Faster, cheaper, more agile. Serving mobile users means constantly adapting to new trends, technologies, and behaviors. This cycle is continuously evolving and always accelerating.
With modern networks ceaselessly introducing increasing complexity, traditional approaches to management and delivery cannot keep up.
More organizations recognize the solution is to intelligently automate throughout the product and service lifecycle and reduce as many burdensome process, manual labor, and time inefficiencies as possible.
The objectives? Cost reductions, operational agility, heightened productivity, better customer experiences, faster time to market, and improved revenue. But this can only be achieved with a state-of-the-art automation strategy supported by next-gen technologies.
In our work with customers, the requirement to automate is generally acknowledged as a priority. The sticking point rests around how to get started, on what scale, and exactly where.
Some stakeholders hesitate to fully embrace an encompassing automation approach due to confusion regarding the role artificial intelligence (AI) will play. This is an understandable perspective, and the day will come when AI takes automation to new heights. Yet, operators face challenges today that intelligent automation approaches can address, while laying the foundations for a future AI-enabled self-driving network.
Think of it this way: The road to AI is paved by IA (intelligent automation).
The journey to intelligent automation
Intelligent automation is a critical prerequisite on the drive to AI. Automation strategies built on this approach are already powering a move to cognitive networking with fully automated provisioning, orchestration and optimization, and proactive fault recognition, analysis, and remediation.
There are common pitfalls, however, that we see far too often. The most common one is taking an automation approach focused on operational silos that don’t align with the broader end-to-end system outcomes, nor support shared data, tools, and processes. Flexibility and rapid, comprehensive intelligence are sacrificed in the process.
Instead, success requires equipping the end-to-end system and pipeline with automated and common tooling and shared data to facilitate seamless collaboration and agility. Vodafone Group’s CTO, Scott Perry has already seen results, where savings have amounted to more than €500m euros in Capex and Opex in the past three years from “automating the way that we run the network infrastructure.”
Savings have amounted to more than €500m euros in Capex and Opex in the past three years from “automating the way that we run the network infrastructure.” –Vodafone Group CTO Scott Petty
Intelligent automation opportunities, today
Not sure where to deploy first on the intelligent automation journey? 5G is a trending catalyst. It provides several near-term automation opportunities that don’t depend on AI. 5G automation solution strategies span a number of scenarios.
Automating 5G network lifecycle processes
Multi-vendor cloud-native environments, especially the 5G core and Open RAN, stand to drive exponential growth in both the volume and velocity of software and network function (NF) updates.
Anchoring the continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) software delivery pipeline process around an automated continuous testing (CT) framework ensures releases are continuously revalidated for interoperability, performance, and security efficacy before being deployed in the live network.
Proof point: One of the world’s largest 5G service providers achieved >60% faster vendor validation-to-release cycles (from months to days) for their 5G core implementation, including a 98% decrease in core NF regression test times (from 2 weeks to 1 hour).
The complexity and fluidity of a disaggregated and intent-driven 5G network requires proactive—not reactive—assurance to guarantee consumer experiences and monetize enterprise SLAs.
Automated and orchestrated active test agents generate emulated traffic and test scenarios throughout the network and its layers to proactively validate KPIs and SLAs and to rapidly isolate issues, facilitate quick remediation, and revalidate changes.
Proof point: One of the world’s largest 5G service providers achieved a >75% reduction in mean time to resolution (MTTR) for customer-impacting issues and a >80% reduction in escalations. This saved millions of dollars in revenues that would have been lost and reduced penalties and engineering escalations.
Automating private networks
Enterprises, especially small and midsize businesses (SMBs), seek low-cost and light-touch private 5G networks. To support and cost-effectively scale tens of thousands of potential enterprise customers, service providers require comprehensive automated, turnkey solutions.
Simplifying private network operations necessitates seamless automation across the lifecycle, from continuous testing (CT) to continuous monitoring (CM). This enables private networks to be self-managed and proactively assured in a closed loop.
Proof point: One of the world’s largest multi-national 5G service providers is benefiting from a 3X improvement in the time to validate a private 5G network stack throughout its operational lifecycle.
Automating and transforming labs
Some service providers have hundreds of labs and workbenches, and vendors have plenty, too. Many lab environments are siloed and have duplicated equipment and minimal automation. Absent agility, release cycles can take months or years. Worse, Spirent studies have shown that lab utilization can be as low as 30 percent, despite being powered on 100 percent of the time. It’s not enough to automate the processes, the lab environments that execute the processes must be optimized and automated as well.
Turning lab silos into shared virtual collaboration environments with automated test campaign processes accelerates innovation and time-to-market and lowers costs. Common testbeds and federated or consolidated labs across the supply chain speed release process automation, make efficient use of equipment, optimize global test team collaboration and productivity, and reduce power consumption.
Proof point: Some of the world’s largest service providers and vendors have achieved:
100s of consolidated labs and workbenches
300X acceleration in lab configuration setup times (from weeks or months to minutes)
>50% reduction in required equipment, from virtualization and optimized utilization
>40% reduction in energy consumption, from lab power management
>80% resource utilization (compared to <30% in most labs today)
Getting to intelligent automation and unlocking incredible financial, operational, and efficiency benefits
Spirent has successfully enabled service providers and vendors to navigate the intelligent automation journey, with a special emphasis on the journey to 5G Core Standalone (SA). Whether it’s creating an automation roadmap, getting up and running quickly, or supplementing missing skill sets or tools, Spirent is ready to help.
As an industry-leading neutral test partner, Spirent provides the proven expertise, or transfer of skills if needed, to enable an immediate return on investment. Our leading-edge automation experts, tools, and test methodologies have been involved in over 2,600 5G engagements worldwide. Service providers, vendors, regulators, industry bodies, and enterprise customers depend on us.
Don’t wait. Create an automation framework that fosters the emergence and evolution of future capabilities such as AI and start getting value from intelligent automation now.