Highlights of key end-to-end network slicing capabilities
What are the essential end-to-end network slicing capabilities, and why will they make a difference? These questions are raised by many now as we move into 5G. Take the chance to read more about a selection of insights here and tap into a webinar focusing on this very topic.
Join the conversation on e2e network slicing
From Ericsson´s side, we have again had the privilege to take an active role in meeting the increasing interest in 4G/5G end-to-end (E2E) network slicing. Now sparked by a webinar on this topic, we are happy to see an ongoing active engagement from several key categories, all expected to play important roles in the shaping the emerging 5G ecosystems. These categories include representatives from major communication service providers, individual leading businesses in different industries, universities, analysts and media. Across all, we see an interest to better understand what end-to-end network slicing is, and why it matters. So – check out a few highlights of this webinar in this blogpost, and then move on to listen in on the full webinar further below. And as a bonus in doing so, get full access the exclusive presentation and related in-depth studies made available there.
Three main drivers stand out
On a starting note there is one trend that really sets the scene for end-to-end network slicing - the move towards the digital service provider. This really began upon the introduction of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV)/ Distributed Cloud. These technologies opened for an automation towards zero touch, and for network simplification in terms of more effective ways of facilitating multiple services through a single network. And from SDN and NFV supporting the goal of a digitally transformed service provider network and operations, the concept of network slicing has grown as a central concept.
Different user segments are envisioned to benefit from various connectivity and communication services, tailored to their needs. As we move into 5G, the capability of providing tailored service offerings will be critical for communication service providers abilities to play a successful role over time. It constitutes the first of three main drivers behind the need for network slicing and is coupled with the second - the need for increased flexibility and agility, and the third - the need for reduced risk. A network meeting these needs is set for efficiency gains and revenue growth. In fact, it will serve as the fundament to address new segments with premium pricing, to improve time-to-market and reduce total cost of ownership, and to realistically achieve isolated configurations and tenant separations.
More than a technology transformation
So, is e2e network slicing then all about an implementation of a set of key technologies? No, as usual, there is more to it than what meets the eye. Expressed as different dimensions or views of network slicing, there are basically three main perspectives to consider. The first is the user-centric view, zooming in on how to design the slices and slice instantiations that build up the logical network best meeting the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) required for different segments. This view can be expressed as the “Network as a service” view. Second comes the “Resource Management” view of how to actually realize any particular network slice, how to achieve and design the mechanics of traffic steering and resource partitioning. And thirdly comes the “Operational efficiency” view, how to apply automation to manage and charge for the services offered, at targeted cost levels.
Why then an emphasis on these three views? We believe that they serve a purpose to illustrate that network slicing is an area that requires not only technology investments, but also market- and organizational investments. The concept of network slicing is as transformative as it is essential going forward. Technology play a key role, but network slicing is a question that resides with the entire C-suite.
That said - Getting to an e2e architecture overview
The end-to-end architecture enabling network slicing is built up on several key domains. On top of a shared infrastructure, network slicing for logical networks is defined by means of allocations of core network applications, and by means of Radio Access Network (RAN)- and Transport network partitioning. And to manage these slices, the domains of Operations Support System (OSS) and Business Support System (BSS) both play integral roles, orchestrating the different services and tracking SLAs.
In the network, the radio resources are limited and there is a need to share, reserve and isolate capacity whenever there is a congestion. This is done by securing the capabilities of radio resource partitioning, service separation within a slice, monitoring usage and performance per slice, and an interaction with the core network through slice aware selection and support for both 4G and 5G slice identifiers. With an identified set of RAN capabilities and a solid 4G/5G dual mode core solution, a seamless slicing experience can be achieved across LTE and 5G non-standalone (NSA)/standalone (SA). Directly connected, the core network slicing support leans on a defined set of mechanisms for Evolved Packet Core (EPC), including Control Plane User Plane Split (CUPS) Access Point Names (APN) and Dedicated Core (DÉCOR), many that have been available for some time. Moving to the 5GC standard, these capabilities are effectively extended to become more powerful, by means of being more scalable and flexible of steering traffic and users into the right slices.
As mentioned further above, automation is central in network slicing. The ability to deliver or upgrade services quickly depends on it, as does managing any increasing number of logical networks. A largely manual handling no longer remains a viable path to run a modern network at targeted cost levels. Moreover, the OSS domain needs to run according to a model-driven approach, applying different sets of network slicing- and service instantiation templates. In addition, the provisioning of subscribers and devices must be automated, as well as monitoring and analytics capabilities, moving to closed-loop assurance.
Learn more by tapping into our webinar
Interested in understanding more about the details behind these highlights? Please be welcome to join the conversation and learn more by joining our webinar on e2e network slicing:
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