What does automation mean to service providers and what can it achieve?
That telecommunications networks are facing unprecedented demand is no surprise. The unending demand for access to data whenever and wherever people wish to consume it shows no sign of abating.
By 2018 it is predicted that more than a third of the world’s population will own a smartphone so this is unlikely to be an issue that will disappear.
The challenge for service providers is that so much of what determines how a network functions is based on unpredictable external factors. Every generation of new smartphone has the capability to consume more data. Technical advances, such as HD video, have driven further demand as have the popularity of new devices for data consumption, such as tablets, says Dr Jay Perrett, CTO of Aria Networks.
Many of the services consuming capacity in networks simply did not exist 10 years ago. Music streaming, IPTV and photo/video backup are services that are wildly popular. As one example, in May 2015 Netflix alone – a company that owns and manages no telecommunications infrastructure – was responsible for more than 35% of US internet traffic during peak hours. Networks have had to adapt to a wide range of new data consumption services, without the time to plan an effective response.
In this vastly unpredictable environment, service providers need to be able to respond to volatile service demand and network conditions. And customers are increasingly intolerant of waiting for manual processes to resolve issues. It is little wonder therefore that fixed, mobile and OTT companies see automation as central to their service delivery strategies.
But it’s important to be specific about what is being automated – and what isn’t. Consider a service provider – not necessarily a traditional telecoms company – rolling out a new IPTV service. The service provider will know that it needs to optimise its network to deliver video service, but initially it will not know how many subscribers the service will have, what time of day people will watch or what proportion of subscribers will want to watch in HD.
So while automating the provision of HD service seems like a great idea, it might not be if the effect degrades service to other customers. And not if the cost of using higher bandwidth links is higher than the cost of the service. There’s automation and there’s automation.
Effective automation requires a focus on delivering the most effective and profitable delivery of services, considering a whole range of different criteria against different services, cost models and other factors. In other words, starting from the business goals first, and driving technical actions.
Historically automation has been framed within a purely technical context: minimise packet loss, find the shortest route, deliver the lowest jitter. But this does not necessarily deliver profitability. It is only when business criteria drives service delivery automation that service providers can ensure that their operations are optimised for the delivery of profitable services.
The author of this blog is Dr Jay Perrett, CTO of Aria Networks.
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