Network slicing is one of the key enabling capabilities for building flexible networks on top of a common physical infrastructure. In a recent TIA NOW video, Chris Bachalo, Director of Service Provider Cloud Solutions at Juniper Networks and Angela Whiteford, VP of Marketing and Product Management for Affirmed Networks joined forces to discuss how network slicing will become a fundamental technology enabling a wide range of use cases, and how service providers are taking some actions right now.
Here are some highlights:
Slicing drives service customization
Bachalo and Whiteford begin by pointing out that, as 5G continues to take shape, the business cases for cost-effectively implementing multiple logical networks (slices) over the same common physical infrastructure are becoming clearer. Slices can be allocated to specific uses like IoT, mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), gold/silver/bronze classes of service, individual customers or operators, or even specific network domains, such as wireless, wireline, consumer and business.
Operators see a massive growth in data traffic across their networks and would like to micro-segment that traffic and charge differently for each segment according to cost factors and other segment considerations. Micro-segmentation is a big capability that network slicing enables.
Is network slicing viable in a pre-5G world?
It’s obvious to operators that services customized for specific requirements (e.g. per industry) can drive significant top-line revenue growth. But what’s the practical timeline for implementing network slicing? The industry is fast evolving to the 5th generation wireless technology standard, but evolution takes time (Verizon has announced it will launch 5G service in several cities during 2018). In the meantime, what can network slicing do in a world that hasn’t fully transitioned to 5G technology?
Operators are implementing network slicing on 4G networks now through APNs, but have found the configuration process cumbersome, requiring touching multiple networks to set up new “slices.” So far, slicing has been rudimentary, largely because of challenges in organizational coordination. 5G technology will cut through that, but even today there are new slicing functions coming out that create a centralized location where slicing policies can be created without touching many different organizational elements. This makes slicing more practical in current non-5G network environments.
Automation and analytics are making slicing worth implementing today
Virtualization has begun to allow service providers to spin up logical networks quickly and easily, basing services and functions anywhere in the network and dynamically allocating functions where they are needed. For instance, new tools are emerging that will let today’s centralized functions evolve into future services that distribute low-latency apps closer to end users.
When adapting today’s network to changing needs, virtual probes and analytics are important. Real-time metrics can be gathered for a given slice to establish a baseline understanding of how it is performing and proactive at anticipating problems. Knowing what users are doing can drive the creation of new profitable, new service offerings. Automation tools are emerging to stitch services together in order to detect issues and opportunities and take action efficiently, as well as handling the growing number of functions made possible by slicing.
To learn more, view the full video.