Tomorrow’s connected world sparkles with possibility – from the smart home to the smart city, in your self-driving car, from AI to AR. There’s a lot to be excited about. Beneath the shiny sci-fi technologies transforming our everyday lives, lies the silver bullet set to bring us all up to speed: it’s 5G. As businesses catch on and communications service providers hang their hopes on a 2020 roll-out, there is a lot to be done in order to prepare for the next wave of services – and reap the benefits.
It is with bated breath that businesses await mainstream 5G capabilities, in order to launch new heavy duty, tech savvy services – whether it is downloadable video content in seconds, VR experiences in a flash or connecting a host of smart devices. The transformative power of 5G will not only enhance mobile broadband, but enable a huge volume of machine to machine communications thanks to its ultra-reliable, low latency network. As digital transformation sets in, legacy IT infrastructures are already struggling to sustain increasingly data-hungry workloads. In order to bring about the necessary changes, to facilitate the shift towards 5G, network architects and engineers will play a pivotal role.
But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Firstly, the Communications Service Provider (CoSP) Cloud gives businesses the flexibility, scalability and responsiveness to the entire value chain, making it easier to develop, launch and provision new services amid unprecedented demands. Secondly, we’ve broken down your first steps into the CoSP cloud to include five digestible parts, making 5G readiness a reality for any business.
“It is with bated breath that businesses await mainstream 5G capabilities, in order to launch new heavy duty, tech savvy services”
Step 1: Prepare the Organisation for Change
We’re not talking legacy architecture, we’re talking legacy organisation structure – the business itself needs to be cloudified. That means adopting lean and agile practices that will help your business innovate and win markets quickly. Breaking down organisational siloes, where departments have little communication with one another is essential. A 5G ready business is one that enables cross-functional workloads, that often work off the same software and hardware infrastructure – organisational structure will have to reflect this.
Meanwhile, with 5G set to turbo-change the roll-out of new services, businesses need to acquire the knowledge to develop and deploy new applications at pace. Having the right in-house knowledge will give businesses the flexibility needed to react nimbly and reap the rewards of 5G. Upskilling the workforce will take time and much of this will happen on the job. Areas like DevOps, agile software development and lean software development will be a focus in order to radically change the way they deliver cloud-based services. Intel offers training support, to help businesses get more from the cloud. The Intel® Network Builders University provides online training programme for enhancing organisations’ network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) expertise.
Step 2: Create Standalone Virtualised Network Functions
The first question to ask is: which virtualised network function shall we transform first? Presuming you intend to ultimately virtualise the existing network, your journey begins with a single standalone virtualised network function. A popular start point in this case would be virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) which is not only the least vulnerable place to start in the network, but means if there is a problem any outages would be confined to a single customer and therefore the integrity of the network is protected. This makes it an ideal testing ground for new VNFs. Indeed, vCPE can be the foundation for personalisation services – which are increasingly essential in demand-driven services – including the content filters for different devices.
A natural point at which to move CPE into the cloud is when it needs to be refreshed – virtualising it will then make future updates easier and seamless for customers. The benefits of a virtual device include scalability to meet growing bandwidth demands, which are driven by the growth in video consumption and smart devices. Meanwhile, other easy first VFN conversions include integrated messaging service (IMS) and the evolved packet core (EPC). Tools to help you launch your first VNF can be found at the Intel® Network Builders Solutions Library.
Step 3: Enable Scaling
Scalability and agility are the buzzwords for any aspiring tech business and also the reason the CoSP cloud is such a powerful platform for network services, including 5G. Once your business has deployed standalone VFNs, the next step is to enable real-time network configuration, allowing the use of VNFs in response to demand.
Network traffic and control traffic are highly parallelizable workloads and platform telemetry can be used to sense oversubscription of shared resources to enable load balancing. While orchestration and management layers can allocate additional resources, auto-scaling decisions are based on network traffic and key performance indicators. To meet the demand of these dual workloads, VNFs can be automatically created, destroyed and augmented with additional capacity where required. In order to deliver more sophisticated virtual functions, VNFs from multiple vendors can be automatically combined.
Step 4: Enable Full Service Automation
Scalable services give service assurance, but to achieve the agility required for launching new services, CoSPs need to implement full automation – this will enable the network to take instant action to meet KPIs. As a result of automation, applications will be able to request services from the network, which can automatically adjust to meet their requirements, linking together VNFs as needed. In turn, customer self-service can be enabled, streamlining the provision of highly personalised services, cutting the cost of sale and boosting customer satisfaction.
To enable full service automation is to accelerate the delivery of solutions, from weeks or months, to minutes or hours. Once the network is able to provision and correct itself, it is a powerful platform for rapidly launching applications.
Step 5: Become Digitally Agile
It is only when the CoSP cloud is mature that service providers are truly empowered to innovate at cloud speed and become digitally agile. A broad range of services can be created – from connection to performance, data management and digital. It is in this final step that the full benefits of a 5G ready network can be reaped. For example, the ability to manage a virtual private mobile network for emergency services, totally isolated from the main network – replacing the expensive dedicated networks they now operate on themselves. Meanwhile, businesses at this stage will be in a strong position to introduce truly innovative smart home, connected car and industry solutions. Welcome to your 5G ready network – this is where the disruption begins.
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