CSPs are transitioning to cloud-native networks and seek a unified platform for consistent operations across PNFs, VNFs, and CNFs. E2E orchestration automates lifecycle management in these hybrid environments. This automation is crucial for streamlined operations, accommodating traffic growth, and increasing revenues. Further, in this article, we will shed some light on end-to-end service orchestration, its components, challenges, and considerations.
Details of E2E Orchestration
Network orchestration is the methodical coordination of devices, applications, and services within a network to fulfil specific aims, much like a conductor oversees musicians to ensure symphonic harmony. E2E Service Orchestration, meanwhile, systematically constructs workflows. By referencing service models, established policies, and current situations, it employs a feedback mechanism to manage the complete lifecycle of a service and network slice.
The place of E2E orchestration in telco networks
Preceding the era of software-defined networking (SDN) and automated network functionalities, network configurations were solely a manual affair. Modern organisations now lean on network controllers and adaptable network devices that competently perform necessary tasks.
These network controllers are designed to orchestrate these tasks. They possess an in-depth understanding of the network’s layout, design, foundational components, user profiles, their respective devices, and the flow of data. Those controllers rooted in the intent-based networking paradigm interpret business goals and transform them into orchestrated activities.
By polishing up their skills in E2E orchestration and effectively showcasing offerings, organisations stand to become integral pillars in the digital ecosystem. Network orchestration not only allows them to seamlessly navigate resources across diverse cloud platforms but also ensures consistent and holistic management of services, integrating major cloud players and their apps. Furthermore, they have the potential to unveil specific network functions and data, fortifying service commitments and amplifying the holistic enterprise proposition.
Nevertheless, to truly emerge as central orchestrators for enterprise solutions, there’s considerable groundwork to be covered. As underscored in the Ericsson research, service providers must address and surmount several proficiency gaps to transition from being predominantly connectivity-focused.
Key benefits of E2E orchestration
Enhanced SLAs. Companies can quickly pinpoint issues from a single location rather than juggling multiple tools, leading to faster response times. Moreover, the service orchestration platform efficiently allocates resources to guarantee the timely completion of crucial workflows.
Streamlined DevOps. The user-friendly drag-and-drop interface allows for crafting dependable services and completing processes easily. Instead of manually linking tools, APIs, and scripts can be integrated and converted into reusable components, simplifying workflow creation.
Enhanced flexibility. E2E networks can be quickly reconfigured to meet changing demands, securing agility in response to developing user requirements or market conditions.
Faster time-to-market. With streamlined and automated workflows, new services can be designed, tested, and rolled out more rapidly.
Better resource allocation. Network orchestration ensures that network resources are spread efficiently based on real-time demand and predefined policies.
Proactive issue resolution. With real-time monitoring and analytics, potential issues can be identified and addressed before they affect end-users.
The key components of E2E Orchestration
Network Function Virtualization (NFV)
Network Function Virtualization allows network operators to use a single foundation to provide diverse networking services. They are known as service chains and are made up of Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) linked together. VNFs typically run on standard hardware with varying reliability. Maintaining consistent reliability across such a chain is essential for a dependable service. A core idea of NFV is transforming the network into a data centre. By tapping into the massive global investments of $30-$50 billion annually in such tech, organisations can efficiently deliver top-tier virtual network appliances.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
Software-defined networking (SDN) uses software controllers to direct traffic flow on a network, instead of relying solely on traditional hardware, like routers and switches. By separating the control from the hardware and using adaptable, standard-based software, it offers clearer visibility and finer control over network traffic paths. This results in a more optimised and manageable data flow.
NFV and SDN technologies allow CSPs to integrate cloud innovations, automation, and software-driven solutions into networks. This paves the way for delivering advanced digital services on demand.
Network automation and orchestration tools
Network automation handles specific tasks on individual devices, while network orchestration coordinates multiple tasks across the entire network. Network orchestration tools are software that streamline the setup, management, and optimization of network devices and services. They enhance efficiency, cut down on mistakes, and save costs.
Challenges and considerations of E2E network service orchestration
Security and privacy concerns
As services become more interconnected, ensuring the security of data traversing through service orchestration is paramount. This requires robust encryption and integrity checks. Also, telcos face a growing threat from DDoS attacks which can disrupt workflow. The average cost of such an attack on telco networks increased to $1.16M in 2022, with some exceeding $5M. Implementing E2E orchestration should be accompanied by advanced threat detection and mitigation tools.
With data being the fresh oil, user privacy becomes a primary concern. Businesses should not only be compliant with regulations (like GDPR) but also transparent with users about how their personal information is being used.
Not all solutions are made equal or with the same standards in mind. This can create a patchwork of systems that might not communicate effectively. The industry needs widely accepted standards and protocols to ensure interoperability.
Skills and training requirements
As new technologies emerge, the skill set required to manage, deploy, and optimize them also grows. Telcos need to invest in continuous training and development. With automation and orchestration, the complexity of operations might increase initially. Engineers need to be trained to handle this difficulty.
Legacy network integration
Many telcos still have legacy systems in place. The challenge is to make sure these older systems can coexist and integrate with the latest technologies and updates. This often requires middleware solutions or adapters.
It’s often not feasible to replace everything at once. Telcos need to strategize a phased migration, providing continuous service delivery during the transition.
E2E orchestration has become an important factor, boosting CSPs’ efficiency in cloud-native networks. While it offers heightened flexibility and service levels, security and integration challenges loom. Addressing these through education and standardisation is vital for optimal telco performance.