Rise of Lifecycle Automation Systems
I admit out at the outset that part of my agenda in writing this blog is to create and promote the acceptance of a new industry term, Lifecycle Automation Systems or LAS.
I submit this is needed to formally label a new species of system coming onto the scene that is a combination of next generation network management, SDN control, and NFV MANO – but above all whose value is automating service and network operations for modern transport networks. I’ll explain in terms of past, present, and future.
Until now the transport network has been mainly static, with value in its feeds and speeds. It was carefully planned and commissioned, with moderate over-provisioning to deal with traffic surges and growth. Service requests were dealt with at a measured pace. Network management systems (NMS) had the duty of manually handling service requests originating from operations support systems (OSS) and performing other FCAPS (fault, configuration, accounting, performance, security) related duties. Managing transport networks was kind of boring.
What is driving change in this situation is that transport networks are incorporating features that enable them to be reconfigurable under programmatic control, at both the packet and optical layers. This provides the opportunity to speed up service delivery and streamline network operations via innovative software controlling this infrastructure.
But the existing generation of NMS are not up to this task for several reasons. From the outset they have been designed for semi-static provisioning. Their structure and algorithms are not oriented to handle real-time automation. Moreover, they are based on an older, rigid, enterprise software architecture, with fixed release schedules and extensive back testing to introduce new functionality.
Instead, a new class of Lifecycle Automation Systems (LAS) are emerging. These will use SDN and NFV technologies, and focus on creating value through automation. In their first stages, LAS will speed up service provisioning. They will receive instructions from OSS via programmatic intent-based APIs, and exploit modern interfaces on NEs to control the NE’s reconfigurability and virtualization features. Other near-term applications of LAS are delivery of virtualized business services using a vCPE/uCPE model, automating bulk change operations as part of service and network migration to new technologies, and combining real-time snapshots of the network with planning functions.
Another distinction of LAS is that they are being built using cloud-native software architectures that exploit cloud computing efficiencies, emulating the approach and success of OTT competitors. This facilitates a continuous rollout of new applications and other DevOps benefits.
In the current transition phase, LAS will live side-by-side with NMS, and in many cases will use them to interface to the network for conventional FCAPs.
Over time LAS will perform complete lifecycle automation for both customer services and the network infrastructure, encompassing planning, commissioning, services provisioning, analytics, assurance, and maintenance. LAS will displace NMS and provide all FCAPS with some degree of automation.
LAS will play a particularly important role in implementing economical and efficient transport for 5G services. Here a common transport infrastructure must be managed to support concurrently a broad mix of 5G services with different bandwidth, latency, and availability requirements. LAS will be responsible for creating “network slices” and continuously balancing allocation of transport resources to the slices as service demand and traffic flows change. Moreover, LAS will be called upon to perform this across both the packet and optical layers simultaneously, and to dynamically reallocate resources in the event of failures to maintain 5G services SLA guarantees.
LAS in the future will be totally cloud-based, and will play an important role in a telco API economy whereby different blocks of software, large and small, interact with each other to deliver customer and operational value.
What will be interesting to observe as this aspect of digital transformation takes place is how the push-pull of automation functionality will divide between the Lifecycle Automation Systems and a new generation of OSS.
All network transport vendors are starting to make available Lifecycle Automation Systems, which create value by automating service and network lifecycle operations for an increasingly dynamically reconfigurable transport network. At ECI, our LAS is called MuseTM Orchestrator. Read more about ECI’s LAS solutions here.