So, what do automobile manufacturers have to do with orchestration and automation of communications networks? Not a lot directly. But it is illustrative to refer to a transformation analogy that is relevant to today’s mobile communications industry, before we get deeper into the topic of orchestration itself.
The Ford Dagenham plant was established in 1932, well before the world of flexible supply chains and wide ecosystems of parts suppliers and contract manufacturers. It was set up as a self-reliant plant, with its own steel foundry and power station. Raw materials came into one side, and finished cars came out at the other end. It was marvel in its heyday, but its ‘monolithic’ approach, fixed capacity lines and rigidity of supporting only a few models at a time made it less competitive over the years. Fast forward 80 years, and we now have Toyota Takoaka II, a completely modular, elastic and agile production line. In theory, Takaoka II can build any number of car models on the same line. But it can only do this through the adoption of a flexible manufacturing approach that is powered and enabled by sophisticated automation, process management and planning technology.
Most of today’s mobile communications networks are a bit like Dagenham. Essentially single-domain, fixed networks that support a small set of services. The fulfilment steps are mainly around activating users to enable them to access services, with some cases requiring a few more workflow steps such as installing customer-specific equipment. These services are also somewhat rigid, with the main service parameters being set up during the initial fulfilment process, and the range of subsequent customer configurable options highly limited. Only a small ecosystem of partners embed/integrate/bundle service provider capabilities into their offerings, with most of the connectivity-dependent third-party offerings being OTT in nature.
Today we are at a transition point with the nexus of 5G, cloud, edge, SDN/NFV, IoT and AI/ML, and we’re entering a new era of flexible mobile networks. The foundation is being laid to enable a wide range of innovative services and applications. But getting these launched quickly and managed effectively – akin to becoming the Takaoka II line – requires service providers to evolve how they approach service automation and orchestration.
The new services environment will be significantly different than before. There will be a much larger number of services spanning multiple domains, such as combinations of physical, virtual and cloud network functions. Network resources that sit at the edge, at the core and in the datacenter may need stitching together or require orchestration across multiple vendor components. There will be new varieties of composite services that are based on intelligently and flexibly combining the capabilities of traditional atomic/standalone services. Many more on-demand and configurable service options will be available, as well as more proactive and intelligent approaches to handling service issues, all to better meet customer expectations. And a wider ecosystem of partners will embed or bundle connectivity (and other CSP capabilities) to provide a whole host of value-add services and applications.
Bringing services to life in this new environment requires a new type of automation solution called end-to-end service orchestration (E2ESO) – one that supports lifecycle orchestration and service management across multiple domains. It integrates with and leverages existing investments in domain-specific orchestration and assurance systems, and as needed, addresses new requirements, filling in gaps for orchestration and assurance for new network and technology domains.
E2ESO is not a rip-and-replace of existing domain-specific orchestration and assurance stacks but ties together and augments these systems through an intelligent and flexible layer of automation capabilities. For composite services, E2ESO helps orchestrate the disaggregated systems that support atomic standalone services, few of which work well together today. Additionally, E2ESO enables the provision of a single view of key data and processes and unifies management of orchestration policies and actions.
Learn about Amdocs’ service and network automation capabilities for enabling E2ESO.