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Virtualization Simplified with Affirmed Professional Services

by Alexandre Carvalho Alexandre Carvalho No Comments

These days, it’s almost impossible to find a technology product that doesn’t tout artificial intelligence (AI). Antivirus software uses it to screen out malware. Cars use it to parallel park. It’s only a matter of time before your toaster is using AI to determine whether to lightly toast your bagel or set the controls for the heart of the sun.

While AI certainly has its place in technology, there’s no substitute for human intelligence. Our customer conversations may start with our technology, but they quickly turn to our people—specifically, our Global Professional Services team. Whether it’s a highly experienced human being tackling network changes in your NOC or a sympathetic voice on a Help Desk line at 2:0 in the morning, Professional Services are the face and the heart of our company.

We know that we’re at the cutting edge of something important—advanced networks that will drive the 5G experiences of tomorrow—and our customers know that too. That’s why you’ll often find Affirmed Professional Services embedded where the action is: in Tier 1 carriers that are delivering the world’s first 5G services or the next-generation disruptors that will provide services we haven’t even imagined yet. Our customers know where they want to be in the next three to five years, and they trust our people to help them get there because The Future is our business.

Human intelligence and experience is what makes a good product a great solution. It’s the difference between a 4G strategy that leads to nowhere and one that connects seamlessly to your 5G strategy. It’s the competitive advantage of being first-to-market with new services and delivering them at a lower cost than anyone else. It’s the confidence of building the future based on a proven design rather than learning from your mistakes along the way.

Affirmed not only has the expertise in Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) infrastructure design, but we are the only company that is one-hundred-percent-focused on virtualized mobile networks built on the principles of NFV and the Cloud. It’s why the most prominent players in the virtualized space like Intel and RedHat choose to partner with us, and why the biggest mobile service providers in the world are betting their future on us. Whether it’s a resident network engineer, network operations engineers, projects managers or a remote Help Desk technician, we focus on virtualization so that you can focus on the rest of your business.

Of course, we’re the world’s leading experts on our products, but our virtualization expertise doesn’t stop there. Many of our customers hire us to manage their entire virtualization migration or transformation. We believe multivendor, best-of-breed networks are still the best way to go, so long as everyone is following the same standards; multivendor leadership; however, more often leads to delays and additional costs. Our systems integration expertise allows us to architect, integrate, and support multivendor platforms for our customers, in effect “owning” the success of the virtualization project.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a very human emotion: trust. Our customers believe in our technology, but they trust our people to make it work. Because if you’re trusting technology to just work without the right team behind it, sooner or later you’re going to be toast.

How to Implement Seamless Service Provisioning for 5G Networks

by Scott Heinlein Scott Heinlein No Comments

Service Provisioning Makes 5G Services as Smart on the Inside as They Are on the Outside

As 5G approaches, the telecom conversation has shifted from smartphones to 5G services such as smart cars and smart cities. And while 5G services are fun to talk about, one of the things that many telco vendors aren’t talking about is service provisioning; how these services will actually be turned up, provisioned and managed in a network environment where 5G, 4G, 3G, and even 2G technology are likely to co-exist for a long time.

Of course, being the 5G-focused company that we are, Affirmed is not just talking about it, we actually did something about it by developing telecom solutions to address service provisioning in just such a hybrid environment. You can read more about it in the new ACG Research paper, “Hybrid Networks: Integrated Provisioning for Virtual and Physical Networks.”

Service provisioning and creating new services, go hand in hand. Particularly with enterprises, which stand to be some of the largest consumers of 5G services, issues such as speed-to-service and service assurance are very important.

It’s one thing, for example, to turn up and provision mobile data services for an individual subscriber, but what happens when your subscriber is an entire city? Suddenly, you’re talking about mobilizing a small army of network resources that may be spread across different domains and vendor technologies, all of which need to work together seamlessly. Even in a purely virtualized world, that’s a challenge; in a network where virtual and physical elements are mixed together, it’s a mistake waiting to happen.

What is Seamless Service Provisioning for MNOs?

What is seamless service provisioning, and what does it look like for Mobile Network Operators? For starters, it looks the same whether the underlying technology is a virtual network function (VNF) or a physical appliance, using a single, easy-to-use interface to manage both. (By “easy to use,” we’re talking service orchestration with drag-and-drop simplicity, so it’s easy even for non-engineers to use.) It also dynamically allocates the right amount of resources for the job, so network operators don’t have to take the cost hit of equipment sitting idle.

In addition to its ease of use, service provisioning also manages the service for the entire lifecycle, from inception to deletion, and automated provisioning allows for automated management tasks. In other words, provisioning makes 5G services as convenient inside the network as they’re intended to be outside the network.

A Smarter Approach to Service Provisioning:

Affirmed enables seamless service provisioning via its domain orchestration and service automation solutions. At a high level, Affirmed’s Domain Orchestrator provides end-to-end service orchestration across hybrid, multivendor network environments. It also includes automation for complex provisioning scenarios: activating a new service, performing self-healing, or scaling service resources as demand changes.

The Affirmed Service Automation Platform (ASAP) features a simple drag-and-drop interface for rapid service creation, again connecting seamlessly across physical and virtual network functions from a variety of vendors through standard interfaces. Together, Domain Orchestrator and ASAP make it much easier for mobile service providers to deliver 5G services quickly and consistently, whether they’re rolling out an IoT service for an entire city or deploying consumer mobile broadband services in an entirely new region. And that’s important because, in a world where everyone is talking the 5G talk, you need a smarter approach to service provisioning if you expect to walk the walk.

Instead of waiting for 5G Services, Monetize now on the TCO savings from an Integrated Mobile Core

by Anudha Sawarkar Anudha Sawarkar No Comments

The arrival of 5G can feel a bit like Waiting for Godot sometimes. Is it here already? Is it coming soon? Did it ever really exist at all?

Of course, 5G is real, as are the promises of new mobile experiences and the increased revenue opportunities they represent. But it may be years before mobile service providers see any of that revenue, according to industry analysts. One popular report conducted by Intel and Ovum pegs the tipping point for 5G revenue at 2025, more than five years away. So does this mean service providers that are already touting 5G capabilities aren’t making any money on 5G yet? Not necessarily.

It’s true that revenues from services such as virtual reality and self-driving cars are still down the road. Whether 5G network transformation drives 5G services, or vice versa, remains a chicken-egg conundrum that seems to be divided along geographical lines. In areas such as North America and Europe, many service providers have already begun their 5G transformations. In other regions, such as the Middle East and Africa, service providers have adopted more of a wait-and-see approach.

A new report from ACG Research and Affirmed suggests that service providers waiting for 5G services are missing a big opportunity to save money and generate new services revenue right now. Titled “The Integrated Cloud Core Advantage: A TCO Analysis,” the report finds that service providers can save millions of dollars—as much as 71.6 percent of their network’s total cost-of-ownership—by moving to an integrated 4G/5G mobile core solution. The report also reveals TCO reduction strategies that service providers can take to dramatically reduce the time it takes to create, deploy and decommission new consumer and enterprise services. Reducing from months to days with an integrated mobile core platform can open up new opportunities for innovation and revenue over the next five years.

In the report, ACG outlines what service providers can do today to monetize their 5G transformation:

  • Lower network costs through virtualization and common off-the-shelf hardware components;
  • Increase scalability and server performance, up to 125 Gbps today with the ability to support 400 Gbps in a few years;
  • Handle traffic more efficiently by reducing the number of packet “touches” to one;
  • Automate manual processes such as service provisioning.

Achieving those goals with a standalone mobile core platform—even one that uses “best of breed” components—is virtually impossible, and one of the main reasons why many service providers have not realized significant savings from their virtualization efforts to date. ACG suggests the problem doesn’t lie in virtualization itself, but in the inherent complexity of multivendor systems. ACG found that service providers could realize significant savings of up to 81% in capital expenses (CapEx) and over 94% in Operational expenses (OpEx) by moving to the Affirmed integrated mobile core model.

The important caveat here is that moving to the Affirmed mobile core platform is also a move to 5G, because the Affirmed components morph seamlessly from a 4G to 5G architecture by design. In other words, you don’t need to wait for 5G revenues to arrive to build your 5G network. You can build it today using Affirmed’s platform, pay for that transformation by reducing network costs and rapidly creating new services, and be in a perfect position to capitalize on “big” 5G opportunities such as IoT applications and virtual reality when they arrive, because these capabilities to support services like network slicing, mobile edge computing are already part of the Affirmed platform today.

So, what are you waiting for? To learn how Affirmed can power your revenue growth to 2025 (and beyond), download the free TCO report.

What is Multi Access Edge Computing? It’s The Future, Happening Now

by Randy Cook Randy Cook No Comments

Any conversation about the most exciting 5G services eventually moves to the edge. Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is the way that high-bandwidth, low-latency applications will be delivered in the future. With innovative and cutting-edge applications like virtual reality gaming and self-driving cars among other use cases, Multi-access edge computing enables operators host content close to the edge of the network. While there’s some debate as to which is the chicken and which is the egg—will 5G services drive the need for MEC or does MEC open up the floodgates for 5G services?—most service providers can agree that the edge is where the real network action will happen.

MEC & CUPS: What’s the Difference?

But isn’t low-latency, high-bandwidth service what CUPS (control and user plane separation) is all about? Well, yes, in that MEC and CUPS are different perspectives of the same problem. MEC is an ETSI term that pre-dates CUPS standardization, which is itself a 3GPP term that takes a slightly broader view of how to effectively implement and scale edge services. You can think of MEC as answering the What? question and CUPS as answering more the How? question. [For more on CUPS, read our blog, “Looking for 5G Enterprise Services Ideas? CUPS Is The Way.”]

Do You Need 5G Architecture for MEC?

One of the biggest misunderstandings of multi-access edge computing is its tight association with 5G. You see, while 5G services will eventually require multi-access edge computing capabilities, you don’t need 5G architecture for MEC. In fact, you can deploy mobile edge computing in a 4G network and use that as the launching point for 5G if you decide to migrate later, by transitioning the edge nodes into user plane function (UPF) nodes. Pretty cool, huh?

The ability to deploy mobile edge capabilities in a 4G network is a big deal for many mobile service providers because it allows them to offer revenue-generating edge services like virtual reality (VR) gaming and low-latency enterprise applications without investing in a complete 5G makeover. At least, that’s the way Affirmed architected its MEC solution. As for the other vendors, well, they’ll cross the edge when they come to it, I guess.

Key Requirement for Edge? Virtualization.

So, if you don’t need a 5G network to deploy edge computing services, what do you need? Instead of a 5G architecture, start with a virtualized architecture, one that allows you to deliver telco-grade mobile core performance at the edge in a lightweight design. Add common-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers that allow you to cost-efficiently scale capacity as edge services grow. Finally, deploy those edge elements in a way that lets you easily transition to a MEC 5G architecture when you’re ready to take the next step.

Doing all that might seem like a tall order for most MSPs and, frankly, it is. There’s a reason that most network equipment vendors still haven’t figured this out. But Affirmed makes it easy with end-to-end services that help you design, implement and manage Multi-Access Edge Computing solutions that integrate seamlessly with your existing mobile core network.

It’s no secret that the edge is where the next mobile revolution is taking place—not to mention the most lucrative revenue opportunities. You don’t need to wait for 5G to start competing for 5G-styled services that require large amounts of bandwidth, low latency, and localized security. You can get it today, right now, from Affirmed Networks. Think of us as your competitive edge in the battle for new services revenue.

Affirmed, Intel and Dell EMC Have an Answer for 5G’s Need for Speed

by Scott Heinlein Scott Heinlein No Comments

Bring up the topic of 5G services and you’ll hear a lot of ideas, from virtual reality gaming to automated manufacturing floors. Ask how mobile service providers (MSPs) plan to deliver those services, however, and the room usually gets quiet. That is, until now. With the announcement of the first cloud-native 5G core network (5GCN) to support 100 GbE interfaces, Affirmed, Intel and Dell EMC have given MSPs plenty to talk about.

In a new whitepaper, Intel, Dell EMC and Affirmed outline the industry’s first 5GCN solution built to achieve 200 Gbps on a single server—a milestone that makes ubiquitous mobile broadband and edge computing more feasible than ever before. Using a combination of hardware acceleration, software optimization and intelligent engineering, the Affirmed/Intel/Dell EMC partnership has removed the most daunting barriers of entry for next-generation 5G services by solving many of the bandwidth, latency and load-balancing issues that 5G applications present to network operators.

At the “core” of the new 5GCN solution are Intel’s Field Gate Programmable Array (FGPA) hardware accelerators, Dell EMC’s latest PowerEdge servers and Affirmed’s next-generation 5GC platform. Together, these technologies allow MSPs to expand and accelerate the performance of their Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) architecture. The benefits of using this new approach to 5GCN include:

  • Faster 5G performance than ever before possible;
  • Native support for network slicing of different traffic types, including IoT and other enterprise use cases;
  • Lower power consumption per bit;
  • Easier deployment of essential 5G capabilities such as deep packet inspection, CG-NAT firewalls, TCP optimization and QUIC video optimization;
  • Support for OpenStack, Kubernetes and other “open” technologies.

5G presents a number of unique challenges to network operators, from control and user plane separation (CUPS) to load balancing. Many network vendors have these issues on their roadmap, but haven’t arrived at a practical solution yet. Affirmed, Dell EMC and Intel are at the forefront of finding workable 5G solutions that improve performance, reduce total cost of ownership and support emerging open standards for cloud and NFV. The ability to get more 5G performance from a single server is critical to the success of 5G, both from an architectural and a financial perspective.

As 5G moves from concept to reality, it’s increasingly clear that no one vendor will have the complete answer to 5G transformation and enablement. Instead, as our partnership with Intel and Dell EMC illustrates, the future of 5G rests with best-of-breed collaborators doing what they’re best at, whether it’s building the fastest servers, the smartest processors or the most flexible 5G architecture.

To get the full story on 5GCN, download the Intel white paper, “Enabling Communications Service Providers to Meet 5G High Density I/O Goals through Software Optimization and Hardware Acceleration.