After several years of NFV, and with the coming wave of 5G and SD-WAN technologies, service providers are facing new challenges as their networks become more dynamic and less predictable. As a result, there is a growing need for a solution that goes beyond the traditional capabilities of service assurance and helps service providers efficiently monitor and assure their increasingly agile and flexible networks. 

With a centralized approach to network management, where all big data is ingested and correlated in a single pane of glass, service providers can achieve an end-to-end view of their network and services, rapidly find and fix problems, and automate key processes – a critical step toward large-scale operationalization of NFV and SDN technologies.

CENX's chief product officer Andrew McDonald sat down with Heavy Reading's senior analyst James Crawshaw during Mobile World Congress 2018 to discuss the challenges facing network operators and how CENX's end-to-end service assurance and visualization solution helps them navigate the world of dynamic networking.

Q: What are the operational challenges service providers currently have to tackle?

A: With our current customers, we're seeing on a very regular basis that they're trying to come to grips with what do they do when the network becomes a lot more dynamic. The advent of NFV has now been with us for a couple of years, but all of those systems are starting to go into production. Dynamic networking is something that's a big change from what they used to have in the past, when everything in the network was well engineered, well understood, and dedicated hardware. 

The other change we're seeing is traffic patterns aren't as predictable. Traffic in the past has been something that you can predict. You can predict a busy hour, and you'd know how much traffic is usually going to be on that hour. Nowadays, traffic loads are coming from all over the place.

Q: What are some of the examples of how you've helped service providers address these specific issues?

A: CENX is a service assurance platform, and we feel very passionately that to get the best understanding of what's going on in the network, service providers need to have a full end-to-end view of the service. What we've done with our customers is allow them to have, in one pane of glass, a visibility of their entire network, and that gives them amazing situational awareness. So when problems are happening on a service, they know if it's a host that doesn't have enough resources to provide to an application, if it's an optical transport that's having an issue, or if it's the IP/MPLS layer. Our product has all of the information that allows you to troubleshoot and pinpoint the problem no matter what layer it's at. 

Q: What about the concept of closed-loop systems? Does the topic of automating worry some of your customers?

A: There isn't a single customer that doesn't talk about closed-loop automation because they really want to reduce operational costs and they want to heal networks when issues happen as fast as possible. However, they also want to maintain SLAs and they want to understand what's going on in the network. So the worry for most operators is – is the system going to do the right thing? What we're able to do is pinpoint what the problem is and can start a workflow. 

A typical use case is we'll let a power-assist happen, where a human will take a look at the recommended action our solution gives them, and they can progress quickly from there to allow things to happen in a more automated fashion. Closed-loop automation is a target for all of the industry, and we're starting to see those baby-steps happen.

Watch the full interview:

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