How to build Automation Applications using a vibrant developer ecosystem?
Understanding the role of rApps in RAN automation
Automating operations drives digital transformation, improving user experience and reducing costs. RAN is the largest network component and rApps are a key component to manage its increasing complexity. But, even though rApps is an Open RAN and SMO concept, the Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform extends the benefits of automation to purpose-built RAN making it possible to benefit from automation at scale today while being prepared for the future.
rApps are frequently used in conjunction with artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML) models and can leverage external data sources. This offers a greater opportunity to create new and innovative network automation and optimization use cases.
EIAP and the developer ecosystem
The Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform (EIAP) is an Open RAN SMO entity for the automation of multivendor and multi-technology networks. EIAP provides not only the different platform capabilities, but also a developer ecosystem available for Ericsson, communication service providers (CSP) and third-party developers to build rApps based on open and standardized interfaces exposing these capabilities.
And what is the EIAP ecosystem? The EIAP ecosystem is an open structure of key assets, services and infrastructure that enables rApps developers to leverage the capability of the Ericsson Intelligent Automation Platform to independently develop high-quality and high-value automation applications.
As an open ecosystem, it enables Ericsson, CSPs and third-party developers to build rApps that most closely match their individual needs.
The EIAP ecosystem has the mission to provide the best developer experience for building rApps: The best capabilities, the best assets and a user-friendly and collaborative environment for existing and future networks. The combination of EIAP plus the ecosystem will enable the rapid development of highly automated applications.
The EIAP ecosystem has five main components:
- Developer portal:
Is the single-entry point for rApps developers. State-of-the-art web-based front-end which enables access to all the developer resources, intuitive, easy to navigate and continuously updated with the latest EIAP capabilities.
- Developer experience:
Is the centric solution for rApps creation. Includes access to the SDK and API, developers guides, tutorials and sample rApps in multiple programming languages.
- Developer support:
The EIAP ecosystem stimulates developer interactions and collaborative work through a Community of Practice and support forums. access to dev-to-dev technical support for direct developer communication and feedback channel is available.
- Test resources:
Provides all necessary resources required to test and validate the rApps. Possibility to order an as-a-Service (aaS) test environment with EIAP and access to a variety of network data.
Is an independent component of the EIAP ecosystem that provides a catalog for software assets in EIAP like rApps, adapters, plug-ins, enablers, models and more. The Marketplace has two versions: The Ericsson Global Marketplace hosting certified Software (SW) assets and the Local Marketplace for local and customer-owned assets.
The importance of a good developer experience in stimulating rApp development
While simply having an open platform with standardized interfaces is essential, it is also highly desirable to move beyond interface specifications for development and integration to a collaborative ecosystem where to provide developers with everything required to take the application through the different stages in the most effective way, from development to production. This is ultimately the goal for the good developer experience we strive for.
In the ecosystem space, the developer experience is a cornerstone to fostering innovative solutions and unlocking the power of automation. Developers are led through well-defined interfaces, API documentation, sample code, tutorials and build utilities that enable the packaging of applications for delivery to a runtime system. All this information is gathered in a Developer portal, a web-based interface being our single entry-point to all the EIAP resources.
As an example, our current “Hello World” sample App is the starting point for developers to build a basic application. It takes the user step by step, along with accompanying documentation, through the full process of creating and instantiating a simple use case which also covers integration with logging, authentication, and certificate management. This is the ground level to allow developers to focus on the business logic and deliver the key value of the rApp use case on top of EIAP.
Another example is what we call “App Blueprints”. These are guidelines, combined with visual diagrams, which show best practices on how to make use of specific EIAP capabilities, highlighting the services that can be used to realize a concrete network use case. The focus of an App Blueprint is “Here is what you can do”, rather than “Here is a list of APIs we have – you figure out how to put them together.” Some of the most useful blueprints are, for instance, guidelines on how-to read PM counters, how-to subscribe to data and manage data subscriptions, or how-to handle CM data.
Lastly, Ericsson also provides a set of rApp Development Enablers, or Enabler rApps, which consist of applications that encapsulate common functionality, that is typically required by the use cases, such as performance and/or monitoring, cell clustering, neighbor operations, etc. The use of these ready-made rApp facilitates the modularity of the rApp creation and improves the consistency as the same function will be realized in the same ways by multiple rApps by reusing the Enabler rApp. Furthermore, the Enablers reduce the time needed to build a complete use case, thus increasing the rApp development efficiency.
Positive collaboration comes with a mindset of being open to feedback. This is another key aspect of the ecosystem. Opinions and suggestions are incredibly valuable to us as we strive to improve and provide the best possible developer experience. Whether it's regarding the platform capabilities, the way we document them, or any aspect of the developer interaction with us, we encourage users to share their thoughts. Together, we can work towards making positive changes and meeting the developers' needs more effectively.
Want to join Ericsson’s developer community?
In essence, a powerful, feature-rich, and collaborative developer experience is key to driving rApp innovation. They lower the entry barriers for those new to the market, enable faster rApp development, and ultimately enable better monetization of the rApps.
If you are interested in exploring all the capabilities the EAIP Ecosystem provides, join our developer’s community here!
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