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe. An end-to-end, next-generation service assurance solution enables mobile and fixed line operators to handle the scale and dynamics of a virtual network. By considering service assurance before embarking on NFV or SDN implementations, the transition becomes seamless, and service quality will be maintained.
InfoVista and Heavy Reading have developed a five-step service assurance maturity model as a guide to help CSPs transition to NFV and SDN:
- Managing VNFs
- Managing NFVI Fabric
- Scaling VNFs
- Enabling Networking “as-a-Service”
- Managing SDN & WAN Architecture
The opportunities that NFV and SDN hold for the CSP are plentiful, and the long-term ROI will certainly be worth the up-front effort. But, to reap those rewards, operators must be proactive in their approach to continue to deliver on customers' expectations throughout the transition. The proper planning and attention of service assurance has become a critical part of CSPs' success.
If you are interested in having a conversation about NFV and SDN and service assurance, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn, or check out one of these helpful resources:
- Heavy Reading and InfoVista's Whitepaper: “Assuring Network Service Performance & Quality Over Virtualized & Dynamic Networks”
- Global Telecoms Business article: Service performance assurance enables operators to realize the benefits of their SDN and NFV transformations
I also invite you to register for the webinar I am participating in with TM Forum on January 20th at 11 a.m. ET / 4 p.m. GMT, “NFV & SDN: The 5 steps your OSS will need to take to succeed.” By attending this webinar, you will understand the details of each of the five steps of the service assurance maturity model and how you can ensure a smooth transition to NFV and SDN.