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How to Orchestrate a 5G Revolution

by Adam Dorenter Adam Dorenter No Comments

How to Orchestrate a 5G Revolution

Around the world, mobile operators are beginning to roll out their plans for next-generation mobile networks. Some carriers have even begun to refer to these rollouts as 5G—although, in fairness to the future, these have been more like 5G phase one, in the sense that some carriers have realized more bandwidth and better speeds, but the 5G services themselves have yet to arrive.

That will change soon. Companies like Turkcell, the largest mobile operator in Turkey, with more than 68 million subscribers, are bringing 5G transformations into the mobile core, laying the foundation for the 5G services of tomorrow. And, with the recent events of the COVID-19 pandemic driving the acceleration of mobile digital platform adoption years ahead of planned schedule – that transformation is arriving not a moment too soon and is depending upon orchestration to be the key delivery vehicle for these 5g services.

A few years ago, Affirmed and Turkcell embarked on a journey toward 5G transformation that included network virtualization. Using Affirmed’s standards-based Network Functions Virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) architecture, Turkcell has already virtualized more than half of its network services and plans to virtualize 75 percent of its network services by the end of 2020. This is critical because a virtualized infrastructure is the foundation for creating, deploying, and managing 5G services cost-efficiently and at scale. Those last two points—cost-efficiency and scale—are very important right now, because mobile operators are still trying to figure out how to monetize 5G services, while at the same time demand for these services skyrockets because of COVID-19.

 

The Role of Automation & Management

The key to delivering these services economically, and at scale, is the tight coupling of concepts central to automation, management, and observability. This allows operators, like Turkcell, to optimize the deployment of virtual network functions (VNFs), shortening time to revenue, while also reducing operational expense, using a decentralized, zero-touch provisioning scheme.  These benefits will only become amplified as network expansion moves towards the edge and services like IoT drive massive amounts of end devices. 

Delivering on these requirements is Affirmed’s Network Function Orchestration (NFVO) platform. A MANO based domain service lifecycle framework, it features standards-compliant northbound interface functionality and southbound support for both Affirmed functions and third parties.  Composed of an Orchestrator, VNFM, and Service Assurance components, the solution fundamentally transforms how network operators manage a mobile core network, dramatically simplifying service creation through workflow-based service provisioning and just enough visibility to drive intelligent closed-loop automation.

 

Turkcell’s Decision to Use Affirmed

In the recent announcement, Turkcell disclosed they will be using Affirmed’s NFVO platform (NFV Orchestration) to roll out both 4G and next-generation 5G services. A major factor in Turkcell’s decision is Affirmed’s ability to support multiple virtual infrastructure managers (Multi-VIM), which gives Turkcell flexibility to deploy new services using public, private, on-prem, or cloud-based resources. Other significant solution features include:

  • Integration of Affirmed and partner functions, and in addition, functions from third-party vendors, where those functions reside in the mobile core network domain. 
  • Function support via either standards-based Generic VNFM, where a vendor is compliant or integration of non-standard SVNFM, where a vendor is not.
  • A common operating set consisting of onboard, create, instantiate, scale, heal, upgrade, and terminate actions, all accessed through purpose-built dashboards.
  • Resource management to discover, analyze, and reserve function resource requirements, with advanced analysis and reporting of capacity vs demand.
  • Cross-domain provisioning of the resource and transport infrastructures, supporting compute, controller and access switch LCM tasks
  • A managed automation artifact program, where Affirmed publishes regular function artifact updates to a digital marketplace for consumption and use.

To further illustrate business value, consider the current COVID-19 restrictions. Deploying technical teams globally to install, provision, and maintain physical resources around the world is impractical and, in some cases, impossible. Where-as, the ability to perform these management tasks remotely, and automatically, delivers more than just a competitive advantage. As the demand for network services increases—both in urban and rural areas, across consumer and commercial use-cases—being able to quickly expand capacity, or proactively reduce latency, will be critical to protecting customer experience and operator reputation.

 

The Outlook for 5G Services

Despite the current uncertainties, the future looks bright for 5G services to transform the way the world operates. The timetables for telemedicine, long-distance learning, virtual/augmented reality, low latency gaming, drone-based deliveries, and other 5G applications have been accelerated and the demand for them is likely to continue growing.

We’re proud to be working with carriers like Turkcell to improve the future of communications—a future we’ve been working toward together for years. Now, more than ever, mobile operators must help the world stay connected. Whether it’s moving network functions into the cloud or bringing 5G services to market sooner, Affirmed Networks is here to help.

How Mobile Networks Help the World Stay Connected in the Age of Social Distancing

by Sean O’Donoghue Sean O’Donoghue No Comments

As governments, healthcare professionals and businesses make hard choices on how to handle the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the important role that communications service providers play behind the scenes to keep everyone connected in an age of social distancing and shelter-in-place.

As a response to the COVID-19 concerns, Work From Home (WFH) is mandatory for most businesses right now. Schools and universities have had to implement remote learning procedures years earlier than expected. Friends and families are using phones and video apps to stay in touch more than ever before. And mobile networks are straining to keep up with the heightened demand. In Sweden, for example, mobile data usage is already at an all-time yearly high and voice calls have increased 30% in just the last two weeks.

Throughout it all, however, the mobile network perseveres.

Ensuring a continuous, connected experience is a challenge under “normal” conditions, and especially challenging in the “new normal” of a global pandemic like what we’re experiencing with COVID-19. There are three critical elements that will determine how well mobile networks can hold up in the days to come: technology, standards and people.

 

3 Critical Elements of Mobile Networks During The Pandemic

Technology

Thanks to the evolution of mobile technology, most people in the world enjoy fast, ubiquitous access to real-time information (and entertainment) on their mobile devices. In a time when people need to stay apart for safety, staying together through technology has become more important than ever. Mobile technology also supports critical services, from emergency responders and law enforcement to telemedicine.

Standards

It’s easy to forget the role that standards play in mobile communications, but without them, communication begins to fall apart. They’re the glue that holds mobile services together, whether it’s allowing different devices to get the same service experience or connecting business applications with mobile communications. Affirmed has always viewed adherence to standards as critical; it’s a big reason why our solutions currently support millions of customers in more than 100 telecommunications networks worldwide.

People

The most important element, particularly now, is people. From customer service to network maintenance, service delivery to operations, people are what make networks work. With the backdrop of social distancing and shelter-in-place leading to reduced on-site personnel, the individuals in the field and those working long hours remotely to make sure that mobile networks keep working deserve a special thanks. Of course, Affirmed is playing its own part in helping mobile networks meet the heightened demand, and we’re proud to do so.

 

The Importance of Mobile Networks Moving Forward

As we enter an uncertain future, our reliance on communications network will be more important than ever. I have no doubt that there will be some bumps in the road ahead, from outages to increased delays. But we feel especially fortunate to work in an industry that can do so much for so many right now. To everyone who works in the communications industry, thank you for everything you do—and know that Affirmed Networks has your back.

The World Wide Wireless Web: What You Need to Know

by Sanjay Mewada Sanjay Mewada No Comments

As the World Wide Web approaches its thirtieth anniversary, the question arises of whether businesses and consumers can still trust the original model of the WWW to serve the needs of a much-changed marketplace. In 1991, the first year of the WWW, smartphones didn’t exist, “broadband” speeds maxed out at around 512 kilobits per second and Google was still years away. By contrast, there are 3.5 billion smartphones in the world today, 5G promises speeds up to nearly 20,000X faster than 512 kbps and Google serves an estimated 3.8 million searches every minute.

 

At Affirmed, we believe the WWW needs to adapt to a new age: the World Wide Wireless Web. The WWWW is designed for a mobile world where consumers expect seamless broadband connectivity, a rich ecosystem of mobile applications and cloud-based services. The WWWW will be built around five unique characteristics that will drive the mobile applications and services of the future.

 

The 5 Unique Characteristics of WWWW (World Wide Wireless Web)

 

#1. A “mobile-first” approach

When the WWW was first developed, mobile devices were treated as second-class citizens. The web experience was tailored around computers and, later, laptops, with little thought given to how applications and pages would display on mobile devices. As mobile becomes the predominant platform, the roles of mobile and desktop devices will reverse. Web services and content will be tailored to mobile experiences (e.g., the move to accelerated mobile pages), including rich content such as video and online gaming. Retooling the web as a mobile experience presents a variety of challenges for mobile operators, including the need for higher bandwidth, lower latency, strong security and identity controls and, most importantly, the ability to quickly launch new mobile services to support enterprise and consumer use cases.

 

#2. Dynamic, seamless connectivity

The “wireless” in WWWW will be a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi technologies that will deliver consistent service in and out of buildings and other locations. There are a lot of things that mobile network operators will need to do to make this happen, from network slicing to flexible pricing. For example, a mobile operator may want to offer better experiences or lower pricing for Wi-Fi sessions versus LTE or 5G sessions. Some of the technologies that will make this happen include network slicing, real-time analytics and edge-based services.

 

#3. An intelligent, distributed edge

Building off my previous point, an intelligent, distributed network edge will be critical for mobile operators because of the requirements for low latency and high bandwidth on many 5G services. Augmented/virtual reality applications are just one example of this. Real-time telemedicine is another. Over time, more face-to-face services will shift to Facetime-to-Facetime (or similar) services, requiring a distributed versus centralized deployment model. Moving services to the edge also requires an agile, cloud-native architecture that can leverage microservices and containers to quickly spin up and spin down new services as local demand dictates, which brings us to…

 

#4. Virtualized, cloud-native core

Services will be the cornerstone of the WWWW. Mobile network operators will need to transition into digital service providers in order to pursue new revenue opportunities. To date, the mobile operator model for service creation has been byzantine compared to the agile, fail-fast model of the digital-native companies (Amazon, Google, Spotify, etc.). DevOps-driven processes will require a vastly different service creation environment; one powered by a webscale architecture and featuring container-based microservices that can be quickly assembled to create new services.

 

#5. Everything as a Service

It started with Software as a Service, followed by networks, platforms, infrastructure, etc. Ultimately, everything will be offered as a cloud-consumable service. This is a very different operating model for communications service providers who have historically built their networks by hardware accretion. The ability to deploy and deliver services in the cloud is a potential game-changer for mobile operators, as it can dramatically reduce costs while increasing network agility. Most mobile operators, however, have limited experience with cloud technologies, which can make this a potentially disruptive transition without the right partners and platform.

 

Affirmed: Your connection to the WWWW world

At Affirmed, you could say the future is our business. We’ve been building virtual, cloud-based networks from day one. Today, we offer an unmatched portfolio of cloud-native, 5G-ready solutions for mobile operators that include the industry’s first fully virtualized mobile core platform, real-time virtualized analytics, IoT solutions including advanced virtual network slicing capabilities, a microservices-based service creation environment and much more. The World Wide Wireless Web is coming, but the opportunity to lead is narrowing. If you want to join the mobile leaders of tomorrow, follow their path and talk to Affirmed. We’re ready for the future whenever you are.

 

Find out more information on World Wide Wireless Web – a new model for global connectivity, a mobile-first and seamless, wireless access.

The Importance of Having an Edge: Five Key Capabilities of Edge Computing

by Sean O’Donoghue Sean O’Donoghue No Comments

In today’s hyperconnected digital economy, communication service providers (CSPs) are refocusing their efforts on developing and growing new revenue streams from their enterprise customers, and edge computing can help that cause. Top-tier CSPs recognize the capabilities and benefits of edge computing, monetizing enterprise revenue opportunities of the future, faster.

For many CSPs, their enterprise offerings currently focus on providing essential network connectivity services such as mobile and fixed broadband bundled with information and communications technology (ICT) services. Enterprises, for their part, have leveraged the convenience of having a “one-stop-shop” to order, consume, and pay for network and IT products and services.

 

Technology Advancements & Edge Computing

With new advancements in technology, increased security concerns and the compelling requirement to deliver low-latency services with local autonomy, the deployment of dedicated private networks and industry applications has become mainstream.

As we look at Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) from a use case perspective, manufacturing, logistics, remote locations, retail, and content delivery networks are some of the most debated use cases in the industry. Rapid advancements in technology have also contributed significantly to the realization of MEC. These advances include the availability of licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum; the evolution of the closed mobile core network to an open, disaggregated and distributed cloud-native network; and the arrival of public, private, and hybrid cloud data centers.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned 5G specifically. That’s because 5G is not a prerequisite for delivering Mobile Edge Computing capabilities. In fact, Affirmed was delivering 5G-styled capabilities such as control and user plane separation (CUPS), local break out (LBO), support for public cloud deployments and new industry levels of throughput using COTS x86 infrastructure even before the industry began to move toward 5G.

 

Edge Computing Capabilities Present CSPs With a Significant Opportunity

Few would argue that MEC presents a significant revenue opportunity for CSPs, provided they focus on their unique strengths and collaborate with innovative partners that can deliver highly differentiated webscale mobile services at unprecedented speed. Trust, transparency, and reliable services are some of the key foundational elements that are already in place in the relationship between CSPs and enterprises. Collaboration with innovative partners is critical in laying the foundation for the delivery of next-generation enterprise services.

Let me explain why this partnership is so important. As CSPs ramp up the delivery of edge services to various industry verticals and enterprises, there are several key platform selection criteria and deployment considerations that they need to take into consideration. These decisions will determine the commercial viability, deployment, and operational synergies of their enterprise offerings going forward. At Affirmed Networks, we developed our Mobile Edge Computing solution, the Affirmed Cloud Edge, specifically to address the MEC opportunity.

 

Mobile Edge Computing Capabilities and Benefits for Cloud Edge

Cloud Edge has five unique capabilities that support mobile edge computing, which differentiate it in the market today:

1. Ultra-high network performance

Cloud Edge delivers 10x more performance throughput than competitive alternatives: over 200 Gbps on a single Intel Xeon server. Its linear and independent scaling of the control, user and management data planes enables CSPs to rapidly and efficiently scale network resources at the network’s edge.

2. Deployment flexibility

Depending on the actual use case and the associated business imperatives, having the flexibility to either deploy a centralized or distributed solution is critical to achieving economies of scale—a capability that Cloud Edge delivers. For example, a CSP looking to deliver low-latency, multi-cloud services would benefit immensely by centralizing control plane functions (because of the proximity of network operations) but deploying user plane instances in a distributed fashion at either the CSP’s or the customer’s edge.

3. Differentiated experiences

Cloud Edge allows CSP to deliver differentiated services to their customers on a per-flow basis. This is achieved through a single integrated and highly optimized platform that consists of mobile core network functions and Gi-LAN functions such as vProbe, deep packet inspection (DPI), CG-NAT, optimization, proxy, and load balancing.

4. Integrated virtual probe and real-time analytics

As CSPs look to complete with different service offers in the market, the ability to provide real-time network and customer behavioral insight, identify operational efficiencies, predict future demand and deliver service innovation is a key value-add. Cloud Edge delivers these capabilities, as well as real-time analytics that can support audit trails including the auditing of security data.

5. Automation

In the inevitable disaggregation of mobile networks, the ability to dynamically automate the onboarding of enterprises, end-user services, applications, and scaling of network infrastructure is essential, particularly with MEC applications. Cloud Edge’s automation tools allow CSPs the capability to quickly adjust for traffic highs and lows automatically, thus reducing operational costs and reducing time to revenue.

 

The Future of Edge Computing

To have an “Edge” going forward, CSPs need to fundamentally question the conventional wisdom that dictates how networks and related services are procured, delivered, and operated. To win the enterprise opportunity, CSPs should partner with industry leaders that have a proven vision for the future. Whether you’re focused on the core, the edge or what lies beyond, follow the lead of top-tier CSPs around the world and trust Affirmed Networks to help you monetize the enterprise revenue opportunities of the future, faster.

 

The Age of the Subscription Economy

by Sean O’Donoghue Sean O’Donoghue No Comments

As enterprises move from physical products to digital services, they are redefining the business model relationship with the end customer, creating what we now know as the subscription model. Subscription models are one of the benefits of 5g for consumers – they can help deliver meaningful 5G consumer and enterprise services to consumers. Many of today’s most popular digital 5g services like video streaming, music streaming, transportation, newspapers, and magazines use a subscription model. The trend of 5g streaming will grow exponentially in the years ahead.

The rapid adoption of subscription-based services is not something new. Companies like Spotify introduced the idea of subscriber-based music streaming to consumers over a decade ago; today, Spotify boasts over 270+ million active users. In the enterprise domain, companies such as Oracle have also successfully made the transition from on-premise perpetual software to a cloud-based SaaS business model for infrastructure and software applications.

Meanwhile, in the communications industry, service providers are looking to enhance their digital offerings and business models to become the digital service providers (DSPs) of tomorrow. Streaming services are a big opportunity for consumers, and DSPs are embracing subscription-based models to procure, deliver, and monetize these digital services.

 

Subscription Models and the Mobile Network

This shift to subscription-based models is reflected in Affirmed Networks’ Mobile Network as a Service and Affirmed Cloud Edge offerings, which are designed to help DSPs rapidly deploy their mobile network infrastructure, accelerate service innovation and reduce costs in an open public cloud infrastructure.

Mobile Network as a Service Capabilities

With Mobile Network as a Service, DSPs can:

  • Rapidly and cost-effectively test new markets and services by leveraging public cloud infrastructure and economies of scale;
  • Instantly instantiate new services and functions such as deep packet inspection, media optimization, and network address translation on a single platform;
  • Focus on growing the digital services business opportunity while a partner delivers the underlying platform;
  • Eliminate upfront CapEx costs required for hardware and data center costs while controlling OpEx costs thereafter;
  • Provide “just in time” network scaling for the capacity that DSPs actually need, rather than “just in case” capacity planning that often requires expensive over-provisioning of network resources;
  • Implement local breakout services to reduce backhauling costs and improve customer experiences.

 

Procuring, delivering, and monetizing mobile network infrastructure has evolved from hardware-based solutions to perpetual software-based models and, now, to SaaS-based models. DSPs are slowly changing procurement procedures and other internal practices as they move to SaaS-based solutions delivered by innovative partners. DSPs understand the value creation that SaaS enables in their business by rapidly delivering a tailored solution for customers, generating recurring revenues, and reducing customer churn. For the end customer, this all boils down to convenience.

 

A Win-Win for Consumers & DSPs

A digital service that is personalized to the needs of the individual customer in terms of commitment, payments, and accessibility is paramount. The evolution of traditional models to SaaS-based models is necessary to meet changing customer behaviors and foster innovative ways to generate new revenue streams. The technology and the commercial models are now available to DSPs to help them rapidly prototype, innovate and deliver meaningful 5G consumer and enterprise services. At the same time, end consumers get more personalized service. It’s a win-win scenario that everyone can subscribe to.