Nowadays, customers rely heavily on connectivity, demanding instantly delivered and high-quality innovative services and not tolerating tolerate faults or downtime.
In this context, CSPs face tough operational challenges. There are heterogeneous vendor networks spanning multiple domains and needing constant, quick and minimally disruptive human intervention in Operation & Management.
Moreover, upcoming massification of IoT, new network paradigms like SDN/NFV and 5G architectures are pushing the bar even further. A radical operational transformation will be key to maintain costs down while bearing increasing demands for top service quality.
Therefore, CSPs face two major challenges:
- Automating configuration, detection, identification and resolution of problems in their current legacy physical networks and environments is required to increase operational efficiency, contain OPEX and increase customer service quality. Besides, they need to increase teams throughput by shifting people from repetitive low-value tasks to where they are most needed: strategical and preventive work.
- With 5G and SDN/NFV stepping up and bringing promises of delivering new and innovative use cases for new revenue streams, CSPs must prepare and implement roadmaps to deploy these new technologies. At the same time, they must keep pushing their architectures towards disruptive Autonomous Systems that are capable of extracting the full benefit of technology.
The Road to Zero-touch Networks
To succeed in this emerging environment, CSPs need to embrace a long-term Digitalisation & Transformation strategy. Their networks, operational processes and tools will be addressed within different vectors:
- Rethinking Operation & Maintenance processes to be more efficient
- Applying innovative technologies to increase automation levels. (Examples: Advanced Monitoring, Automation & Orchestration, AI and Machine Learning, RPA, SDN/ NFV and Cloud, among others)
- Shifting people’s and organisation’s mentality towards an agile automation culture. This means being proactive and preventive instead of being reactive to unexpected everyday situations. Everyone’s role in the FMO (Future Mode of Operations) must be clear to avoid any friction or fear during the transformation.
CSPs must see the automation journey as a transformation, rather than just another technology challenge, for it to be successful.
The Journey from low automation to achieving full autonomous Network and Operation Systems
Stage 0: Manual or Augmented Human (Manual)
Most Engineering & Operations processes are executed manually or with some automation from basic tools (examples: scripts or excel macros).
Stage 1: Human Guided Automation (Process Automation)
Process automation is implemented and triggered by humans to execute time-consuming, repetitive, error-prone tasks or others that need efficiency.
Stage 2: Human Assisted Automation (Cognitive Automation)
Automation empowered by AI and Machine Learning to take the process execution lead with AI-based decisions triggering automation processes. By its turn, human assistance is provided when specific tasks that complete the E2E process cannot be automated.
Stage 3: Autonomous System (Zero-Touch Network and Operations)
Fully autonomous networks and operating systems require minimal to no human intervention. With the exception of the definition of algorithms, policies and closed-loop orchestrations that define how systems and networks behave.
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