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Automated service assurance is critical for operationalising NFV/SDN: active testing automation presents an early opportunity

Anil Rao Principal Analyst, Research

NFV whitepaper by Anil RaoThe success of network function virtualisation (NFV)/software-defined networking (SDN) is heavily reliant on an operational model that is based on the principles of automation. Communications service providers (CSPs) envision a future in which customers use a self-service digital interface to request new services, and expect them to be provisioned and working in a matter of minutes. However, operations today are characterised by disjointed processes and siloed software systems.

Network planning, service fulfilment and service assurance are all different processes, requiring significant manual intervention. Furthermore, service assurance (SA) tends to be an afterthought, typically gaining prominence at the end of a service launch cycle. Operational efficiency and CSP competitiveness suffer as a result of this operational model, and it is clear that the current approach will be unable to deliver on the vision of NFV/SDN.

CSPs will need to transform their operations and embrace new thinking in the design and development of OSS if they are to achieve the reality of 'zero-touch automation' in NFV/SDN-based networks. Indeed, this transformation will take many years, but CSPs can tackle a number of key areas and take some concrete steps towards the final goal. CSPs can achieve some 'quick wins' early on in the operational transformation, by integrating the overlapping fulfilment and assurance procedures such as activation testing and quality monitoring, which usually employ active testing techniques. By automating the active testing routines (albeit with a solution that caters for services spanning hybrid – physical and virtual – network environments), CSPs can significantly reduce the lead time for service delivery.