Nokia announces cross-domain–core, transport and RAN–automated network slicing solutions
The ability to autonomously orchestrate and manage a network slice extending from an operator’s EPC or cloud-native core, across the transport network and through the RAN, is seen as key to supporting the type of differentiated, revenue-generating services needed to offset the massive capex going into 5G. Flavors of virtually partitioning a network have been around for a while but, with 5G, the complexity explodes given variability of capacity, latency, mobility, device mix, and other factors.
Today Nokia claimed a world’s first with its announcement of new software-based network management, control and orchestration tools related to delivering a slice across the core, transport and radio access networks. The vendor characterized the new feature set as “extreme automation” for 4G and 5G.
In an interview with RCR Wireless News, Nokia’s Head of Product Marketing for Network Automation Roland Mestric highlighted that, in the context of delivering specific types of services, “The SLAs really matter. These industries, they run some critical business on these services. That’s where the slicing comes into play as a way to deliver this quality.”
In addition to SLAs associated with quality, “Responsiveness, I think is going to be just as important,” Mestric said. “When you talk about network slicing and 5G, the end customers, they will expect those slices to be delivered in a matter of minutes or hours rather than days or weeks as it is today with traditional 4G services.”
He added that automation capabilities accelerate the deployment of new services on network slices but also help operators manage the sheer complexity expected as 5G proliferates. In terms of going thinking around how slices will evolve, an operator could divide public mobile, fixed wireless, IoT and public safety users onto slices. From there, they could layer in slices for specific enterprise customers or consumer-facing use cases like cloud gaming. But, long-term, “We talk about hundreds of thousands of slices,” Mestric said. “The only way operators will be able to master that complexity and meet the challenges on quality and responsiveness will be through automation.”
Mestric sketched out how the cross-domain slicing would work. A customer would go into a portal and order a slice or service based on high-level parameters. This would be feed into orchestration tools that would translate business intent into requests from each of the network domains sitting below the orchestrator. In each domain, controllers and orchestrators would take that request and allocate the necessary resources.
Automate the automation
Hans Vanderstraeten, Head of Product Management for 5G Network Automation at Nokia, explained that the goal with these new capabilities is to adhere to SLAs in real time; he gave the example of an autonomous drone being used to deliver medical supplies. In this case, “Now we can do dynamic automation. We automate the automation. We try to avoid writing any single line of code. As you do a change, all the software code required to execute on the change is automatically generated by the machines.”
Asked what happens if a slice is disrupted, whether a customer has to reset the parameters, or if the orchestration can automatically re-provision the necessary resources, Vanderstraeten said there are essentially two connectivity lines–a diverse path–where the second takes over if the first fails. “You design it into the network. The network is built to immediately switch over from A to B if it receives a trigger.”
This new network slicing capabilities fit into radio portfolio, Nokia’s NetACT and Self-Organizing Networks, and the Network Services Platform for transport and core domains. The orchestration layer fits into the Digital Operations Center service orchestration suite.