Aiming for impact on tomorrow’s information society

“Learning about the world of science, technology and business for impactful technological development in infocommunications” – this is how I formulated my professional mission statement a couple of years ago at the beginning of my career. This blog post describes what my head-in-the-clouds mission statement means, how I identify impactfulness, and why it is an exciting professional goal for me as a PhD student intern at Ericsson Research.

Students from many different fields join Ericsson Research for internships or thesis work. You could be next. Follow our blog to learn about the students at Ericsson Research this summer.

My name is Balázs Németh. I am an industrial PhD student at the Budapest Node of EIT Digital Academy. The main goal of EIT’s industrial programs is to blend innovation and entrepreneurship training with university education. This is realized in the industrial PhD program through close collaboration on relevant industry research between partners such as Ericsson and universities such as Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME). My highly motivated search for industrial applications for cutting-edge research results is the chief reason this triangle appeals to me.

Softwarization of network architecture

The topic of my PhD research is the softwarization of network architecture, which aims to make infocommunications network management and service provision much more flexible and efficient. As a master student, I was already looking for a topic which is mathematically interesting – meaning the base problem is not easy and has many possible solution approaches and evaluation possibilities – while being relevant to the state of the art – it’s solutions need improvement or are even unresolved, and are justified by real-world applications.

Balázs has started his PhD at High Speed Networks Laboratory, which has a close strategic cooperation with Ericsson Research.

This is how I ended up in the High Speed Networks Laboratory of BME, where I have begun my PhD by focusing my research on the hot topics of resource orchestration and softwarized network abstractions, which are important building blocks in the overall structure of a softwarized network architecture. The goal of resource orchestration is to automate service realization on top of available network and compute resources, and the problem itself has its roots in the virtual network embedding problem or more generally from graph homomorphism. The problem of network abstraction is in describing a softwarized network with various levels of detail in the underlying network infrastructure, supporting infocommunications resource trading between stakeholders and providing network management functions with the desired granularity. The two problems of my focus are closely linked, because the effectiveness of resource orchestration depends on the descriptiveness of the resource abstraction. I feel these problems to be impactful, because they define the very basics of how emerging softwarized networks operate. Building something in this field has the potential to fundamentally influence the way we will consume and produce information in the future.

Open Network Automation Platform

My relation to Ericsson dates back a couple of years, when HSNLab started to work on a 5G research project in cooperation with Ericsson Research. 5G Exchange focuses specifically on the interaction between network providers, which is an important aspect of the modern networking ecosystem. My task was to propose a solution for the resource orchestration problem, which supports the whole softwarized network system. With the help of other project partners, Ericsson Research and HSNLab created a proof-of-concept of network automation and orchestration system, which we presented at multiple sites.

Balázs at the IEEE Conference on NFV-SDN 2017, Berlin, presenting 5GEx results with his supervisor from Ericsson Research.

5GEx gave me the opportunity to gain foundational knowledge for my current intern position at Ericsson Research, where we focus on the orchestration logic of the Open Network Automation Platform. ONAP is an open source initiative that provides a comprehensive industrial-grade network orchestration and automation platform for realizing the softwarized infocommunications architecture, which is the base for plethora of conventional and novel information-related services. There is a huge, active community around ONAP, which accelerates open source innovation on the globally shared architecture. My exciting tasks are examining the orchestration capabilities of ONAP, finding out what things we might be able to add as new features, understanding ONAP’s data structure abstractions and being a part of the vibrant developer community. In addition to the technological side of my tasks, I find it very important to keep my eyes open for real-world applications, to monitor the infocommunications industry to see how the big players position themselves and to look for business opportunities by exploiting the findings of our research. I love working on ONAP, mainly because it provides everything we need to make a global impact on the way infocommunications technology solutions work, and in general the way we will use technology in a future that relies on information on a scale never seen before.

Teamwork is key

An additional necessary component for doing impactful work is teamwork, because I truly believe that a team can achieve much more than the total sum of its members’ individual achievements. In recent years, I have been a volunteer in a European engineering student organization known as the Board of European Students of Technology, where I was given the opportunity to lead one of the local groups for a year.

Balázs volunteered at the Board of European Students of Technology as President of his local group in Budapest.

I was responsible for making and executing the strategic plan of our local 25-student group, which mainly involved facilitating decision-making, coordinating teamwork and supervising ongoing projects. BEST taught me how it is to work with motivated people who interact and operate as a real team for common goals, and it’s how I became addicted to this work environment. During my internship at Ericsson Research, our small team comprising a couple of students and a supervisor comes close to replicating this environment. We’re all intent on achieving impactful work with ONAP orchestration; we set goals and strive to achieve them and we document our efforts to create efficient teamwork. Team formation and start-up is one area we could have improved on by achieving it a little quicker. In a nutshell, besides the topic of the internship, working with motivated people is the secondary thing which makes me enjoy working on it.

To conclude, my plans are to constantly seek impactful work in exciting areas of emerging infocommunications technologies, in which Ericsson Research is a good place currently. I work on gaining deep knowledge on topics that are relevant for the future of technological development. I had a taste of working as a team leader in our student organization group, where I was constantly looking for opportunities to make the most out of our volunteer efforts. I’m hoping to find such opportunities in my professional life too, and I would love to continue developing my team-leading skills and at some point in my career lead a team of researchers and engineers who want to make an impact on the way infocommunications shapes the future of an information-hungry society.

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