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    The Value of Service Assurance in Multi-Domain Networks - Part 1

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Dec 20, 2016 1:44:54 PM

    With virtual technologies being adopted at an increased rate, being able to assure services across hybrid physical and virtual networks has become a key focus for service providers. During last month’s MEF16 event in Baltimore, CENX’s CTO, Chris Purdy, had the opportunity to sit down with TelecomTV to talk about the challenge of assuring services across next generation networks. Here is part one of that interview:

    TelecomTV: Give us a quick overview of CENX and its role in the telecom industry.

    Chris Purdy: We’re a telecom software vendor, selling essentially orchestration software. But really more of the assurance side of orchestration has been our focus. We have done a number of cases where we’ve done the full lifecycle, but increasingly I’d say our role is more in the assurance side; so participation in that whole closed-loop assurance. We’d be taking in all of the real-time data from the [network], mapping it against the topology of that domain, and then feeding back into the orchestration and fulfillment systems to actually affect changes to the network in that controlled loop. [CENX] sells primarily to Tier 1 service providers.

    Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 8.33.22 PM.pngTelecomTV: There’s a lot of talk about digital transformation and network transformation. I wanted to ask you about what the current state-of-play of network is right now?

    Chris Purdy: I think, still, primarily you have massive physical networks out there that are carrying huge numbers of services, huge installed base, etc., and everyone is planning on moving to a virtualized implementation, where you’re not having the custom built hardware. I think what we’re seeing now is that in just about every one of the providers we’re working with, they’re either going into production with at least one of those VNFs, or they’re about to. In some cases, there are actually a significant number that are underway. Though I think that there’s been a lot of preparation work, a lot of proof of concept, a lot of testing, a lot of feedback, so I think it could be a bit of a banyan tree where there’s been a lot of infrastructure work. But I think we could be starting to see a significant movement towards those NFV in the real production networks, in the very near future.

    TelecomTV: So is the primary challenge now about orchestrating services across not only physical networks, but now virtual networks?

    Chris Purdy: Absolutely. This is why we’ve increasingly started to focus on the assurance side. A large amount of effort has gone into building what is often called the orchestration, but is really the fulfillment side. It’s about the creation of new virtual machines, spinning up new VNFs, and integrating those into the networks. Not as much energy has gone into the assurance side. How do you assure those services across combined physical and virtual networks? So this is ultimately where we’ve been investing the vast majority of our intellectual property and our development, and it’s been where our biggest deployments are.

    TelecomTV: East-West interoperability has been a topic that we’ve been hearing off and on lately, why are those so important?

    Chris Purdy: East-West essentially means the interfaces between providers. No one provider can reach everywhere on Earth, so providers have to work together in order to reach and deliver services to their full customer base. At the GEN15 event, I made the comment that I felt those East-West interfaces were the most important for MEF to standardize. The reason is because a lot of the other interfaces are happening within a service provider, and there are a lot of custom implementations, a lot of proprietary implementations, that happen within a provider. But the interactions between providers absolutely must become standardized, or else it’s not possible to set up connections and take down connections across a large base of providers. This is because when everyone has a unique service definition, a unique ordering interface, a unique way of sectionalizing services and assuring them, it just can’t possibly scale or work at speed.

    Stay tuned for part two of Chris’s interview with TelecomTV by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

    Topics: Network Functions Virtualization, Service Assurance

    I'm Dreaming of an IoT Christmas

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Dec 14, 2016 11:43:53 AM

    The holiday season is upon us, and there is so much to be excited for. From the festive music, to the get togethers with family and friends, it’s hard not to get that warm, fuzzy feeling during this wonderful time of the year. But admit it – you are probably most looking forward to running downstairs on Christmas morning to see what goodies Santa has left for you.

    While growing up, many of us remember asking for toys like a Slinky, a G.I. Joe action figure, or an Etch-A-Sketch on our holiday wish list. However, that’s all changed thanks to the rapid advancements in technology.

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    Next-Gen Christmas

    In our hyper-connected society, everything has become bigger and better. A significant factor in this has been the Internet, which has revolutionized the way we live and work.

    Today, the same technology which has allowed us to easily disseminate information around the world is being used to connect devices to one another through ubiquitous sensors. This concept of connected devices is known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), and it’s quickly becoming integrated into every aspect of our lives.

    Thanks to IoT, some interesting new gadgets which could be found on people's 2016 wish-list include:

    • Amazon Echo: A voice command device which is capable of voice interaction and also acts a hub for home automation.
    • Fitbit: A fitness wearable that tracks and monitors data like heart rate, distance covered, and calories burned, and allows you to analyze your progress towards fitness goals.
    • Google Glass: A wearable which has the ability to augment reality by providing real-time information during activities into your line of sight.

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    The Problem with IoT

    While this technology presents countless new opportunities to users, it poses significant challenges to service providers. This is because IoT adds an additional layer of complexity to operations as a result of the many more endpoints connected to the network.

    Although the core components of cloud-based computing and sensors, which continuously collect data, are an integral aspect of the technology, the ability to assure service quality is critical to the success of IoT services.

    In order to deliver the quality of service (QoS) that customers are expecting when they go to use their new gadgets, service providers require a solution that helps them effectively collect all that Big Data, analyze that information, and use it to manage their increasingly complex networks.

    CENX Makes your Holiday Wishes come True

    With CENX’s Exanova service assurance solution, service providers are able to overcome the challenges brought on by enormous volume of IoT. Our solution, which can be deployed in the virtual infrastructure of the service provider cloud, is able to:

    • Visualize and sectionalize paths between enterprise customers and wireless gateways
    • Provide single-pane of glass analytics for network and service performance, and other key performance indicators
    • Identify all customers affected by network outages, and other faults

    All of this allows you to enjoy your new connected devices on Christmas morning as they start making your life simpler.

    Learn how service assurance is the key enabler of QoS differentiation for IoT services and a major requirement for NFV.

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    Topics: Network Functions Virtualization, Internet of Things, Cloud, Service Assurance

    What do self-driving cars and next-gen networks have in common?

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Dec 6, 2016 12:56:37 PM

    Chances are if you’re the one driving during a long road trip, you’ve drawn the short end of the stick. This is because while you’re stuck paying attention to the road, those in the back are enjoying the ride.

    Uber-Self-Driving-Cars-Starting-In-Pittsburgh-Late-August-03.jpgHowever, that will all change as driverless cars are set to revolutionize the automotive industry. In the not too distant future, people will have the luxury of simply hopping into their vehicle, inputting their destination, and watching as it navigates the road autonomously.

    What’s under the hood of these driverless cars?

    This technology, which is already being rolled out in many places, including in Uber’s self driving car pilot program, is incredibly futuristic and has many are excited at the prospect of having more free time while being “behind the wheel”. The intention of this post isn’t to talk about how telecom networks support connectivity to driverless cars, but rather to consider the principles behind this highly automated system.

    This “auto-pilot” capability is achieved by combining several automated subsystems which have been gradually added to vehicles over the years: lane departure detection, adaptive cruise control, and assisted steering, for example. These are self-regulating processes, which modify their actions based on sensors and results. Automation is then achieved by identifying errors or differences in the system, and using this information to make any necessary adjustments. This process is known as a feedback control loop.

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    This allows for individually automated systems to be nested on top of one another, establishing a single continuous process. This is critical, as it minimizes complexity, reduces risk, and most importantly, prevents you from ending up in a ditch.

    Telecoms shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel!

    So this begs the question, if we can use this automation to safely transport humans, why can’t the same be done for telecom network operations?

    In the past, there has been a reluctance to automate in telecom due to the perceived risks and challenges related to bad data and complex, siloed operations. However, some of these barriers have been overcome thanks to recent innovations from the IT industry which have made it possible to process and analyse the vast amount of data produced by networks.

    A growing number of service providers have begun to integrate SDN and NFV into their network as it promises improved agility, elasticity, and cost savings. While these redeeming qualities are definitely creating a buzz within the industry, automation, as it pertains to service assurance (in addition to fulfillment), is critical to realizing the full potential of this technology.

    Automation-and-Assurance-Photo.png                                                                                                                            Graphic by Appledore Research Group

    As highlighted in the example of driverless cars, feedback control loops are the structure required for success. The concept is simple, a single and intuitive process is established which supports a wide variety of tasks, from creating and maintaining new services, to optimizing resource utilization.

    Traditionally, service fulfillment and assurance have been independent silos. However, in this new automated closed-loop environment, assurance and analytics will converge to establish an intelligent platform that guides orchestration. As networks become more complex, closed-loops provide the ability to correlate all of the relevant data, gain a comprehensive snapshot into what is happening in the network, and make a decision on what actions to take to improve operations.

    In the end, this transformation allows service providers the ability to fulfill the customized services offerings to customers, which are a key differentiator in today’s competitive market. Additionally, it allows operators to shift their focus from monitoring network performance to delivering quality customer experience.

    Learn how to speed service delivery and drive customer experience with Exanova’s ability to deliver closed-loop service assurance for vCPE at the Virtual Edge.

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    Topics: Software-Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization, Internet of Things, Closed-loop Automation

    What do Google Maps and Lifecycle Services Orchestration (LSO) have in common?

    Posted by Andre Bouzout on Dec 3, 2015 4:11:20 PM

    Imagine the last road trip you took: how did you navigate to your destination? Now, think back to a road trip you may have taken ten or twenty years ago; what tools did you use to navigate then? How do the two trips compare?

    In the past travellers would evaluate multiple sources of data. This would result in inconsistent and inaccurate directions. For example a detour may result in confusion or a collision could add hours to the commute.

    Today, navigation systems have connected and populated maps, presenting the traveller with a single and accurate view of their trip from its start to end. A prime example of this is Google Maps.

    Evolving networks

    Travellers are clearly aware of how navigation has evolved in recent years. However, it’s not the only industry undergoing change – evolution is happening within data networks too. With advances in Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technologies, changes to network services operations and management are increasingly essential.

    Similar to travelling in the past, today’s physical network has a multitude of systems and sources of data to analyze. This leaves service providers asking questions, such as, “Which regions are performing best?” and “How can I hold my access vendors accountable?”

    Solutions like Google Maps gather and process large quantities of data to provide the end-user with a comprehensive representation of real-time information, so why wouldn’t it be possible to represent real-time data across data networks?

    Just as physical maps will not disappear for the foreseeable future, neither will physical network elements in service provider networks. Therefore, to maintain flexibility in service operations across both physical and virtual networks, a new approach is needed.

    Introducing LSO

    Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) is this next-generation operations approach. LSO supports agile definition, fulfillment and assurance of end-to-end services across a hybrid physical and virtual network infrastructure.

    This image is a graphic representation of the similarities between Google Maps five-step internal process and the service assurance process used by CENX for a mobile network.

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    Google Maps assists travellers from the start until the end of their journey by offering actionable insight on a single screen. LSO assists operators in a similar manner, orchestrating services end-to-end and providing operators a single panel view to navigate their networks intuitively and comprehensively.

    LSO hides the complexity of networks allowing for enhanced flexibility and agility, just like Google Maps helps travellers make sense of multiple sources of data in a simple, easy-to-use interface.

    Lastly, both real-time mapping software and LSO market segments are experiencing massive worldwide demand. For example, Google Maps was listed as one most popular smartphone apps worldwide in 2013 while the global LSO market is expected to be $3 billion by 2019.

    To learn more about LSO for service assurance across data networks. 

    View CENX CTO Chris Purdy’s presentation during SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2015

     

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

    Are your operations keeping up to your network?

    Posted by Erica Watts on Jul 20, 2015 3:29:03 PM

    Your data network is lightning fast, but are your operations keeping up?

    Today's mobile, wireline, and cloud data center service providers are adopting the latest state-of-the-art Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technologies to modernize network infrastructure and bring reliable, high-speed data communications to their customers. But NFV is just the beginning of the network transformation. Network operations need to be synchronized across the entire infrastructure to deliver diversified enterprise and consumer services. That requires Lifecycle Service Orchestration.

    Customers value the network based on what it does for them. Service agility is important. Service quality is essential. Whether the network is composed of physical or virtualized network function infrastructure – or a mix of both – the customer only sees end-to-end service quality.

    CENX’s Cortx Service Orchestrator is the cornerstone next-generation operations tool that enables operators to rapidly fulfill and assure services across multi-vendor and multi-technology networks. Cortx provides the essential single pane-of-glass that allows operators to navigate their networks: quickly, intuitively and comprehensively. Powered by dynamic network analytics, Cortx turns complex network data into actionable automated intelligence.

    Are you going virtual with NFV? Get real with LSO. 

    Real agility. Real quality. Real savings.

     

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

    Top 10 LSO Requirements

    Posted by Erica Watts on Apr 15, 2015 10:43:00 AM

    LinkedInShares_BlogLSORequirements

    1. Flexible Information model  

    LSO must hold an inventory of the services that it is orchestrating, and it must associate each service to the resources used to provide that service, whether they are implemented in a physical network element, in a VNF, or are delivered by a third party provider. Since every service provider has unique service definitions, as well as unique network topologies, policies and technologies, the model must be able to be rapidly customized in each deployment.

    2. Rapid Data Source Integration

    This information model must be populated with the set of services to be orchestrated. The ability to instantiate a new service only happens once in the lifecycle of each service whereas service changes and assurance need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. The latter functions cannot be carried out until the service inventory is populated and the data sources required to do this can be very extensive. For example, configuration files from physical network elements will generally be one trusted data source, but to build the complete service inventory, there is much information that the network elements do not know. As a result, a design to allow rapid adaptation and continuous ingest of these data sources is required.

    3. Data Audit 

    In most every existing network, different data sources will not agree on particular information about the service. The LSO must be able to analyze and present these mismatches to users in order to ensure that the service information model is accurately populated. 

    4. Service Visualization

    Different management views of the transport network need to be supported, including fulfillment, performance management, troubleshooting, network optimization and just in time capacity management views.

    5. Service Assurance & Analytics

    Typically, operators need to manage a very large number of existing services and the assurance phase is the longest part of their lifecycle. The LSO must be able to take in a tremendous amount of real-time data (such as fault, utilization, service OAM, RAN statistics, NFVI compute information) to support rapid troubleshooting and repair as well as for predictive analytics and capacity planning purposes. The LSO needs to turn all this data into meaningful information so that it can identify issues with the largest service impacts and then take corrective actions that will result in the best quality of service for the customers. 

    6. Service Workflow

    Translating a service request into a completed action typically involves multiple steps and a state machine. In many cases (for example, when a physical UNI needs to be installed), human activity is required. Some requests may require execution during maintenance windows and may need to be monitored. Sometimes, the request involves placing orders to third party access vendors. Ideally, the vast majority of the steps in each workflow are fully automated, and in some cases (for example, a bandwidth increment where underlying network capacity is sufficient), the entire workflow can be automatic. An LSO needs to be able to handle workflows that are both automated and which require human intervention. It should also allow workflows to be customized to the particular service provider requirements.

    7. Interaction with MANO 

    One of the steps in many service workflows will be to instantiate or change the capacity of VNFs, such as virtual firewalls and other Layer 4-7 functions. The LSO will need to trigger this request and ensure it is successfully executed. 

    8. Provisioning 

    One of the steps in a service workflow will be to provision the initial creation of the service, as well as the many changes through the service lifecycle (for example, add an endpoint, change firewall rules and eventually disconnect the service). 

    9. Coordinated Testing 

    Another step in the workflow is to set up and execute testing to ensure that service instantiation or changes have been completed successfully.

    10. Off-net Ordering

    In many cases, connectivity services require third party service providers to reach all required locations. In this case, fulfilling service requests can mean triggering orders to third parties and tracking them to fulfillment.

    For more information on the requirements for lifecycle service orchestration download CENX and Heavy Reading’s white paper, “NFV’s Biggest Barriers: Overcoming the Operations Challenge”.

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    Topics: Network Functions Virtualization

    A Different Take on the Business Benefits of NFV

    Posted by Ryan O'Grady on Mar 3, 2015 2:00:00 PM

    When NFV first emerged, the immediate benefit operators envisaged was capex (capital expenditure) savings. Fairly quickly this reason for doing NFV started to drop down the list because people realized that a high percentage of the cost of network elements is in the software not hardware.

    There’s also been a lot of noise around NFV and opex (operating expenditure) savings, but given all the operational and organizational changes associated with transitioning to NFV, some operators believe that a reduction in opex will only be achieved long term.

    One of the greatest challenges that mobile operators face is growing demand for bandwidth. The following example will provide a different take on the real business benefits of NFV.

    Example1-1

    The image above displays regular use, as data goes from the handset to the cell site, then from the cell site across to the first aggregation site. Traffic is then typically brought back to a distribution site where all of the content is actually delivered.

    If you're running an application on your handset like ESPN, Google, or Netflix for example, the traffic is going from that distribution site back to your application. This drives a massive amount of bandwidth and the highest value is between that aggregation site and that distribution site.

    The content companies like Google, Netflix, and ESPN are typically willing to build closer to the edge of the network. They'd move their traffic to the aggregation site for example, because they're trying to ensure the best quality of user experience. Since those services go through S and P gateways as the anchor points, they usually end up staying at the distribution sites because of the cost of moving physical gateways.

    Example2-1

    If however, those gateways were virtualized (like in the image above) and could run on standard computer hardware, it would be possible to run whatever you needed at the distribution site and whatever you needed at the aggregation site. That would enable these heavy content users to move more of the traffic out to the edge. This would relieve the pressure and create a significant cost reduction for the mobile operator.

    The flexibility that NFV is offering here has real potential for business value. To learn more through operational use cases watch the on-demand webinar, “NFV’s Biggest Barrier: Overcoming the Operations Challenge”.

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    Topics: Network Functions Virtualization