New market demands and technologies are changing how services and networks are architected and operated. While these advancements result in important benefits and new opportunities, they also introduce higher levels of complexity and risk. They threaten service performance and can result in prolonged disruption when challenges arise.
This greater technology complexity, along with growing supplier diversity and shortened innovation and upgrade cycles, are defining next-gen network deployments. These realities fundamentally change the demands of the technology lifecycle. Research and development, deployment, and production are all impacted, requiring more agility and efficiency.
With the accelerating pace of technology evolution, testing complexity has increased between 10 to 50X. Meanwhile, manual test and assurance systems were never designed to support the robust requirements of today’s cloud environments. The cloud, in effect, breaks traditional testing.
DevOps practices of continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) are now part of every successful strategy. But it’s not enough. The latest approaches incorporate continuous security (CS) evaluation to CI/CD playbooks, giving rise to CI/CD/CS deployments. But there’s more. CI/CD success is directly linked to implementation of an automated test and assurance layer commonly referred to as continuous testing and monitoring (CT/CM). Without an automated, seamlessly integrated CT/CM foundation, CI/CD/CS collapses.
A lab-to-live testing approach powered by automation is now required for today’s cloud environments. This approach represents a fundamental paradigm shift in testing.
Identifying the path forward in next-gen testing
CT and “active test” CM solutions must support new cloud-native architectures and span the entire lab-to-live technology lifecycle. This new approach must address a number of challenges including:
A real-time network serving new demands
Vendor diversity and continuous update cycles
Disaggregation and cloud transformations
Scalability and automation
Heightened security risks
As these changes constantly evolve, test and assurance methodologies must rise to a new level of agility and responsiveness to deliver the benefits presented by this new era of opportunity and innovation.
Adopting the right approach to lab-to-live testing
CT/CM must be built with automated validation testing and “active test” assurance that is consistent across the lab to live lifecycle. Spirent calls this lab-to-live testing. To achieve consistency across the lifecycle, test and assurance components should be built from common technology platforms and tools. Our vision forrelies on three common building blocks:
Network Emulation. In the lab, network emulation ensures tests mimic the rigors of the real world by recreating virtual versions of networks, environments, and cybersecurity threats that are effectively indistinguishable from the real thing.
Traffic Generation. Traffic generation goes hand in hand with network emulation. In the lab, massive amounts of traffic can be generated to model real-world loads. In live networks, small volumes of synthetic user and device traffic can be used to assess performance, accessibility, and perceived end-user quality.
Automation. The entire test and assurance process must be automated with a common approach where the labs across providers and vendors are consolidated and shared.
In the live network, emulation and traffic generation components based on the same standards and common test libraries as their lab counterparts are embedded into virtualized active test agents. Active test agents are tightly integrated into continuous “active” monitoring workflows via network orchestration and active assurance controllers.
Accelerated testing with managed solutions
Operator and network equipment manufacturers reveal a relentless struggle keep costs down and to find people with skill sets in multiple domains, like networking, cloud, AI/ML, security, and CI/CD automation. Those experts are in high demand from competition not just within telecom but also other industries built atop IT processes and architectures.
Even when the right expertise is available, time pressures don’t allow for months or years to develop best practice testing methodologies and workflows around cutting-edge technologies. This combined dynamic is challenging operators as they seek to adopt CT/CM with urgency. An increasing number are reaching out to trusted vendor-neutral test partners that can keep costs down and address the resource challenge by providing comprehensive technology platforms with customized integrated services – delivering managed solutions – backed by years of cross-domain expertise and globally experienced teams.
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