The path to a sustainable, secure and scalable network for the future – Ericsson Network Manager leads the way
Our customers and their consumers demand uninterrupted, high-quality telecom services 24-7. To meet this demand, we need to delve into the intricate needs of Communication Service Providers (CSPs). The transition to 5G is a crucial trend, and managing this transition while maintaining existing infrastructure is a monumental task. The need for efficient management extends beyond the current scenario, considering the inevitable arrival of future networks, making foresight and adaptability imperative.
In the ever-evolving landscape of Communication Service Providers (CSPs) the different technologies add up to several layers and stacks with obsolete systems. The deployment of 5G base stations amid the coexistence of 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies along with Core and Transport networks, all the while ensuring that the cost of managing the network does not increase, whilst keeping the network secured and keeping high integrity for the end-customers.
In essence, a comprehensive solution that navigates the complexities of managing diverse generations of technology, ensures operational efficiency, and future-proofs their networks will correspond to customer needs and empower their business to grow larger and more heterogeneous.
Our solution aims to empower CSPs, not just in the present but in anticipation of the future, where networks are destined to grow larger and more heterogeneous. In essence, the customer needs a comprehensive solution that navigates the complexities of managing diverse generations of technology, ensuring operational efficiency, and future-proofing their networks in the dynamic evolution of the future.
Leading the industrialization with open network management
To secure an increasingly resilient, open, sustainable, and intelligent network, Ericsson is leading the industrialization of Open RAN. (Ericsson takes leadership in industrializing Open RAN)
To support the automation of an Open RAN network, Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform (EIAP) acts as a realization of the Service Management and Orchestration entity (SMO) according to the O-RAN initiative. Within EIAP, network management capabilities are provided to complement the advanced automation facilities available in the Non-Realtime RIC (which is realized by Ericsson Intelligent Automation Controller or EIC).
Today, through customer adaptations, ENM is supporting more than 300 node types provided by vendors other than Ericsson. Adding support for the O1 and M-Plane interfaces, as defined by O-RAN, ENM will be capable of managing a mix of Ericsson and third-party RAN elements, such as O-CU, O-DU, and O-RU, as per the O-RAN terminology.
In a rapidly digitalizing world where cyber threats are more frequently becoming headline news globally, security is no longer restricted to first line engineers only but has now reached the board room, resulting in a relentless focus and demand on improved security posture on all products in the customers’ networks.
The key to the managed network is central to these demands and engagements. This has already translated to security requirements that were until recently considered nice-to-have by some customers and are now being considered basic security hygiene by all CSPs.
Security, of course, never stands still, and while customers are now focusing their efforts at deeper levels than basic hygiene, the evolved Ericsson Network Manager goes still further by focusing on a Zero-Trust model (never trust, always verify), where the focus moves from user implicit trust to dynamic access control, where integration to the endpoint, threat detection and response agents are supported, and ciphers and algorithms always move to the latest enhanced versions available. This will all ultimately translate into negligible levels of risk of penetration or compromise, thus enhancing the protection of the keys to the network.
Management at scale with low TCO
Data traffic demands will continue to grow, calling for continued densification of the networks. CSPs are, however, not willing to accept any increase in TCO in managing their growing networks. Therefore, there will be an expanding demand for a high degree of closed- loop automation. Some of this automation such as highly automated integration and upgrade of network elements as well as advanced alarm correlation, will continue to be provided in addition, automation will be enabled through other external systems that leverage AI or traditional automation methods by collecting, processing, and transferring huge amounts of data required for closed- loop automation and AI training. This will drive the evolution of the APIs and data management solutions provided by today, which need to be more scalable while maintaining their current stability and robustness as the solution evolves further.
The current rack-based integrated version offers a much lower hardware footprint, energy consumption, and upgrade times translating into a much lower TCO than the previous generations. The cloud-native version is offered to customers who are looking to leverage the latest technologies to transform their business. The TCO of the cloud-native version will become comparable with the rack-based system in terms of more flexibility and optimized footprint. As the network ensifies, the capacity will grow. The evolution of the different deployment options for ENM is described more thoroughly in a previous blog post: Short-term agility requires a long-term vision: Building Network Management for the future
Sustainability and increased energy efficiency
The entire ecosystem needs to take responsibility for minimizing the climate impact by ensuring a massive reduction of the carbon footprint of mobile networks. Adding to this pressure, surging energy prices have led to significant impacts on the network TCO. Automated solutions for orchestrating and optimizing the energy-saving features that are offered in the network functions play an essential role in the sustainability space. The energy consumption of the evolved ENM itself will be reduced primarily by downsizing the hardware footprint.
Evolution of network technologies for more heterogenous networks in the future
During the upcoming decade, there will be new generations of network elements. The migration of customer networks to cloud-native solutions has been established in the core domain and is starting in the RAN domain, as well. In parallel, many CSPs will continue buying integrated solutions for which new hardware platforms will become available. New network technologies will be deployed during this period, which would effectively mean managing more devices, more spectrum sharing, and a higher degree of automation and intent-based management.
These new network element types will co-exist and co-work with previous generations of network technology. Therefore, the future network will become even more heterogeneous than it is today. Using a unified management solution such as ENM to manage these different generations with maximum network potential and optimal TCO will enable CSPs to evolve their networks without any disruptions.
The arising of new types of businesses
New business opportunities are arising in the enterprise space and in industrial projects based on new use cases supported by 5G mobile networks. Smart factories, first responders, Peacekeeping, and Defense will be able to set up their own networks, at an exceptionally low TCO. The evolved ENM will adapt to these requirements by providing network management deployments with low footprints and low costs for life cycle management. The robustness and security requirements for these new industry segments will remain as important as they are for traditional mobile networks.
Support for network services and slices will facilitate the new business segments and enable the CSPs to evolve their business models toward their subscribers. ENM will facilitate this by acting as a Network Function Management Function (NFMF) according to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
In addition, network resources will be increasingly shared between different actors, leading to a new set of security requirements and a demand for advanced management of access privileges. These shared-RAN capabilities will be enabled by the evolved ENM.
The choice for the future
ENM is Ericsson’s offer to the CSPs for facilitating seamless management of their networks, ensuring unified and secure control of Radio, Transport, and Core domains, currently across 2G to 5G. First deployed live in 2016, it now manages more than three million network nodes and 19 million cells across different customer bases.
CSPs must be able to trust their network management solutions and maintain and develop their processes based on these solutions while future generations of networks are deployed. To this end, ENM will continue as a trusted and mature solution for advanced network management over the next decade.
Over the next decade, networks will continue to grow and become more heterogeneous with the next generations of mobile network technologies being based on a mix of integrated and cloud-based solutions from different vendors. Also, the type of businesses supported by mobile networks will be more diversified driving new network management demands.
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