Shaping Swisscom’s technology landscape with the Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager
Swisscom and Ericsson have a long-standing partnership rooted in open communication and a vibrant exchange of ideas. In today's network, orchestration plays a pivotal role in automating the lifecycle management of network functions. With orchestration, service providers get the power to deploy, upgrade, scale, and bid farewell to network functions. Today, Swisscom is using the Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager (EO CM), which is Ericsson’s implementation of the network functions virtualization orchestrator (NFVO) based on the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) standard, the independent standardization organization that supports the development and testing of global technical standards. It automates the service provider’s network deployment process through lifecycle management of virtual and cloud native network functions, infrastructure management, and tenant handling allowing multiple users/service providers to share the infrastructure. In today’s network, orchestration is a key component to achieve automation of the lifecycle management of network functions. With orchestration, service providers can deploy, upgrade, scale and terminate the network functions.
The partnership between the two companies allows Swisscom to shape the development of Ericsson’s technology and get early access to new functionalities. The development of the Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager targets some of Swisscom’s key requirements.
Transitioning from virtual to cloud-based operations
Swisscom migrated from the classic Ericsson Orchestrator based on virtual implementation to the current cloud native version to improve its operational processes. The current version is the result of more than two years of development, which involved transferring the old architecture to a cloud native environment, replacing old software components, and introducing new common software components. The cloud native architecture enables frequent updates by releasing Ericsson Orchestrator every third week and enabling continuous delivery to ensure that the software is always up to date with regard to functionality, fault resolutions, and security improvements. The cloud-native architecture enhances software component reuse, improving alignment and usability across Ericsson products.
Migrating an application from being based on a virtual machine (VM) to being cloud native should be done with care. It is important to have a clear goal of what needs to be achieved. For Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager, the goal was to provide backwards compatible functionality to protect Ericsson’s customer, at the same time improving the support for the customer’s operational processes.
As a result of the strong alignment and usability of the cloud native architecture across Ericsson products, Swisscom migrated from the Classic Ericsson Orchestrator based on a virtual implementation to the cloud native version to improve their operational processes. Hence operations are simplified for Swisscom, cutting lead times, and providing better reliability.
While the technology has helped in enhancing efficiency in Ericsson’s and Swisscom’s operations, the company has also provided feedback. One request, for example, was to improve the upgrade process both in terms of ability to jump multiple releases and to decrease service downtime. With promises of improvements in this and other areas, Swisscom eagerly became the first customer to receive the initial release of the new cloud native Cloud Manager. Transitioning to a cloud-native architecture will inherently deliver benefits, and incorporating common Ericsson components will further enhance alignment in crucial areas like logging, observability, and alarm handling.
The migration of the technology to a cloud-native architecture, driven by Swisscom’s input, centered around three key priorities: ensuring feature parity, enhancing the customer experience, and supporting Swisscom’s operational processes:
- Feature Parity: To ensure feature parity, a rigorous test harness was developed which was run as part of the daily build. The aim here was to ensure identical functionality and maintain backward compatibility with the API.
- Improving customer experience: Areas like upgrades and backups were identified, resulting in a total of 33 primary requirements. These had to be delivered to improve deployment, serviceability, and availability. The company's operational processes have seen improvement through upgrades, resulting in shorter lead times, enhanced backup handling, and a less complex system.
- Supporting Swisscom operational processes: This has been achieved through upgrades with shorter lead time, improved backup handling, and a less complex system with simplified operation.
Swisscom has acknowledged this improvement among others: “Ericsson Orchestrator cloud native Cloud Manager is much more stable than the Classic Cloud Manager. We now have a foundation for further innovations and feature enhancement.” One pivotal aspect is the removal and replacement of certain third-party components, which has reduced complexity and streamlined daily operations. Since the general availability of the cloud-native Cloud Manager, Swisscom has experienced software quality and a stable application.
Furthermore, Swisscom is operating the Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager in a geographical-redundancy (GR) mode. After sorting out and solving some teething problems, the GR functionality is working reliably regarding coupling/de-coupling and switch-over of the EO cCM instances. The GR functionality has been simplified and increases the availability of the cloud native Cloud Manager.
The process to migrate from the classic to the cloud native Cloud Manager worked well with no instances of missing or inconsistent data detected. Based on Swisscom testing, feature parity has been achieved. The old functionality remains intact but has undergone a substantial improvement through a new implementation. Furthermore, Swisscom has also identified additional useful functionalities such as extended API and improved selection strategies for deploying virtual network functions.
Improving reliability: automated backups and reduced downtime
Many benefits and improvements will continue to be achieved as a result of the partnership. Swisscom now sees “a massive reduction in time for software upgrades from days to hours and this has system downtime for our consumers and providers”. This will enable the company to seamlessly transition between sprint releases (comprising trouble requests, corrections, and security enhancements) and consecutive releases introducing new functionalities. Another valuable improvement is in the area of backup/restore. Backup is now fully automated and could run during consumer and provider activities. In general, the functionality is more reliable. Backups can be scheduled with confidence, and the system will be online in the morning, a significant improvement compared to the virtually deployed option!
Swisscom is now planning to automate the lifecycle management of the Cloud Manager. Initially, this involves integrating the Cloud Manager with the company's pipeline, with future plans to incorporate support for Kubernetes rolling upgrades and in-service software upgrades (ISSUs).
The move of Cloud Manager to cloud native has been successful. The targets that were set up were reached. Swisscom’s operational processes were not impacted. In fact, a number of critical functionalities were improved. The upgrade of Ericsson Orchestrator and its application at Swisscom shows that the project has been successful reaching its goals.
But this is just the beginning of an exciting journey! Ericsson Orchestrator Cloud Manager is gearing up to offer even more robust support for Ericsson 5G Core and the management of cloud-native infrastructure. Stay tuned for what’s next!
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