The fourth industrial revolution, led by enabling technologies such as IoT, AI, cloud computing, and big data, serves as the impetus for enterprises to migrate their services to the cloud. Fueled by countries’ tech imperative and national strategy to digitalize economies and societies, enterprise cloud adoption is poised to grow, with IDC predicting that 85% of enterprises will have deployed new digital infrastructure in the cloud by 2025.
As cloud applications evolve and become increasingly distributed, enterprises will strategically upgrade from single cloud to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud (private cloud + public cloud). Consequently, enterprise network requirements will have to change, evolving from traditional “fast cloud, slow network” to intelligent cloud-networks with integrated cloud-network scheduling to facilitate e-commerce. In addition, enterprises will have to move away from “good cloud, poor network” to deliver consistent experience to users.
Faced with increased competition from OTT cloud providers, operators must upgrade existing cloud network operation systems and leverage network advantages to chart growth in the cloud era.
Key challenges operators face when upgrading to cloud-network operation
Compared with OTT cloud providers, operators face greater challenges when upgrading to cloud-network operations. For a start, the current experience offered by the operator’s private line products leaves much to be desired when matched against user-centric products offered by OTT cloud providers. While OTT cloud providers offer cloud features such as real-time provisioning, pay-per-use, online subscription, and network visualization, network-centric operators must evolve from manual processing based on tickets to automate processing to reduce long service provisioning, amongst other upgrades.
Given their larger and more complex network layers, operators also tend to encounter more technical issues when ensuring quality-guaranteed virtual networks. Finally, operators have to overcome a lack of integrating standards and specifications, interface customization among systems, and excessive BSS, OSS, and controller vendors – all of which add complexity to system integrations and delay service rollouts.
Recommendations for operators to build competitive cloud-networks
COVID-19 has fast-tracked enterprise cloud adoption by two to three years and accelerated digtialization across industries. China’s online education industry, for instance, has reported growth as online learning products garnered more than 300 million users when schools shuttered for months. In the wake of COVID-19, many provinces started to embrace a digital-first approach, with cloudification leading change across industries.
For instance, China Telecom Ningxia became the first operator to adopt an intelligent cloud-network to achieve multi-cloud interoperability in the healthcare sector. Tapping on this capability, many small and medium-sized hospitals in Ningxia now rely on technologies such as medical imaging cloud to leverage resources in larger-sized hospitals to provide telemedicine consultations.
For operators to seize growth in a rapidly-evolving cloud environment, Guo Dazheng, president of NCE Data Communication Domain at Huawei recommends the following:
1. Improve cloud-network operations in three areas
Firstly, operators seeking to develop cloud-network services should deliver integrated cloud-network scheduling capable of producing networks as responsive as clouds. Secondly, operators should fully exploit the wide coverage of operator networks to provide cloud access connections with guaranteed SLAs and deliver consistent cloud and network experience. Thirdly, operators can offer enterprise users one-stop subscription of cloud-network products and comprehensive e-commerce service experience.
2. Upgrade cloud-network IT architecture across three layers
To drive comprehensive service automation and e-commerce operations on the cloud-network, while also maximizing the network operation and localization service advantages of operators, systematic technology transformation must occur at three layers: the network infrastructure layer; network management and control layer; and network operation layer.
At the network infrastructure layer, protocols should be simplified. As such, complex protocols in traditional network should be replaced by an intelligent cloud-network that offers two simplified alternatives – the EVPN and SRv6. As a next-generation SDN network enabling protocol, SRv6 helps intelligent management and control systems achieve centralized path computation and cross-domain one-hop through while avoiding VPN concatenation.
At the intelligent management and control layer, network-as-a-service (NaaS) should be deployed to counter complex integration in conventional NMSs. Utilizing NaaS technology, the intelligent cloud-network provides tenant-level service-oriented interfaces for the OSS, while shielding technical details relating to the network. As a result, tenant network provisioning and adjustment can be completed with fewer parameters to significantly simplify OSS integration.
Finally, the network operation layer should integrate conventional OSS and BSS functions, as well as multi-cloud integration aggregation, cloud access connection, and other tenant portals related to cloud-network products. This architecture invokes the network service capabilities of the intelligent management and control layer through service-oriented interfaces, while one-stop subscriptions to cloud-network products provide tenants with an ideal e-commerce shopping experience. Long service provisioning timelines characteristic of traditional operations that are ticket-driven and laden with manual workloads will also be significantly reduced.
3. Integrate cloud-network operation systems as a collective industry effort
In the absence of unified architectural standards, the industry currently faces complicated OSS/BSS integrations and long integration testing times. To address this, Huawei is committed to building an integration lab capable of connecting OSS/BSS vendors, operators, and scientific research institutes. This integration lab is a one-stop portal where all users can gain OSS/BSS integration experience, study the intelligent cloud-network solution and OSS/BSS success cases, or apply for resources for interconnection testing to achieve win-win for all stakeholders in the OSS/BSS value chain. With an OSS/BSS integration ecosystem and streamlined OSS/BSS service processes, more operators can replicate China Telecom Ningxia’s success in efficiently developing network convergence capabilities for intelligent cloud-network projects.
Toward next-generation intelligent cloud-networks
Though still in its infancy stage, intelligent cloud-network IT architecture is an important enabler as operators look to power emerging technologies across industries.
Moving forward, Huawei looks forward to working closely with operators, OSS/BSS partners, and industry alliances to deliver integrated cloud-network scheduling and consistent cloud-network experience. Doing so will not only drive meaningful change across thousands of industries but also ease operators’ transition from traditional ICT services to future-proof DICT services.
Scan the QR Code to read Huawei’s Intelligent Cloud-Network IT Architecture and Integration White Paper.