Blog

    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

    What Does 5G Have in Store?

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Jan 12, 2017 9:12:03 AM

    The next generation of mobile wireless technology is on the horizon, as 5G networks are expected to be available to users in the 2020 timeframe. The leap to 5G aims to enhance mobile user experience by offering lightning fast network speeds of 20Gbps, improved network area coverage, and a latency of only milliseconds. 5G networks are also expected to support a greater number of end systems, paving the way for new IoT applications and other machine-to-machine services.

    Unlike previous wireless generations, 5G will have its architecture built on software defined networks (SDN) and will rely on virtual network functions (VNFs) to provide the scalability and agility required to meet the growing demand for services.

    Everyone wants a slice of the pie

    While the benefits of improved network performance are significant, the real potential behind 5G networks is in the ability to build customized end-to-end virtual networks based specific requirements and deploy them throughout the entire network. This concept of creating virtual sub-networks on shared infrastructure is known as network slicing.

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    A good example of where network slicing may be applied would be at a concert. Prior to the start of a show, concert-goers arrive at the arena and start checking social media, or the musician’s website for show updates. This causes the network to focus on the traffic taking place on the downlink. However, once the show starts, people in the crowd begin sharing videos and other content to social media, switching the network’s focus to the traffic on the uplink.

    Maintaining service quality

    While the 5G networks and network slicing possibilities are endless, network operations can quickly become complex as a result of this dynamic environment.

    In order to realize the full potential of this technology, the focus must move beyond integrating virtual network functions (VNF) into the network, and on to assuring the state of services going across different network domains.

    From a service assurance perspective, there are two way this can be carried out:

    1. Monitoring utilization and performance data of services across physical and virtual infrastructure
    2. Establishing a unified view of connectivity across the different domains

    Through this, service providers will be able to unlock the full potential of 5G and avoid network performance issues, such as service outages.

    As service providers move towards these NFV defined network, and network slicing begins to deploy, the ability to carry out end-to-end service assurance across multi-domain networks is an issue that needs to be addressed to welcome the future with open arms.

    Is your network ready to handle 5G? Meet with CENX at booth 2F50 during Mobile World Congress 2017 to learn how our solution can help accelerate services over multi-domain networks.

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

    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.

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    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

    Bring Life to Your Network Operations with Real-Time Orchestrated Service Assurance

    Posted by Matt Mariani on Feb 9, 2016 10:02:37 AM

    Picture a world where various aspects of your life can be effortlessly attended to through a single device. Take the Fitbit technology for example. In the future, a Fitbit may be able to send health data to the wearer’s personal trainer who will analyze it and devise a customized workout. The wearer receives the new workout and it is automatically downloaded to a treadmill when they next visit the gym. In the meantime, their nutritionist plans a suitable post-workout meal. The Fitbit wearer’s fridge identifies if any of the ingredients from the meal are missing, and orders them from the online retailer in time from the wearer’s return from the gym.

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    The evolution of services, where billions of things are going to be connected, over networks that will be largely virtualized, is a powerful combination. As a result, this will have significant implications for the way in which digital services are created, delivered, and the way they need to be assured.

    Service Assurance Today

    In order to get a better grasp of where we are headed, we first must have an understanding of where we are today. In particular, looking at how services are currently assured. It is often the case that every operator has multiple network domains, which are specific areas of the network made up of thousands of network elements. Now, in order to manage a network domain, there must be an inventory system in place. These systems are typically manually populated which results in huge data integrity issues. Despite this untrustworthy data, that system is the heart and soul of the association between the resources in the network and the services provided by that network domain.

    These network domains are instrumented so that, in the event of a failure of one of those resources, an alarm will get raised. The biggest issue associated with the fault systems typically in place is that a network domain could be sending hundreds of alarms a day. Therefore, people are relied upon to look at the output of these alarms and take the raw alarm prioritization and decide what to work on first, and what to fix, as problems occur. In the end, you end up with a team of detectives for each aspect of the network, trying to dig through information in order to try to understand what is going on. 

    NFV Stage 1: Virtualization of Existing Network Elements

    Now what happens when Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) comes along? The first stage of NFV would be categorized as the virtualization of existing network elements. The impact of this stage on service assurance is three-fold. The first is that ultimately the virtualization layers of the underlying NFV infrastructure (NFVI) need to be managed. The second is that these virtual network functions cannot be managed in the same fashion as existing physical networks, since they have different attributes that cannot be handled by existing OSS. Thirdly, and most importantly, there is going to be a mix of existing physical network elements as well as virtual network functions. As a result, there is going to be a substantial increase in complexity and potential failure modes you somehow need to address.

    So what can be done regarding OSS strategies to address this stage one of NFV? Firstly, you need to add new systems to manage the new virtualized network elements. Existing OSSs cannot be used to manage these new network functions due to the fact that significant gaps exist. There is substantially more complexity here, for example, CPU utilization down in the compute infrastructure can cause issues, delay, and delay variation of VoLTE calls. However, this still requires significant investment and does not even provide the agility, which is the main rationale for introducing NFV in the first place.

    NFV Stage 2: Micro-Services

    The second stage of NFV occurs when micro-services start being deployed. Currently there are, for example, shared firewalls, or shared DNS across multiple customers. However, what happens in micro-services is that each customer will instantiate their own VNF for their own firewall, or DNS. In this world, with the separate VNFs per customer service, versus shared multi tenant VNFs, there is going to be a migration to container-based virtualization. Additionally, the network typology becomes extremely dynamic. The virtualization layers must be fully automated and assured, as one could simply not manage all this manually. In addition, the dynamic topology fundamentally breaks the existing OSS paradigm.

    Screen_Shot_2016-02-09_at_9.44.24_AM.pngEven if service providers manage to deliver the first stage of NFV without large OSS overhaul, the emergence of micro-services is going to force change because it fundamentally breaks the existing OSS paradigm. How are you going to automate that level of scale? How are you going to inform the fault and performance OSS of the entities as they dynamically appear and disappear? How are you going to sectionalize issues as the service path changes? The topology of the network will be continually undergoing change as customers add and create services dynamically. This is what is driving the need for a fundamental OSS re-architecture.

    Today, CENX is able to assist service providers with solutions for real-time orchestrated service assurance. Exanova Service Intelligence allows for the collection of all of this real-time data, and facilitates in populating the service information model dynamically. This addresses the challenges of the new network. Essentially, Exanova is helping to deliver service agility, quality services, and reduce opex for service providers around the world.

    Topics: Software-Defined Networking