Ericsson platform

Taking a cloud-native Open RAN-compliant approach to NDO automation

Muhannad AlAbweh
Nov. 16 2021

“Our collaboration with Infovista includes their first rApp, that automates network design and optimization (NDO) activities and supports the radio design of cloud RAN networks, allowing for the integration of complex combinations of physical and virtual infrastructure.”

So wrote Peo Lehto, Head of Solution Area OSS at Ericsson, announcing their initiative on their blog today .

“The combination of Ericsson’s open platform approach and Infovista’s cloud-native applications for planning, testing and assurance (network lifecycle automation) gives CSPs a unique opportunity to rapidly deliver innovative services and rApps when deploying cloud RAN and purpose-built 5G networks,” added Franco Messori, Chief Product Strategy and Transformation Officer, Infovista, who was quoted in the same article.

Automation, rAPPs, cloud-native technology, cloud RAN, virtualization… these are important buzzwords for mobile network operators in 2021. But what does this initiative actually mean for MNOs gearing up for 5G, desperate to simplify their options on the ground?

In this blog post, we address some key issues on this topic, including:

  • Why this initiative is so important
  • Infovista’s collaboration with Ericsson
  • Infovista’s plans for the future in this area

Network deployments – and, in particular, radio infrastructure are CAPEX-intensive. However, by applying Open RAN principles such as open interfaces, the industry can make it much easier and affordable to plan, deploy, maintain and upgrade all RANs – virtual, physical, integrated and Open. The multi-vendor, multi-technology nature of today’s networks means it is critical to enable a diverse ecosystem for network operators to choose best-of-breed options for their 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G deployments.

Open RAN is designed to be a cloud-native solution. Leveraging a disaggregated network architecture, this initiative allows all types of RAN solution to be deployed with built-in automation capabilities, such as self-configuration, optimization and healing, leading to drastic reduction in maintenance OPEX.

Ericsson SMO’s initiative is what the telecoms industry needs

The most forward-thinking CSPs will see cloud-native networks and Open RAN as a solution that could unleash the true value of 5G networks, enabling their full potential.

But their implementation brings numerous challenges that are felt by most Infovista customers, including:

  • Network complexity, leading to increasingly complex operations
  • Virtualization, disaggregation, and slicing becoming a reality in the RAN domain
  • Increasingly diverse new and demanding use cases, and more complex enterprise services
  • QoE becoming even more central than before with regards to factors such as churn reduction and differentiation

This means operators’ businesses are impacted in terms of operational expenditure (OPEX), efficiency and revenue growth, which increases the need for automation.

Intelligent service management orchestration (SMO), which enables automation, is key to managing this RAN complexity. Offering an open platform that can foster innovations from third parties like Infovista and from operators, this initiative is a real game-changer in our industry, and an important milestone to deliver on 5G promises.

Cloud technology has become essential for Infovista to achieve its goals, and operators are going the same way.

Enabling these automation functions requires a new approach to network management, with orchestration needed as defined by O-RAN ALLIANCE:

  • SMO is an automation platform for Open RAN radio resources, it can be viewed as RAN domain controller (which oversees lifecycle management of network functions as well as O-Cloud)
  • Its key role is to apply automation at scale to simplify the complexity of disaggregated Open RAN networks
  • Automation can be applied to design, site verification, optimization use cases during the whole deployment life cycle

Due to the cloud nature of SMO, which enables portable and smaller applications to deliver value-added functionality, these apps need to be cloud-native. Being so will offer a wide range of automation capabilities across the lifecycle, offering advantages such as:

  • Horizontal and vertical auto-scaling
  • On-the-fly network functions instantiation
  • High availability and self-healing

How is Infovista collaborating in supporting radio design activities?

Planet™, the world-first AI-powered planning solution, will be the first rAPP to support NDO as part of the new Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform, so we have a head-start in the ways we can collaborate to support radio design activities:

  • Our Planet technology, which integrates more than 30 years of expertise in RF planning, has been leveraged in a new cloud-native, microservices and Kubernetes-based solution.
  • It can be deployed in the context of SMO as a rAPP to support network design and optimization activities.
  • Our NDO rAPP comes with open APIs that can be used to build customized and automated services related to NDO activities, as well as integrate with third-party data and other rAPPs.
  • It allows the platform and other rAPPs to get access to traditional planning features like Automatic Cell Planning, prediction analysis and coverage reports etc.

Our first rAPP allows operators to automate NDO-related activities such as coverage and throughput analysis, RAN optimization and, in turn, can enable capabilities such as auto-commissioning of sites and automation of other workflows on which you need planning information and/or algorithms.

Extensive automation such as this in the NDO domain will help to:

  • Improve efficiency of RAN engineering by supplementing or replacing traditional manual network operation tasks
  • Efficiently reduce the time and cost of your 5G deployments
  • Reduce churn and increase QoE with the support of pro-active RAN optimization

Where will Infovista next take advantage of Ericsson’s SMO platform to expand the value of automation?

At Infovista, management of the end-user experience is at the core of our expertise and history. Our strategy is to integrate our existing products that cover planning, testing, optimization and assurance into a unified cloud-native architecture with artificial intelligence and automation capabilities. Called network lifecycle automation, or NLA for short, it:

  • Combines the best-of-breed of our single verticals to deliver new innovative use-cases throughout the deployment lifecycle of mobile networks
  • Uses multiple technologies and supports multi-vendor by design
  • Enables faster, simpler and cost-efficient networks through automation
  • Covers planning, service and experience assurance, optimization, fault management, performance management, configuration management domains that are developed as micro services and platform agnostic

How does this fit into Ericsson’s new offering? Well, we foresee these use cases leverage the SMO platform, all of them specific micro-services for:

  • Automated service assurance/OSS
  • SLA and customer experience
  • Testing and validation

Business-focused network planning Infovista’s technology is ready to support Ericsson in accelerate its SMO strategy in applying automation at scale that will simplify the complexity of 5G networks.

In particular, our rAPPs will bring multi-vendor and, more importantly, multi-technology network capabilities, including networks defined as cloud RAN or Open RAN, and purpose-built 4G and 5G networks.

Bringing it all together

Infovista’s first rAPP is based on our Planet cloud technology, which has been successfully deployed to support the automated design and cloud RAN networks that integrate a complex combination of physical and virtual infrastructure, and public and private clouds, alongside a range of microservices and functions from multiple vendors.

Ericsson’s open approach for SMO is unique in unlocking the full potential of 5G for customers: it prevents the creation of vendor silos and augments processes across the network lifecycle with insights, artificial intelligence and automation. Operators can then accelerate their 5G network roll-out while targeting investments for maximum returns, establish and protect new revenue streams, prioritize operations such as new site deployments or optimization to maximize customer experience, and introduce automated decision-making to reduce operational costs without sacrificing performance.

Looking at the network holistically from end-to-end, the joint SMO solution will manage complexity and improve productivity by enabling the introduction of transversal use cases that streamline, automate and integrate the planning, deployment and operations of 5G-era networks.

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