Automation and Operations in the Modern Network: Bridging the Gap Between Legacy and Digital Infrastructure

In terms of network automation, we’re beyond removing manual tasks, speeding up production, and improving service quality. In the face of complex mesh network architectures, automated network slicing with guaranteed SLAs, as well as real-time spectrum and resource management, automation has become a foundational capability that is required for sheer survivability in basic network operations. The need for high-scale, intelligent control and management of end points, elastic capacity, and dynamic workloads and applications will only grow.

As the network virtualizes to accommodate connection-aware applications, the need for disaggregated, open and programmable hardware and software also gets stronger. To deliver on-demand services to bandwidth-hungry mobile consumers, the modern network must find ways to combine legacy gear that is vendor-proprietary and domain specific with virtual network elements and functions over merged wireline and wireless infrastructure. That requires software platforms and applications that connect and control physical and virtual network elements, automates network planning, provisioning and management, provides real-time network topologies, and increases the efficiency of traffic management and path computation up and down the network stack. It also paves the way for Communication Service Providers to implement service-oriented architectures that put business needs before arcane methods of network management that are required, but do not necessarily drive incremental revenue.

This type of agile network requires an agile deployment model that is predicated on open, disaggregated, and programmable physical and virtual infrastructure, as well as SDN-enabled applications that use open models. Disaggregated NE’s can deliver new capabilities without disrupting the existing production network, and SDN-enabled applications tie it all together seamlessly.

This approach has the advantage of increasing revenue velocity and speeding up the adoption of digital networking while maintaining the investment in the existing physical infrastructure.

Operationalizing the open and programmable network.

As closed and proprietary network segments give way to open network architectures that include Open Line Systems, Open ROADM, and the open APIs that connect them, operational gaps will emerge that require detailed integration and design considerations from a software perspective. This requires an understanding of disaggregation, service-oriented architectures, open APIs, and the ability to break all of that down into discrete datasets that can be mined by artificial intelligence so that CSPs know what levers to pull to improve the customer experience or deliver new types of services.

Microservices and container-based applications have the ability to fill those gaps without costly capital initiatives. Just as an SDN platform abstracts multi-vendor network elements from service provisioning applications to facilitate intent-based networking, container technologies abstract applications from the server environment where they actually run. Containerization provides a clean separation of “duties”; developers can focus on application logic and dependencies, while network operations can focus on management. Container-based microservices and microapplications can be deployed easily and consistently, regardless of the target environment.

This construct provides the ideal set up for operations teams that identify “holes” in the production environment. In the past, product managers and operations teams would have been forced to wait for lengthy development cycles to take advantage of new feature functionality. Now, with microservices and microapplications, new functionality can be developed quickly, more efficiently, and generate additional revenue inside the customer window of opportunity.

Microapplications are inherently cloud-native, and can be used to integrate newer technologies into monolithic systems without waiting for maintenance windows that may or may not include the capability. Examples of microservices include:

  • Customer IP circuit connections
  • A virtual gateway network element
  • Multi-vendor network element backup
  • IP forwarding loop detection
  • Bandwidth optimization

These microservices can augment existing SDN-enabled applications and infrastructure to provide precision solutions that impact revenue generating OSS/BSS applications. They also have the ability to accelerate lab testing and certification cycles so that new applications can be deployed faster and more effectively.

In addition to speed and efficiency, microservices and applications can also make the network more resilient and flexible. Since they can be deployed without impacting other services, developers can enhance the performance of one service without impacting other services.

All of this requires vendor adherence to, and cooperation with, open models that are streamlined for coordinated control and management across all network domains that include end-to-end connectivity services (MPLS, Carrier Ethernet, IP VPN, etc.) In the modern network, every touch point is engineered to do its job faster and more efficiently, whether it is legacy or digital network gear. Microservices and microapplications are a part of that solution, providing new capabilities that are free from traditional operational constraints, bridging the gap between legacy and digital infrastructure with precision solutions that drive revenue now, rather than later.

For more information about Fujitsu’s Microapplications practice, please visit http://www.fujitsu.com/us/products/network/products/microapplications-practice/

About Rhonda Holloway

One of our resident “Business Users,” Rhonda Holloway is responsible for product marketing in the Fujitsu Software Business Unit. With over 20 years in high-tech marketing and technical writing, Rhonda has worked on multiple on-premises and cloud systems management solutions including network software, supply chain management, customer relationship management, enterprise performance management and database management in the original cloud—the mainframe. Rhonda is a member of the global marketing leadership team and a key strategist for our software portfolio. Prior to joining Fujitsu, Rhonda led multiple teams where she managed narrative branding and the customer journey using a mix of acquisition, retention, and cross-sell/up-sell content and tactics. In addition to her professional roles, Rhonda is a third-generation beekeeper, a computer security enthusiast, and an intense advocate for using technology and equipment to help those with neuromuscular diseases. If you are interested in how one non-profit is guiding this mission, please visit http://www.teamgleason.org/.