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New Report Examines Service Orchestration: Provides Insights into How CSPs can Embrace the Platform Revolution

by Angela Whiteford Angela Whiteford No Comments

A recently released report from the TM Forum sponsored by Affirmed Networks, Affirmed Networks Sponsors TM Forum Orchestration Insight Reporttakes a close look at how Communications Service providers (CSPs) can save, on average, the equivalent of their entire capital budget by embracing new Service Orchestration technologies and processes. According to the report, these savings stem largely from the operational efficiencies gained from this approach, without including the increased agility CSPs gain as well.

While the potential for achieving these material savings is real, the report looks at some of the challenges CSPs face when attempting to orchestrate services across virtualized and physical networks. Through the findings of the report, CSPs can gain an in-depth view of best practices for effectively leveraging Service Orchestration to gain optimal business results. Specifically, the report includes insights into the following areas:

  • How service providers define orchestration
  • Where orchestration happens
  • Why automation is necessary
  • What the business drivers are
  • How service providers are implementing orchestration
  • What the most important architectural considerations or steps are
  • What the biggest challenges are for deployment
  • What the role is for open source
  • How TM Forum’s strategic programs and Catalysts can help

Stay tuned for additional blogs from Affirmed Networks looking at some of the key findings and areas of focus in the report.

Affirmed’s partners and customers can access a free, downloadable version of the report here.

The Intelligent Transformation: How Operators Can Build a 5G Ready Network Today!

by Angela Whiteford Angela Whiteford No Comments

Page 13 GraphicOperators are making investments in software-based (SDN/NFV) mobile core solutions and the underlying data center IP infrastructure required to support this virtualized approach. As this is occurring, operators are also being challenged to understand the requirements of 5G services so that they can embrace this new generation of networks as seamless and cost-effectively as possible.

What only a few forward-thinking operators understand now, however, is that these two efforts can be done simultaneously with the right strategy, technology, and guidance.

In a webinar hosted by Heavy Reading, Juniper Networks’ Mobile Network Architect, Phil Lamoureux, and I presented how best-in-class software-based mobile core solutions, and distributed data center infrastructure are being used by operators globally. During this webinar, we looked at the pending arrival of 5G to understand some of its key service requirements. The examination of all three components provides a holistic view into how operators can simultaneously invest in flexible, “5G ready” applications and the required infrastructure to support them over 4G today and 5G tomorrow.

To view the entire webinar, head over to Light Reading.

10 Ways that ASAP Accelerates Your Business

by Angela Whiteford Angela Whiteford No Comments

The ability to accelerate and streamline service deployment is one of the core value propositions of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Yet NFV management and organization (MANO) systems typically fall short by delivering limited value beyond their own footprint. For example, a value added services (VAS) vendor might support service orchestration across its own virtualized multi-VAS (mVAS) environment, or a network equipment vendor may automate the configuration of select NFV elements such as virtual session border controllers or virtual packet gateways. What these solutions lack is end-to-end service automation and orchestration across all network elements.

The Affirmed Services Automation Platform (ASAP) is different by design. It leverages the full potential of NFV by providing service automation, orchestration, and validation across any network element—virtual or physical—that supports standard network interfaces, such as SOAP, REST, NETCONF, and CLI. With ASAP, carrier network operators can seamlessly and centrally manage service provisioning end to end, leading to faster service deployments, simplified service management and a superior customer experience.

Here are 10 ways that ASAP can help you roll out new services faster and realize revenue opportunities sooner:

1. It’s one platform for end-to-end automation.
Let’s imagine that you’re deploying a new virtual core network consisting of virtualized network functions (VNFs) from various vendors, a common occurrence. Virtualization opens up the door to new services, but it also introduces layers of complexity as provisioning a single end-to-end service requires multiple elements, each with their own configurations and gateway perspectives. With ASAP, network operators can quickly turn up and configure new services by centrally provisioning and managing services from a single, trusted source.

2. You can test new services faster.
ASAP provides a multi-phase test environment that allows network operators to deploy production-ready services sooner. These phases are: 1) log review to confirm correct element provisioning; 2) emulated production environment; 3) test environment using actual network elements and applications. As a result of ASAP’s multi-phase testing, network operators can deploy new services quickly with confidence.

3. You can onboard new customers faster too.
ASAP enables network operators to onboard new customers sooner by deploying pre-configured and pre-validated service models in a dedicated network environment. This is helpful not only for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), but also enterprises and applications (e.g., machine-to-machine communications) where rapid service turn-up is required.

4. Replicate new services across multiple regions.
Once a service is deployed in a single data center, ASAP can easily replicate the new service in other data centers to quickly increase service reach. In cases where data centers have site-specific requirements (e.g., unique IP address pools), ASAP allows networks operators to easily customize the service parameters to suit these requirements.

5. Update multiple elements in a single step.
Services are rarely static, and tend to change over time. ASAP enables network operators to update services quickly and easily. For example, let’s say that a MVNO changes the charging model for one of their services from offline to online charging. With ASAP, you can quickly change the main service object and all supporting objects in one seamless operation.

6. Add or modify service triggers without disrupting configurations.
Imagine that an MVNO wishes to add a trigger to their virtual Policy Control Enforcement Function (PCEF) to periodically refresh the list of free-rated URLs. Using ASAP, network operators can add this trigger to all PCEFs in a single action without altering their configuration.

7. Synchronize configurations both upstream and downstream.
During the course of network troubleshooting, a network operations engineer changes the access point name (APN) on a network element through the command line interface (CLI). The change doesn’t fix the problem, and the engineer logs out of the CLI without reverting back to the original APN. This can now be quickly changed back to the master configuration using ASAP’s downstream network synchronization.

In a reverse of the example above, let’s assume that the network engineer does fix the problem on a local element. Now, ASAP can allow each similar element in the network to adopt this new configuration as the master configuration, resulting in a simple network-wide fix.

8. Apply the right configuration to the right version, every time.
In a virtual network, it’s not unusual for the same class of devices to exist in multiple versions that may not be backwards compatible. In these cases, ASAP polls the device to discover its version and applies the right configuration based on that version, providing a simpler way for network operators to enforce service consistency in their networks.

9. Validate services from end to end.
ASAP allows network operators to test and validate services end to end, either manually or automatically using various network probes. Because the ASAP system can communicate with any endpoint that supports standard interfaces, network operators can validate services across both legacy and virtual network elements.

10. Get rid of unnecessary agents.
In a traditional network architecture, software-based agents are needed to communicate between the central management platform and separate network elements/functions. ASAP removes the need for those agents by providing an agentless architecture that allows direct communications between the ASAP platform and individual network functions through standard interfaces. This leads to faster service provisioning and lower costs.

MWC 2016: How the Ecosystem is Accelerating NFV Deployments

by Angela Whiteford Angela Whiteford No Comments

Affirmed Networks is once again thrilled to join the industry in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress 2016, the mobile industry’s biggest gathering. Our annual participation in this event has followed the trajectory of operator adoption of NFV based solutions. We began, as one of the first evangelists of the benefits of NFV, followed by the endorsement of one of the world’s largest and most respected operators (AT&T Domain 2.0 Supplier Program), and as initial deployments morphed into market leadership, we now see our involvement at MWC evolving as well.

This year we look forward to meeting with our network operator customers – some of whom already have millions of subscribers running live on our platform- and also demonstrating how our ecosystem of partners will transform the way mobile networks are built, and provide continued innovation for the telecommunications industry as a whole.

The importance of having a broad and accomplished ecosystem of partners has never been more critical as operators have moved past the “if” of NFV, and are now focused on the “when” – with an emphasis on sooner, and more profitably.

Since our inception, Affirmed Networks has maintained a focus on interoperability, a truly agnostic approach that is serving us well as we strive to deliver solutions for customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are passionate about NFV and believe that the sooner operators can begin realizing the many transformational benefits of NFV, the better.

To best support our customers, as a company we have continually invested in two main areas: technical innovation and the creation of a rich ecosystem of partners focused on enabling this transformation. Some of our recent technical innovations – such as our Virtual Probe and our virtualized WiFi gateway – will be on display for the first time at MWC. Our ecosystem will also be on display, and for those in attendance it will be hard to miss us.

As opposed to having a single location at the event, our broad participation reflects the importance of the ecosystem as deployments proliferate. These partnerships are focused on providing a truly agnostic solution capable of delivering best-of-breed NFVI stacks to the market. Specifically, Affirmed’s technology will be involved in demonstrations in six different booths, as we highlight our work with the most respected technology brands that are currently enabling operator migration toward software-based, NFV networks. Specifically, at Mobile World Congress this year, Affirmed Networks will be demonstrating its virtualization solutions with influential ecosystem partners, such as VMWare, EMC, HPE, Dell, Canonical, and Juniper.

To see the power of the ecosystem live in person, come see us in the booths of some of our most important partners:

Canonical – Hall 3, Stand 3J30
Dell – Hall 3, Stand 3K30
EMC – Hall 3, Stand 3K10 (co-located with VMware)
HPE -HALL 5, STAND 5F31
Juniper Networks – Hall 2, Stand 2160
VMware — Hall 3, Stand 3K10

If you are attending MWC, please do come by and see us.
We hope you have a great trip, safe travels.

Virtual Probe: Why it Has to Be “Native”?

by Angela Whiteford Angela Whiteford No Comments

Security, health, and performance of the mobile network are critical for operators. Real time access to this information in a quick, intelligent, and cost- effective way is equally important. Traditionally, this is solved by installing a hardware- based TAP/fiber splitter and network probe/packet broker. But with tremendous growth in number of subscribers, devices, and data usage on the network, network operators are turning to NFV to satisfy this exponential demand.

What are the challenges mobile operators will face in using the existing hardware- based network probe/packet broker?

The first major challenge is when other network elements are virtualized, there are no more clear demarcation points in the network architecture where the probes can be inserted. Additionally, some networks elements are consolidated or collapsed, for example: SAE Gateway. Another major hurdle in this virtualized world, network elements are dynamically created instances, across geographically- disparate locations, and migration of the VMs makes it impossible to use physical splitters. It is difficult and inefficient to use physical L2 switch-based port mirrors.

All the above factors clearly point to virtualized probe solution. But does virtualization solve all the issues? Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

In a virtualized solution, if all the packet mirroring is done by the same vSwitch that is also supporting the VNF- its performance is severely impacted. This is a major problem because while 100% packet mirroring, the I/O in and out of the VNF is either cut in half or needs to be doubled to take this performance hit. Another major challenge is the ability to co-relate control and user plane packets again in the probe as in the network elements. This is clearly inefficient with duplication of correlation and processing functions in probe/packet broker, which is not scalable and definitely not cost effective.

These challenges can be overcome by having a “Native” solution, where the probe/packet broker functionality resides within the VNF network element. This approach solves the problems of performance degradation by vSwitch, duplication of functionality, correlation, and scalability. With this native approach, there is also minimal impact to the existing VNF functionality.

Affirmed Networks with millions of subscribers on our Mobile Content Cloud is uniquely positioned to understand and address this problem.The Affirmed solution is the industry’s first native virtualized probe and analytics solution for mobile networks. Affirmed Networks Active Intelligent Virtualized Probe solutions provide mobile operators with greater visibility into and across their virtualized networks, improving service levels, reducing cost of ownership, and enhancing the overall customer experience.