Automation drives cost savings and enables robust signaling! Why?
Over the past decades, Ericsson transformed to a real software company. We have changed from large software releases with 6–12-month deployment cycles towards more frequent smaller SW deliveries monthly.
We could achieve this only through automation and Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment (CI/CD). For me it is natural to strive for automation and get rid of repetitive tasks to make sure that we can concentrate on what is important. Automation is everywhere, it starts in the morning with the dishwasher, continues with automated software upgrades of our mobile phones or any device we use, e.g., our smart television. Even my working environment just updates while I write this blog, seamlessly in the background.
What is hindering our customers from introducing monthly software upgrades?
Naturally CSPs (Communications Service Providers) strive on the one hand for a robust network to ensure customer retention and at the same time demand innovative technology. It becomes clear that every change to the live network needs to be tested and verified beforehand to ensure that the end user does not experience any service interruption. From our experience of Diameter Signaling Controller (DSC) deployments, we know that this acceptance test phase can have a lead time of 3-4 weeks. Our DSC is only one small software piece of the complete 4G solution.
Imagine the effort, cost, and lead time for our customers to perform software upgrades monthly for a medium to large network with hundreds of nodes. It is completely impossible with a manual software upgrade and acceptance test approach. For this reason, we have introduced Automatic Acceptance Testing (AAT) for vDSC already in 2018. Our latest cloud native dual-mode core Signaling Controller (SC) for 4G and 5G supports from the start continues delivery and deployment, too.
What is needed to introduce automation?
Introducing AAT and automated workflows is a natural first step towards a fully automated CI/CD flow. With this the duration of life cycle management operations significantly improves and enables best in class time-to-market. The introduction of CI/CD means change in processes and change in ways of working. This is not a quick thing! It is more a journey which takes time, and we are supporting our customers jointly to make this journey successful with both tools and services.
The end-to-end flow starts with feature identification and ends with the feature going live in the network. To make this process efficient, automation is critical in all stages of the complete pipeline from development to delivery, including performance metrics and feedback loops.
Ericsson’s CI/CD solution is based on an end-to-end software delivery pipeline called CDD (Continuous Delivery and Deployment). It is product agnostic to scale across the entire Ericsson product portfolio; it uses selected industry standards such as Spinnaker, Ansible, YAML (Yet Another Markup Language) as well as Ericsson automation tools; it also provides integration points for other tools and products used in the specific target environment (see CI/CD: continuous software for continuous change (ericsson.com) for more details).
The Benefits of CI/CD
In the beginning of this blog post I talked about the need that products, processes, and organizational changes go hand in hand to increase efficiency. So far, I have just talked about products and solutions. Let us see how one of the leading CSPs, Turkcell, is using automation to increase efficiency (see also Turkcell and Ericsson successfully deploy Diameter Signaling Controller).
We have been working together with Turkcell on various projects for many years. We implemented and experimented a lot of new technologies jointly during this time. Both at Ericsson and at Turkcell, we understand the importance of automation to save costs and reduce lead time. And automation is at its best if it overcomes organizational boundaries.
Here we are, to share our joint best practice together with Ms. Elif Yenihan Kaya, Network Tech
nologies Director and Ms. Deniz Celik, Enhanced Voice Services Associate Director of Turkcell. Elif Yenihan Kaya tells us about the goals and achievements of the project:
“Turkcell has started using Ericsson E-VNFM (Evolved VNF Manager) with vDSC which is now responsible for controlling the signaling traffic of our VoLTE (Voice over LTE) service. Its LCM (Life Cycle Management) requirements like onboarding, upgrading, scale-out/in type of operations with automated workflows are now possible. We believe that network automation investment pays off rapidly by enhancing the performance of vital functions like testing and product life cycle management.’’
Deniz Celik, tells more in detail about the benefits of the project:
“We can automatically scale out vDSC in just 20 minutes, upgrade software for one virtual network function in just 35 minutes, and onboard new DSC VNFs (virtual network functions) with day0 and day1 configurations in 40 minutes’’.
“We now feel much more comfortable with such LCM operations, thanks to the E-VNFM vDSC automated processes provided with every new software release of vDSC.
Since Ericsson vDSC is now the heart of our network, controlling all diameter signaling traffic, functional verification is an especially important step for every new software release. We have begun using the Ericsson AAT (Automated Acceptance Testing) tool to automate Turkcell's vDSC acceptance tests in order to perform this functional verification.’’
Now about 95% of Turkcell’s diameter signaling controller acceptance tests are being done automatically by using AAT whenever needed, like after having new software released or just after making some changes on the network level.
“We found great value in combining E-VNFM for workflow automation and AAT for acceptance test automation, which allowed us to perform software updates more frequently and with greater speed and reliability.
Elif Yenihan Kaya, tells about further steps in network automation:
“Automation of the network is a journey and it is critical to introduce improvements in each and every part of network operation. We will have CI/CD orchestration to handle it end-to-end as a following step’’.
We have decreased our SW upgrade duration from several months to a week. Now it takes only a week for us to upgrade all 4 vDSCs in our network.
“Our long-term goal for complete NW automation is zero touch. In order to reduce the TTM (Time to Market) for new functionality and features and to enable faster/more reliable network operations, we are closely collaborating with Ericsson and our IT, NW automation and Architecture teams.’’
Bio and Pictures of Turkcell spokespersons:
Ms. Elif Yenihan Kaya, Network Technologies Director
Elif Yenihan Kaya has started her professional life as a telecom engineer in Turkcell Network Operations. She has performed many engineering roles in Operations and Planning of the Mobile Network.
She has undertook several managerial positions both in Operations and Planning organizations. By 2013 she has been appointed as Head of Mobile Network Planning Division. From 2015 she has led Strategic Planning for both Fixed and Mobile Network Technologies. As of today she is responsible from Strategic Planning for the Core Network.
Elif Yenihan Kaya has graduated from İstanbul Technical University, Electronics & Telecom Engineering Department and she has had her MBA degree from İstanbul Bilgi University.
Ms. Deniz Celik, Enhanced Voice Services Associate Director
Deniz Celik has started her professional life as a telecommunication engineer in Alcatel-Lucent. She has performed various engineering roles in global projects, lastly appointed as design team lead.
She has started working in Turkcell Network Planning team in 2013, as fixed voice network planning team manager. As of 2019, she is responsible for service planning of Turkcell voice & signalling networks.
Deniz Celik has graduated from Istanbul Technical University, Telecommunication Engineering, for both BsC and MsC degrees.
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