Automation and AI play a key role in network management and OSS domains of Today
September 30, 20204 min read

Automation and AI play a key role in network management and OSS domains of Today

Conclusions on the operational efficiency panel sponsored by Celfocus at FutureNet World 2020.

Converted into a digital format to safely bring together over 600 participants around the world, FutureNet World 2020 happened last week and counted on 60+ speakers to discuss the emerging technologies and business paradigms around Network Automation and AI.

Celfocus sponsored and participated in a panel regarding operational efficiency, focusing on how to take advantage of autonomy and automation to help Telco operators achieve cost savings, understanding what the roadmap is going forward. Moderated by Berge Ayvazian, Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wireless 20/20, the conversation took place on the first day of the event and gathered an honourable group of speakers.

Watch the panel discussion here.

Generally, it is known that Cloud and IoT are driving CSPs to handle data on an unprecedented scale, which is putting an enormous pressure on the network. AI, automation and autonomy are a real opportunity to address these challenges and provide intelligent network operations and maintenance, leading to self-healing and self-optimising networks, as well as to intelligent decision-making, aiming to reduce errors and delays. Automation is imperative for CSPs to survive and remain competitive in this ever-increasing connected world.

Bearing in mind the end-to-end customer journey, one of the panelists considers that “most of the established network service providers operate with a complex mishmash of different platforms, systems and products that evolve over time organically or through acquisition, which need a thick layer of human glue to bind them together”. With regards to cost reduction through automation, “the potential for automation to drive down operating costs is huge”, namely by retiring (or, at least, freezing) legacy systems and platforms, removing some of the layers of human glue; by reducing cost of failure and rework; by automating decision-making process for faster resolution; and ultimately by reducing customer churn through the improvement of customer experience.

Based on Celfocus’ experience in network operations projects, focusing on zero-touch automation and a holistic approach for the full operational lifecycle, Bruno Manso Preto, Regional Sales Director at Celfocus, stands for an incremental embracement of automation, rather than a “big bang” adoption, as the right course to get cost savings and efficiency. “Usually there are dependencies to access some network elements, so we need to be flexible to allow those dependencies to be addressed – which sometimes takes time”, Bruno stated. Besides, “these are typically data-driven projects, in which there are algorithms that learn from the data that is processed. Being able to incorporate the data feedback into the learning curve is very important for accuracy”, he added. Moreover, automation, Machine Learning and AI are still new for many, so “being able to deliver incrementally will facilitate the increase of confidence in the solution”, inclusively to validate business cases.

The key role of automation in driving an efficient, major transformation across the OSS ecosystem was stressed by another speaker, although acknowledging there is a struggle of dealing with legacy network equipment and platforms when deploying automation projects at scale. However, legacy still supports key operations and “the cost of change really far exceeds the benefit it will return”. “It’s a real balancing act of minimising the risk and maintaining operations efficient”, the speaker added. Rather than leaving legacy behind at once, the questions must be “how do we integrate the legacy as we deliver the new capabilities, while waiting for the right opportunity to simplify the ecosystem as we drive the advanced automation?” and “how do we ensure that we invest smart in new systems and platforms that maximise our return on investment, whilst driving large scale automation ambitions, accepting the fact that legacy has to play a part for the foreseeable future?”.

For another member of the panel, the first steps to deliver instant value must be found in order to prove the quantifiable value of automation and to support the reasoning in the following steps in the automation journey. In term of priorities, deliberating between biggest returns or biggest customer impact, the panelist stated that it is “where we can put a number, where we can add value that makes a difference”, giving an example of error rates decrease. “Leading this [automation] journey, we need to be careful so that we don’t deviate from what adds the value, not side-stepping too much”. 

“It was an insightful conversation and it was a pleasure to share the virtual room with such experienced professionals. At Celfocus, we’re looking forward to next year’s edition of FutureNet World, hopefully in person”, concludes Bruno Manso Preto in a post-event statement.

Celfocus implemented Cognitive Automation on Vodafone Group’s Network Operation Centre (NOC), aimed at reducing 80% of the effort spent on first-line support activities for 13 European OpCos within 3 years. Learn more about this project here or contact us at info@celfocus.com.