Implementing an SMO Framework from VMware for End-to-End RAN Automation, Assurance, and Optimization 

Monolithic RAN systems and their associated complexity, silos, fragmented management, and high operational costs are leading telcos to explore new ways to simplify the deployment and management of mobile networks. Telcos seek to improve flexibility and speed up 5G deployments by adopting architectures that can deploy multi-vendor services and tailor customer experiences in a dynamic, multi-cloud environment.  

The O-RAN Alliance aims to create an open, multi-vendor ecosystem by disaggregating and virtualizing the radio access network. In the O-RAN Alliance’s architecture for open radio access networks, the architectural element that ties together the complex layer of infrastructure, platforms, and software for deploying and managing decomposed multi-vendor radio access networks is called Service Management and Orchestration, or SMO. Simply put, it manages the RAN domain.  

Figure 1: The Service Management and Orchestration layer and its interfaces in the O-RAN Alliance’s architecture. 

In the O-RAN Alliance’s architecture, the key capabilities of SMO include the following SMO services: 

  • The O1 interface to network functions for FCAPS management 
  • The non-real-time RAN Intelligence Controller, or non-RT RIC, for network programmability and optimization 
  • The O2 interface for O-Cloud management 
  • Network function orchestration and lifecycle management 

To deliver end-to-end automation and assurance in a disaggregated, multi-vendor RAN, an SMO framework must be efficient, scalable, and extensible. The result should simplify management, reduce complexity and fragmentation, eliminate silos, improve flexibility, and streamline 5G RAN deployments.  

Figure 2: The Service Management and Orchestration framework from VMware. In this diagram, NRT denotes the near-real-time RIC. 

Automating, Assuring, and Optimizing a Multi-Vendor Open RAN 

The SMO framework from VMware lets you plan, deploy, and orchestrate a multi-vendor, multi-cloud 5G radio access network with end-to-end automation, assurance, and optimization. Full-stack, closed-loop automation and assurance empowers you to control and optimize a multi-layer network ranging from bare-metal servers to network slices.  

  • Design and deploy infrastructure and cloud resources. 
  • Rapidly integrate network functions and rApps from multiple vendors. 
  • Unlock and analyze data from the O1 and O2 O-Cloud interfaces. 
  • Get end-to-end visibility into all the layers of your network. 
  • Support legacy RAN and O-RAN on a common, vendor-neutral platform. 
  • Simplify the management of VNFs, CNFs, and rApps with automated lifecycle management and end-to-end observability. 
  • Optimize your RAN with AI/ML capabilities. 

The SMO layer from VMware ties three products together with a common data collection and management framework:   

  • VMware Telco Cloud Automation performs life-cycle management for containers-as-a-service, containerized network functions (CNFs), virtual network functions (VNFs), and rApps. VMware Telco Cloud Automation can integrate with FCAPS systems from VMware partners to support a multi-vendor RAN. 
  • VMware Centralized RIC is an implementation of the non-real-time RIC in the O-RAN Alliance reference architecture. VMware Centralized RIC supports policy-based guidance, data analytics, AI/ML model management, and enrichment information for underlying RAN elements. It exposes open northbound APIs for RAN management-plane applications (rApps) from various vendors. Because it supports traditional RAN, virtualized RAN, and O-RAN environments, you can exploit the benefits of rApps on VMware Centralized RIC on your existing RAN architecture without having to implement other elements of an open RAN architecture. 
  • VMware Telco Cloud Service Assurance supports RAN observability and assurance by monitoring O-RAN resources and functions from a centralized location in the SMO layer. VMware Telco Cloud Service Assurance uses machine learning to automatically find and fix network and service issues. After a root cause is identified, the system can trigger a series of actions, from identifying business impacts to initiating closed-loop remediation work. 

Fundamental Functions United in Distinction 

This combination unites three fundamental functions in one overarching SMO layer:  

  • Automation and orchestration, including LCM for network functions from various vendors 
  • Analytics and observability 
  • RAN programmability and optimization 
Figure 3: The key capabilities of the three VMware products that come together to form the Service Management and Orchestration framework.  

The result is a powerful, distinctive SMO framework for managing open RAN deployments: 

  • Multi-cloud and multi-vendor with a broad ecosystem of network functions 
  • The non-RT RIC from VMware works with traditional radio access networks, open RAN, and the O-RAN architecture 
  • Common data collection framework for observability and analysis in a single dashboard 
  • AI/ML can be used at various points in a RAN architecture.  

The SMO framework from VMware is, in effect, the centralized basis for implementing, automating, observing, assuring, and optimizing a multi-vendor open RAN at scale without vendor lock-in. 

For more information about Service Management and Orchestration, see the white paper Envisioning Service Management and Orchestration for 5G: Toward a Modular, Multi-Vendor, Multi-Cloud SMO


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