Is Network Disaggregation the Next Big Thing in the telecom industry?
If you ask the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) enthusiasts – the answer is Yes (with many exclamation marks!). The TIP – a nonprofit organization made of a mixture of leading Operators, Vendors, and Consultants, has taken on the huge task of disaggregating the network.
The target is to get all of its members to agree on a set of network elements that will be located in the different parts of the network and form together a real open network. So projects like DCSG (Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway) or Cassini are now defined and open for vendors to make them real working products.
So, the ideal open disaggregated network according to TIP is a combination of the defined network elements from access to core, including Data Centers, and across Network Technology domains (Mobile, PON, Satellite, etc.. ).
To make economical sense and avoid any vendor lock-in, the network elements are separated into hardware-based elements coming from one vendor and Network Operation Software (NOS) running over this device coming from another vendor. The more vendors take part in a single network – the more open and economic it becomes, very good news for the operators.
Can this mish-mash of network elements become a unified, operational network?
Does this mixture of disaggregated network elements coming from different vendors can really provide services?
TIP responds with a set of Network Interfaces that communicate between the network elements, and Management Interfaces of upper-layer Northbound systems such as OSS and BSS.
In the Transport domain (OOPT group in TIP), there are advanced solutions under MUST and CANDI sub-groups and the Open RAN is not far behind. But these solutions focus on different portions of the network and not yet on the overall end-to-end network view.
From the Northbound systems’ point of view – this isn’t good enough. These systems need to get full network provision and control – they are looking for a single unified Network as a Service (NaaS) interface that allows them to communicate with all of the network elements – regardless of vendor or location in the network.
It’s even more complex when there is a need to provision a service between two endpoints of the network.
Disaggregated Networks need a single Management & Automation layer with a single NaaS Open API that can communicate with any vendor’s network element.
For Northbound systems, the requirement is simple – the NaaS Open API should be able to allow upper layer systems (OSS/BSS) to use simple intent-based commands to manage the network.
As for the Southbound – this is a bit trickier, as there is a rich set of protocols to manage and automate the disaggregated network elements and end-to-end services.
There are several must-have features for that Management and Automation layer:
- Vendor Agnostic – Communicating with all the elements regardless of their vendor
- Discovery – Automatically Discover all information about and from each of the elements in the network
- Inventory – Reflecting any network changes to the upper layers and using them correctly in the Fulfillment and Assurance processes
- Configuration – Allowing the upper layers to Manage and Control all the elements.
- Service Provisioning – Setting services across multi-vendor elements between any two points in the network
- Performance Monitoring – Ensuring the network elements and services meet their SLA
- Real-time Alerts – Capturing and Handling any faulty condition in the network
- ZTP (Zero Touch Provisioning) – Error-Free element replacements and network expansion
So the obvious question is – is there such a solution out there?
The answer is NetACE by Atrinet.
It’s the ideal Network Management & Automation tool, with NaaS Open APIs, keeping the network disaggregated and open for any network element and services.