The foundations for network architecture
Telecoms architecture is designed to support the delivery of products, the business interfaces between actors while making it possible to purchase equipment from different suppliers.
Yet this is changing, and rapidly. New technologies, such as virtualization and AI, are shaping the future of network architecture, allowing traditional structures to be broken down into customizable elements that provide just the right level of connectivity. This will extend the network architecture model across different industries – from the way we manufacture goods, to the way we access media and entertainment.
What is network architecture?
Architecture refers to the complete framework of a structure; for instance, a building is made up of a floor plan, a façade, plumbing and electrics, etc., which fit together to form its infrastructure.
Similarly, network architecture provides a detailed overview of a system's components, and identifies how these elements work with each other. Good network architecture should include narrow and stable components, which divides complex problems into less complex components, allowing to focus on the separate elements instead of the entire solution at once. This way, when new functions are added to the system, there are rarely any changes made to the existing components.
Fulfilling the values of architecture
These are 5 core values that good network architecture should fulfill to address the various industry challenges and trends:
- The network architecture should bring a long-term perspective to the evolution, aid the introduction of new technology, and be modular enough to prepare for whatever the future might bring
- At the same time, the architecture should reuse and build on what is already available
- The interfaces need to be open for anyone to implement either side of the interfaces
- Architecture should be able to work in different usage scenarios, such as high to low capacity, widespread to small area, very dense coverage to spotty coverage, indoor and outdoor, etc.
- It needs to be scalable, flexible and modular, with the ability to scale upwards and downwards depending on the needs
- The architecture must also take into consideration the cost of acquiring, installing and operating a network
- Infrastructure needs to support a user with the expected experience, every time they access the network – balancing price, cost and performance
- Essentially, a user or customer to the network should always get what they pay for
- The term user should be interpreted in the widest context – anything from a person to an actuator, a sensor, a data center, etc.
- The network needs to work 24/7 for authorized users, delivering the expected level of service, but it must also ensure that unauthorized users cannot get hold of the information being communicated
- Whatever happens, it should always ensure that there is a solution to either prevent or mitigate the problem
- The architecture must also be able to allow authorities to lawfully intercept the network for crime prevention and detection
- Architecture success is measured by the amount of new value creation it enables, along with how efficiently the network can be operated
- The architecture should ensure that technical interfaces are aligned with business needs and act as an enabler for a shorter time to customer
- Networks must also work towards a more sustainable environment; for example, via lower power consumption, minimal use of rare and toxic materials and alternative energy solutions, such as solar power