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    The Road to Automation: How Do We Get There - Part 1

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Mar 22, 2017 2:22:41 PM

    Service providers can no longer settle for incremental improvements.

    As networks evolve to include software-based systems and virtual network functions, providers’ ability to deploy and support services improves greatly.

    In this fast-paced world, where responding quickly to the changing demands of users is paramount, service providers are required to revamp their approach to network operations.

    In this three-part blog series, we’ll examine the different pieces which will take service providers towards automation.

    The first step down this path of advancement is a matter of examining the blueprint of the network.

    Instead of continuously finding ways to make employees in the NOC or SOC marginally more efficient at alarm and ticket resolution, the goal for many service providers is to achieve lights-out operations.

    Now, wanting something and knowing how to get there are two very different things. Service providers require a proactive approach instead of a reactive one.

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    It’s All in the Domain

    Building this functionality will be a challenge. Establishing near lights-out operations is entirely feasible today, but it will only happen if service providers shift their way of thinking. First, the problem needs to be approached by focusing on network domains, rather than the traditional approach of focusing on OSS functions. Second, automation must start within each domain, and not as a single loop or process across the entire network.

    The ability to automate operations across domains is important, as complex services span across multiple domains.  But implementing a control loop at this scale would be a massive undertaking due to the complexity involved. Instead, service providers should design domains to manage their own resources, and carry out auto-healing and auto-scaling individually. These processes take place behind “closed doors”, and only share the necessary output with other domains.

    The Factory Process

    Control loops such as this can already be found in a number of other industries. For example, the process to manufacture any complex product, such as aircrafts. This process usually sees multiple factories involved, with each location responsible for creating certain parts or subassemblies of the aircraft. In order to create a finished product, safely and profitably, that is ready to join the fleet, each factory has a specific objective which has to be met within a given timeframe. If something goes awry in one of the factories, a supply shortage for example, it is their responsibility to get their operations back on track, and deliver the component that is needed.

    Federating closed-loop processes into a hierarchy enables easier integration with other processes and makes the process of automation manageable. By having each domain carry out local events and it all come together seamlessly into an overarching story, this is the first step to having lights-out operations be realized, and it’s a step that can be taken today.

    Stay tuned for part 2.

    Download the Appledore Research Group’s white paper to learn how increased automation is the only way forward to support the demands of cloud services.

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    Topics: Closed-loop Automation

    Avoid the Death of Your Network

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Mar 15, 2017 11:18:32 AM

    Virtualization has breathed new life into networks, as NFV and SDN technology offer new possibilities in the way they can be built and operated. As a result, networks are becoming increasingly agile, offering service providers the capability to scale their operations with the rising demand of customers.

    However, as new services and infrastructure are deployed, network complexity can begin to quickly snowball. Within virtualized networks, service topologies can change in minutes making it difficult for service providers to stay ahead of the network.

    This has lead to one of the main challenges service providers face today: achieving an accurate view of the network and understanding the state of services across physical and virtual infrastructure.

    The solution? Operators must be able to establish a trusted model of service topology and monitor network performance intuitively.

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    In the same way that doctors rely on X-rays and CT scans to diagnose a patient’s ailment and determine a remedy, network operators need to have an end-to-end, real-time view of the network in order to manage and solve problems between layers and domains.

    Let’s examine the benefits of having a detailed view of what’s happening in your network.

    Pinpointing the fracture

    Much like the composition of a human leg, the status of the network is reliant on all of its components working together. For example, if a person breaks a bone, or if a single device in the network experiences a failure, it can create a cascade of issues throughout. For the individual this can mean surgery, and for the service provider it can mean a degradation in customer quality of experience. By visualizing the entire network in real time, operators can locate and respond to faults rapidly, as well as prevent potential breaks from happening in the future.

    Monitoring heart rate and blood pressure

    With a deep understanding of network dynamics and patterns, operators are also able to optimize capacity and identify underperforming services and resources. It’s the same idea as a doctor monitoring the health of a patient. Determining whether or not the network can support demand is made simple with a holistic perspective of operations, just as measuring vital signs can provide insight into the capability of a body. Network utilization can be monitored over time, and upgrades can be made to areas where it’s needed most.

    Supporting automation

    Finally, establishing a trusted model of network and service topology is crucial for automation. Doctors keep medical records of patients in order to better understand their health and subsequently create a treatment plan. Once the foundation of an accurate view of the network infrastructure is in place, a proactive approach can be applied to operations. As a result, service providers would be able overlay their network data on top of service topology to automate and orchestrate network and service changes.

    For service providers looking to keep their network off life support, having a comprehensive view of real-time operations is critical.

    Download the Appledore Research Group’s white paper for a comprehensive guide to assuring dynamic services in the hybrid virtualization network.

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    Topics: Data & Visualization

    3 Takeaways from MWC 2017

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Mar 9, 2017 12:15:52 PM

    IoT, virtualization, and automation - oh, my!

    The exhibition doors have closed on another edition of Mobile World Congress, and there was plenty to marvel at during the whirlwind four days in Barcelona.

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    This year’s event didn’t fail to impress as it provided a truly unique experience for attendees. As always, the latest and greatest technologies were on full display for the public to ogle over, from Nokia’s reboot of the old 3310, to Samsung’s new virtual reality gear.

    Event-goers also had the opportunity to take in keynote speeches from prominent industry visionaries and leaders on how the future of mobile is being shaped. Netflix talked about its goal to make video buffering a thing of the past, and Google revealed its new virtual assistant for Android users.

    MWC 2017 saw more than 2,300 companies participate in the exhibition, and 108,000 attendees flooded the Fira Gran Via to get a glimpse of what they had to offer, making this its largest and most successful show to date.

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    Now that event-goers have had the chance to kick off their walking shoes, let’s look back at the three themes that caught the attention of CENX during MWC.

    NFV is here to stay

    While MWC has typically been associated with the releases of the latest consumer products, many were focused on the technology facilitating communication. Throughout this year’s show, network innovation and the latest strategy behind virtualization were an area of interest.

    It’s clear that the focus has moved towards operationalizing NFV as service providers have begun to deploy virtualization into their core services. In order to achieve this, operators must efficiently fulfill and assure services in a hybrid environment. As a result, automation will play a big role, especially as operators move towards the next phases of adoption.

    Move to automation

    The concept of automation was seen often at MWC, as it has become woven into the fabric of next-gen technology. Many service providers have come to the realization that SDN and NFV is more complex than anticipated, and in order to realize its full potential they need to transition from collecting data, to acting on it, and doing so automatically in real time. If networks want to become agile, constantly changing systems, then major changes need to be made to operations.

    5G

    5G was a prominent topic of discussion during MWC, as nearly every vendor and service provider promoted use cases and demos. Big vendors such as Ericsson promoted their latest 5G campaigns and showcased their 5G radio development, signalling the technology is now much closer to reality.

    The opportunities provided by new radio technology is significant as it increases bandwidth, lowers latency, and providers new possibilities for IoT applications. A real takeaway from this show is that the 5G picture is becoming clearer for operators.


    Download the Appledore Research Group’s white paper for a comprehensive guide to assuring dynamic services in the hybrid virtualization network.

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    Topics: Events, Mobile World Congress

    Assuring Dynamic Services in the Hybrid Virtualized Network

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Mar 1, 2017 12:23:35 PM

    Virtualization, and the automation it enables, is transforming the telecom industry. As a result, service providers are facing a shift in the way they assure network services, provide reliability and availability, optimize capacity and utilization, deliver a superior customer experience, and generate new sources of revenue and customer value. The future of digital services is rendering the traditional approach to assuring services obsolete — and unfortunately, many service providers’ operating environments are stuck in the past, with teams requiring a slew of manual tasks performed by network operations personnel in order to understand service impact.

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    The market for commercial service assurance solutions is maturing toward the era of “closed-loop automation,” which will be driven by the needs of truly dynamic cloud architectures and virtualization. The only way to support the demands of cloud services is through increased automation. Therefore, it’s critical that service providers design for automation and for scale in order to reap both lower costs and greater flexibility.

    CENX has teamed up with Appledore Research Group to bring you the latest insights on this topic in the white paper, “Assuring Dynamic Services in the Hybrid Virtualized Network”.

    Within the white paper, we cover:

    • Current market dynamics and how they will evolve (and why it’s important!)
    • The challenges CSPs face in supporting virtualization and cloud native services
    • The relationship between assurance and fulfillment systems + how each can evolve to support a more automated closed loop system
    • The economics of assuring dynamic hyper scale services in virtualized networks
    • Control theory and how it impacts assurance
    • RASA: a new approach to assuring services
    • Machine learning, as applied to virtual networks

    Download the white paper for a comprehensive guide to assuring dynamic services in the hybrid virtualization network.

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance

    The Future of Networks: 5G Network Slicing

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Feb 24, 2017 10:32:54 AM

    The telecom industry is abuzz with talk of the future of data. As systems become more sophisticated, cities grow more connected, and the Internet of Things (IoT) changes how we interact with our homes, cars, and each other, the requirement for highly reliable and scalable bandwidth is growing rapidly. Marc-Antoine Boutin, Director of Product Management at CENX, discusses this in-depth in a recent two-part VanillaPlus article, “Network slicing unleashes 5G opportunities, when service quality can be assured.”

    5G systems are expected, within the next few years, to be built in a way that enables network slicing; this will provide solutions to a broadening set of network demands. The network slicing that 4G networks enabled allowed for some new possibilities, but the opportunities offered by incorporating radio into network slicing with 5G will add considerable capacity and a greater user experience. 5G network slicing can provide connectivity for IoT devices requiring highly reliable, secure and available data services, while simultaneously providing high data speeds and low latency for a variety of other services. As Boutin put it, “the real benefit of 5G is that network slicing will enable application designers and network architects to build end-to-end virtual networks tailored to their applications’ requirements and implement throughout the entire network”.

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    Beyond the many benefits of 5G network slicing, there are some other considerations. In his article, Boutin goes on to discuss the possible pitfalls that the rapidly expanding and increasingly complex adoption of these 5G network slices could cause. He points out that if the virtualized requirements for those networks are not carefully designed and properly instantiated on physical networks through orchestrated software-defined networks, they could run slower than expected, consume more resources than anticipated, and become brittle and unreliable.

    As carriers are busy building their plans for how to develop their 5G network slices over the upcoming years, service assurance certainly must be top of mind. Boutin says, “end-to-end service assurance – extending through the RAN and other aspects of the mobile connection – will be key to ensuring that service level agreements are met, resources are used effectively… and customers will be happy”. If service assurance is carefully managed, the power and capacity provided by 5G network slicing will deliver capabilities that will help usher us into this world of greater-than-ever connectivity.

    To read part 1, click here. To read part 2, click here.  

    Meet with CENX at MWC to learn how our solution helps realize the full potential of 5G by providing end-to-end service assurance.

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance, 5G

    Virtualization will NOC your SOCs Off!

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Feb 15, 2017 10:34:54 AM

    By now, many are aware of the benefits of virtualization, as its ability to offer the new, value added services has been well documented. But how is the increase of network big data going to impact a service provider’s ability to manage and monitor the quality of experience of its customers?

    Commonly, the responsibilities regarding customer care and maintaining network operations are allocated to a specific team or department, whether that’s in the Network Operations Center or the Service Operations Center. In order to monitor and survey the network, each of these groups use a distinct set of tools and processes, and the data in them is usually siloed.

    The Difference Between NOC and SOC

    Typically, the NOC is tasked with overseeing the performance of the network. Operators focus closely on monitoring network elements, such as routers and switches, and sites, like a mobile telephone switching office, to quickly zero in on latency issues or outages. Essentially, the NOC handles things that are literally broken within the network.

    Conversely, when one of those network elements break, the SOC helps to determine which customers are impacted by the issue. The SOC evaluates the status and availability of a service, and delivers information on the overall quality of that service and how it’s affecting end-users.

    You can imagine it as an ice cream truck on a hot summer day. The NOC makes sure that the ice cream machine is running smoothly, and the SOC ensures each customer gets the right amount of scoops.

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    Why the Need for Change?

    While the NOC may know what’s broken, and the SOC may know when a customer is experiencing a problem, service providers often have difficulty connecting this information together to gain a holistic view of the issue. This service “blind spot” results in the customer service process being very slow and frustrating for customers.

    An emerging trend among service provides has been to improve their customer service capabilities. The focus has shifted from the network to the customer as the need to deliver high quality of experience has been magnified in today’s highly competitive market. By connecting what happens in the NOC and SOC, service providers can:

    • Prevent customer churn
    • Improve the time it takes to resolve an issue
    • Gain deeper insight into network performance

    Overcoming the Service ‘Blind Spot’

    To overcome this service “blind spot”, service providers require a solution which lets them see what’s broken and which customers are impacted in a single pane. In order to bridge this gap, it’s crucial to be able to ingest, correlate, and visualize all network and service topology, inventory, fault, and performance data in a single pane, and in real time. Through this, service providers can achieve a harmonized view of the network and revolutionize their operations.

    Meet with CENX at MWC to learn how our solution addresses this service “blind spot” by changing the way service providers view their network.

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Network Operations

    The Need to Lock Down Service Assurance Standards

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Feb 8, 2017 10:24:28 AM

    With service providers now able to offer new agile, value-added services to their customers thanks to SDN and NFV technology, assuring service quality has never been more important.

    The industry to date has been characterized heavily by customized implementations, which has resulted in each service provider having a unique way of operating, from determining the state of services, to carrying out orders.

    In order to have a service assurance solution which can be easily deployed and implemented by service providers, standards need to be defined. CENX's CTO, Chris Purdy, discusses why getting these standards locked down are going to have a major impact on service providers: 

    Chris and the rest of the CENX team will be attending Mobile World Congress 2017 where we’ll be discussing how CENX enables service providers see the entire network, in real-time, on a single pane. Interested in learning more? Schedule your personal demo now!

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance

    SDN and NFV are Changing the OSS Game

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Feb 3, 2017 11:23:59 AM

    Service providers have begun to migrate towards cloud-based network services, as virtualization promises to increase network agility and flexibility. While SDN and NFV technology has many buzzing about the possibilities brought on by improved infrastructure, its impact on customer-facing activities needs to be considered.

    In the past, service providers relied on proprietary and isolated operations support systems (OSS) to support service fulfillment, delivery, and assurance. However, in order to keep pace with the increasing demands of customers and dynamism of networks, service providers require a new way of operating – one that’s more agile and scalable than legacy solutions.

    Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) has helped to fill that gap. This new software platform merges together elements of legacy OSS/BSS, SDN and NFV, and network infrastructure to provide the service deployment and assurance tools required to orchestrate high quality, on-demand services.

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    SDxCentral’s recently published 2017 Next-Gen OSS and the Rise of LSO Report examines the importance of LSO as a platform which service providers will use to innovate, and to scale their businesses.

    According to the report, the drivers for adoption of next-gen OSS and LSO stem from the increasing demands of customers, the competitive environment service providers find themselves in, and the emergence of open source software.

    Also highlighted in the report are:

    • Key attributes and requirements of next-gen OSS and LSO solutions
    • The MEF Model for LSO Functions
    • The relationship between LSO, SDN and NFV

    Finally, the report profiles some of the top vendors offering next-gen OSS and LSO products in the marketplace, illustrating key product differentiators. In this year’s edition of the report, CENX was identified as one of the companies driving innovation within the industry thanks to our solution’s ability to enable service providers to deliver agile, assured, and orchestrated services.

    To discuss more about the report’s findings, meet with a CENX representative during this month’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance

    CENX Kicks Off 2017 with MEF Meetings

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Jan 27, 2017 9:25:47 AM

    Earlier this week, CENX attended MEF’s Quarterly Members Meeting in Los Angeles, California to continue our involvement in the advancement of services delivered over automated, virtualized, and interconnected networks.

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    The agenda for this first installment of MEF Quarterly Meetings in 2017 revolved around Third Network Services, open APIs, Reference Implementations, and of course new certification programs in the areas of LSO, SDN, and NFV.

    In additional to the technical and marketing sessions held to inform members about the ongoing initiatives and work being done to develop industry standards, as well as new certification programs for the coming year, this event provided the opportunity for members to collaborate and brainstorm new projects to support MEF’s Third Network vision.

    One issue that was highlighted during the four-day event were open APIs. CENX’s participation as a MEF member allowed us to be involved in important discussions on developing standardized, open-APIs to orchestrate services across multiple domain and multiple service provider networks.

    Since no one service provider network can reach everywhere in the world, the development of these standards are important to be able to make interoperability between service providers possible. This would allow for the expanded reach of dynamic services to more customers.

    Having achieved some major accomplishments in the last year, such as having published an industry endorsed white paper on Third Network Services, MEF shared its three critical goals for 2017:

    • Further development of technology and products
    • Next generation certification programs
    • Increasing membership community

    Visit CENX at our next event, Mobile World Congress, where we’ll be exhibiting at stand 2F50! Book a meeting to discuss end-to-end service assurance across hybrid physical and virtual infrastructure.

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    Topics: Events, Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance

    Service Assurance - The Answer Operators Have Been Looking For

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Jan 18, 2017 9:08:15 AM

    Today's networks are currently experiencing a movement towards virtualization as it offers the improved agility and flexibility required to keep pace with the growing demands for services. For service providers trying to get ahead of their network, assuring end-to-end services should not be an afterthought.

    CENX's CTO, Chris Purdy, highlights the importance of assuring services across combined physical and virtualized infrastructure: 


    Chris and the rest of the CENX team will be attending Mobile World Congress 2017 where we’ll be discussing how CENX enables service providers to simplify their operations by correlating all real-time network data into a single pane. Interested in learning more? Schedule your personal demo now!

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance