Network slicing orchestration

Service providers today are at an inflection point. Voice and messaging revenues have declined as consumers have several OTT options to choose from. Data traffic has increased exponentially, however service providers see challenges in monetizing data beyond a point. There is an urgent need to create new compelling services.

To start with CSPs want to virtualize their infrastructure, building a telco cloud that gives them the Amazon-like agility. Next is the transformation from Physical to Virtual Network Functions. Virtualizing network functions not only means better resource utilization but also the ability to run them at different locations of the distributed cloud using an orchestration capability. CSPs can also offer their network functions as a service from the telco cloud, such as Firewall or EPC as a Service.


Does network slicing make business sense?

Beyond just single VNFs, there is an opportunity to offer E2E services that involve the access, transport, core functions and possibly public cloud. This way CSPs can control the E2E quality of service. The orchestration layer provides CSPs the central view and management of different domains below.

These E2E services can be offered to consumers and enterprises. But different users have different needs in terms of latency, cost, power, security, pricing model etc. Some want “Best in class QoS” while others are ok with “Good enough QoS”. This is where the CSP network can be logically separated into different network slices, each supporting a different SLA and QoS.

With the emergence of IoT, we see many new applications that would need unique QoS. Applications like autonomous vehicle would need very low latency with end devices that are moving all the time. Applications like smart metering involves very large number of low power static devices that are not so latency critical. It does not make technological and business sense to use the same common infrastructure to support these very different applications.

Slicing the network for these different use cases is the way forward. For details on the financial benefits please refer to the BT and Ericsson joint study.


Dynamic orchestration of slices

Using Ericsson’s orchestration solution, network slices can be instantiated, and life cycle managed based on dynamic consumer needs. Tosca blueprints are defined for different slice types such as eMBB (Mobile Broadband), Critical MTC (Machine Type Communication), Massive MTC. These blueprints are defined by parameters such as latency, bandwidth, density etc.

At the time of instantiating a slice, based on the QoS needs one of the blueprints is selected. The network inventory is checked for existing assets and additional network functions are instantiated, configured, and bound to the Slice ID. Once the network slice is active, end devices can be onboarded onto the slice. Enterprises can choose either a dedicated or shared slice, with corresponding cost implications. Before the service is designed, the CSP needs to onboard and validate different multi-vendor VNFs that would be used in the service.

Our solution automates this process helping CSPs rapidly test and pre-validate these functions, making them production ready. Automating the entire process from onboarding, testing, designing, provisioning and assurance, means not only faster time-to-market but also large savings in operational expenses. We are already working with Swisscom to realize the benefits of network slicing.

Network slicing holds the promise of new monetization opportunities needed to guarantee the performance of new use cases in both 4G and 5G. Read more about network slicing.

Arvind Duray
Arvind Duray uses his expertise in NFV, SDN and Cloud to drive product marketing for Ericsson’s orchestration solutions.
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