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What is closed-loop automation?

In a world of billions of connected devices, human-driven networks are simply not possible. That’s why the telco industry is in a major transition phase towards virtualization and automation. A relatively recent branch of automation to have entered the frame has been closed-loop automation. But what is it, and why is it set to become so important for the future of networks?

Network operation centre

The complexity fueled by 5G, IoT and increasing numbers of devices, demands that physical networks become virtual. With that comes a host of new software-defined capabilities: service assurance, orchestration, analytics, and data-centric processing, to name a few. It can be a minefield. The key here is simplification, which is why automation will help networks overcome this immense challenge and help service providers achieve streamlined services and operations, rock solid reliability, and keep enterprises and consumers happy.

Closed-loop automation: an introduction

Closed-loop automation is the overseeing eye of a network’s automation and management capabilities. Through data and analytics, closed-loop automation monitors and assesses network occurrences such as faults and congestion, and acts accordingly to correct any issues. The loop refers to the feedback loop of communication between monitoring, identifying, adjusting and optimizing the performance of the network to enable self-optimization. Essentially, it’s the solution that paves the way for self-driving networks. But what does that mean on an everyday level, and why is it so important? Let’s review a short demonstration video from this year’s Mobile World Congress.  

Demonstration: Network Slice Assurance

 

 

Daniele Ceccarelli, Strategic Product Manager, Transport Orchestration describes a use case where several network slices are monitored, and where a network issue is identified as negatively impacting a given set of network slices. In this case, overload of traffic in the Evolved Packet Gateway (EPG) impacts the quality of the end-to-end services delivered. Here, the system has been configured in closed-loop mode which means that the system will automatically heal the network by creating a new EPG closer to the customer site. The result is that the performance has been restored and all the alarms has been cleared.

The use case specifically highlights how CENX Service Assurance now natively integrates into the evolved version of Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration solution to benefit service providers in assuring 5G use cases.

The holy grail of the network management industry

That’s how closed-loop automation was recently described by Fernanda Mendez, Head of Management Orchestration at Ericsson and Head of CENX, the service assurance company that Ericsson acquired in 2018 to bring together service assurance and orchestration for closed-loop automation.

In practice, the solution eliminates the need for manual, time-consuming processes, which means faster service delivery, improved security and new levels of agility, thanks to real-time automation capabilities. In our solution, the closed loop allows faults to be addressed at the infrastructure level, the applications level and the service level, and uses analytics to verify the effects of the fault on the user experience, which gets looped back to CENX Service Assurance. The result is a better quality of service. But it also frees up CSPs to explore new business areas, new services for enterprise customers and potential new revenue streams that are emerging from the digitalization of industries. It doesn’t just solve a problem; it opens up new opportunities in the process.

Collaboration not competition

Whether we’re talking about smart speakers in the home, self-driving cars or self-healing networks, there’s often a fear that autonomy will take over human capability, even ingenuity. But that’s not the way I like to see it. In our industry, our goal is to build networks to do what they’re good at, so we can do what we’re good at.

For example, our 5G business case reveals that service providers can benefit from a potential up to USD 619 billion dollar global market in 2026, amounting to between 12 and 36 percent additional revenue. There’s plenty of room for innovation, ideas and ingenuity there.

Long term, it’ll be about networks and human experts working together to improve quality and build new services. It’s the service providers who can adapt and balance these factors that will end up running the networks of the future. Closed-loop automation is just the beginning.

Now I voiced my perspective, what’s yours?

I would be interested in hearing your own opinions and stories on the topic of automation, orchestration and zero-touch networks. Please engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn or 

 

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You can also go to Ericsson Network automation webpage  to explore the discussion further and to find out more about our offering.

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