As 5G deployments roll out globally, and edge computing services become more available, private networking is emerging from trials into the field. Because most private networking use cases are vertical-specific (i.e., smart factories, smart mining, and intelligent transport asset management), there are diverse ecosystems (service providers, network providers, system integrators and cloud providers), technologies (wireless, satellite, microwave, and edge computing), and environments (on-premises, hybrid, network slicing, and more).
Private networking enables operational outcomes, which drive a common set of business outcomes that cut across the range of verticals mentioned above – whether it’s driving sales, and net profit margin, to cost reduction and optimizing operational efficiencies. Private network maturation shifts the focus from technology to operations.
Areveals that security and network resiliency are key drivers motivating enterprises to consider private networking. The survey highlights how service level management (SLM) is especially critical because private networking directly enables enterprise business outcomes, which are impacted by network performance and service-level agreement (SLA) compliance.
The survey also revealed that service providers expect enterprises will pay a premium for the more stringent private networking service levels required to support emerging use cases. Because vertical applications and diverse use cases drive the need for private networking, all private networks require highly agile and automated testing, assurance, and service level management solutions. As a result, service level management for all verticals will play a major role in the growth of private networks, by validating that each vendor, service provider, and integrator delivers the service levels/capabilities that the end-user expects.
The need for private networking SLM
Private networks differ significantly from traditional networks. They integrate a broad range of technologies and domains (i.e., wireless, wireline, security, edge, and cloud), and must support multi-cloud access, which typically includes edge computing and are more closely coupled to the applications environment. End-users have a wide range of deployment scenarios, applications, and business outcomes they seek. Consequently, the private network ecosystem is far broader than traditional networks.
End-users demand that private networks achieve their diverse business outcomes, hence a comprehensive service level management strategy is an essential requirement for success.
Private networking SLM challenges
Traditionally, service level management is constrained to a particular domain, i.e., radio access network (RAN), transport, or optical core. Enterprises deploying private networks, however, demand the ability to monitor multiple domains using a single pane of glass. Such domains transcend communications with interwoven elements in cybersecurity, edge computing, cloud, and mission-critical applications. Moreover, the interdependence with mission-critical applications necessitates richer SLM than a typical WAN, and an end-to-end perspective for an individual service provider. Ensuring this interlaced complexity works reliably and as planned requires a mature testing strategy with a vendor-neutral approach.
Ensuring this interlaced complexity works reliably and as planned requires a mature testing strategy with a vendor-neutral approach.
How testing supports business outcomes and SLM in private networks
Private network KPIs (key performance indicators) impact application and business outcomes. Examples include:
Real-time, autonomously controlled machines and processes typically impose significant latency demands where an inability to maintain low latencies impedes business processes.
Increased production volume and cycle time typically require greater network throughput and scale.
Network downtime can impose detrimental consequences, impairing end user’s ability to deliver to their customers (and hence affecting revenue), disrupting JIT (just-in-time) manufacturing processes (including impacting the supply chain), driving up Opex (e.g., equipment is idle, facilities and staff are non-productive, and more).
These factors, along with multi-everything (i.e., -vendor, -domain, -technology) necessitate the need for a highly automated, intelligent, and proactive service level management strategy. To achieve that, organizations must ensure each element is performing and behaving as expected and promised by the supplier. Any changes attributed to network upgrades, operational changes, failures, or security compromises don’t just degrade performance, but very likely disrupt business continuity as well because of the coupling between network performance, availability, and the ultimate use cases.
It's not just about network performance and availability. Organizations need to validate the user experience at the only place it can accurately be measured – the end-user device. As a result, ensuring private network performance levels becomes mission-critical for the key applications that are essential for operational success.
Proactively identifying performance bottlenecks, failures, and security compromises are table stakes for private network success. Comprehensive testing should provide rapid root cause analysis to pinpoint the source of the problem across multiple domains (and underlying technologies). Because of the close coupling between private network performance and the operational objectives, validation is essential in the design phase, during deployment, and once the network becomes operational.
The figure above presents service quality management testing best practices based on Spirent’s discussions with analysts, our supply-side customers, and involvement in leading-edge private networking projects. The ability to rapidly isolate problems in the multi-vendor, multi-technology, multi-domain network is essential, as is the capability of assessing the end-to-end user experience. A particularly essential best practice includes security efficacy validation, which ensures that security functions are behaving and performing as expected with a high degree of automation and availability to the rich telemetry and analytics which are all critical to assure comprehensive SLM. For decades, enhancing enterprise security has been top-of-mind for corporate executives; multi-domain SLM exposes the relationship between network behavior and the effectiveness of security controls deployed.
While private networks offer previously unobtainable capabilities, and significantly lower TCO, unprecedented complexity necessitates a new approach to service level management. To address this challenge, multi-domain root cause analysis (RCA), automation, AI/ML, and advanced analytics across a broad range of domains are essential to address the complexity.
Comprehensive and robust private network service level management is an essential tool to ensure business outcomes as planned. With this in place, a significant opportunity exists for MNOs and CSPs to monetize their investments in 5G. None of this is possible, however, without a mature testing strategy in place, and employed at the earliest point possible in planning and development, and throughout the lifecycle of the solution.
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