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Fragmented Assurance Doesn’t Cut it Anymore

Today’s networks are too complex to manage domain by domain. It’s time for a unified view with unified assurance.

Imagine you’re the head of a crack team running video surveillance at a big department store. You have all the latest tools and security systems at your fingertips. Unfortunately, each department has its own separate system. Want to see what’s happening in Housewares? Just open this tool. How about Men’s Clothing? Swivel over to a different screen and open this other tool. Now Women’s Shoes? Swivel yet again—new screen, new tool. And by the way, each system is totally different, using different UIs, terminology and processes. So, if a problem crops up that spans multiple departments, hope you’re not in a big hurry to fix it.

Of course, this is ridiculous—nobody would design a surveillance system in such a fragmented way. It would take forever to investigate problems (not to mention dealing with the constant whiplash caused by all that swiveling). Unfortunately, it’s not that far from how communications service providers (CSPs) monitor and manage their networks today. One system for managing legacy physical devices. Another for virtualized networks. Another for SD-WAN.  Another for NFV.

It’s not that operators set out to make their lives more complicated. It’s just that, as CSP networks have evolved, service assurance hasn’t really kept pace. The result is an increasingly fractured view of the network and the services running on top of it. How does this lack of visibility impact CSPs and their customers? And what kind of capabilities do they need to stay on top of their networks as they are today, instead of a decade ago? Let’s take a closer look.

 

CSP Networks Keep Getting More Complicated

Not long ago, service provider networks were (from the perspective of assurance, at least), fairly uniform. Every IP service was delivered over physical devices that operators could monitor and manage, usually with just a few tools. Today, CSP networks are a complex mix of virtualized network functions (NFV), legacy physical devices, software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) overlays, often provided on a customer-by-customer basis, and more. What customers view as a “service” may now traverse multiple domains and both physical and virtual devices. But within CSP organizations, each area typically has its own set of monitoring tools, with specialized experts supporting them.

As Anil Rao, principal analyst for Analysys Mason notes in Reimagining service assurance for NFV, SDN and 5G, “Existing physical networks will coexist with new NFV networks for the foreseeable future, creating a complex network environment and introducing a new dimension of assurance and operations complexity. New-age automated assurance systems must provide monitoring and operations automation capability for hybrid physical, virtual and cloud native networks and services.”

 

The Costs of Fractured Monitoring

Why is it imperative to gain a more unified view of the network? Because escalating complexity, paired with diminished visibility, leads to a host of negative business outcomes. As Appledore Research details in Rapid Automated Service Assurance in the NFV and SDN Network, running multiple assurance systems in “silos” leads to:

  • High operating costs as networks require more and more specialized tooling and expertise
  • Inability to quickly translate device- or domain-specific alarms into real-world business impact to customers
  • Slow, inefficient workflows to detect, diagnose and repair issues
  • Need to maintain multiple duplicate data sets and models, further increasing costs and complexity
  • Higher license fees for tools and software dedicated to each separate domain

These issues can carry a significant cost. According to some analysts, service providers lose $11,000 for every minute of downtime while they try to piece together what’s happening, where, and which customers it’s affecting. And that doesn’t include the hit CSPs take to customer satisfaction, which can be even more significant. As Analysys Mason analyst Terry van Staden notes, “We know from our related business services research that customer satisfaction has a substantial impact on churn and cross-selling potential. Our data supports the common-sense assumption that satisfied customers are far less likely to churn and more likely to purchase additional services than those that are unsatisfied.”

Addressing this fractured network view is important for current networks. But in the near future,as you roll out 5G services, it will become absolutely essential. 5G places demands on the network unlike anything CSPs have had to contend with before: Exponentially higher traffic density. Up to 77,000% higher throughput. Latency requirements up to 6,000x lower than previous-generation services. In a 5G world, network issues that introduce just a few milliseconds of delays can render critical applications (autonomous vehicles, remote telemedicine, industrial automation) completely unusable.

Anatomy of a Modern Approach to Service Assurance

These are serious issues, but they’re not intractable. To fix them, you need a more holistic way to monitor and manage services across your entire environment—physical, virtual, SD-WAN and more—in one place. A modern approach to service assurance should enable you to:

  • Bridge physical and virtual worlds:  If you’re going to deliver better service experiences and meet more stringent SLAs, future service assurance tools should allow you to monitor and manage services traversing both physical and virtual domains through a single solution. It should provide a unified view centered on your customers and their services—not on the various infrastructure domains.
  • Visualize everything:  In today’s sprawling, dynamic operator networks, just knowing what’s out there is a huge challenge. A next-generation service assurance solution should automatically discover the topology of the entire multivendor network—including the transport, physical, virtual and services layers. It should automatically recognize when something in the network changes and update its relational map, so you’re never working from out-of-date information.
  • Manage all networks through a single pane of glass:  Next-generation assurance solutions should integrate service monitoring and network management end to end. That means correlating devices such as hosts, switches and routers with VMs, NFV, SDN and SD-WAN environments. It’s this correlation that empowers operations teams to identify faults and performance issues quickly. It’s also a necessary prerequisite for systems to respond to issues automatically and remediate the actual service rather than just a portion of the network.
  • Support multi-tenant, multivendor environments:  Just as you don’t want to have to rely on different tools for different network domains, you don’t want to have to use different tools for different customers. Instead, you should be able to monitor and proactively manage multiple customers, even with diverse environments, in one place. Your operations team should be able to visualize, analyze and optimize your environment to accelerate resolution times, assure high availability and meet stringent SLAs.

Fortunately, capabilities like these are no longer science fiction. You don’t have to rely on network monitoring and management tools built for an earlier time. It’s time to step up to holistic, multi-layer service assurance.

To learn how VMware can help, visit us at VMworld 2019 or: VMware Smart Assurance

To learn how Dell EMC can help, visit: Dell EMC Service Provider Solutions

Blog by Karina Dahlke, Telco and Edge Cloud Business Unit, VMware

Delivering applications and services for a multi-cloud and 5G network with VMware vCloud NFV 3.0

Changing CSP Network Requirements

NFV objectives have evolved quite significantly from the initial need for CSPs to virtualize the infrastructure to being able to scale with technology, products, and services into new and adjacent markets.  There is acute focus on operational transformation with CSPs driving continuous innovation and rapid service deployment for 5G and IoT use cases.  Applications, services, and greater network intelligence is being deployed at the network edge to deliver higher QoE and security.

A key enabler of this transformation is the Telco Cloud – an operating model that leverages programmable networks, with NFV and SDN being key enablers.  With the ability to run a multitude of network functions on off-the-shelf servers, CSPs can provision and scale services faster and substantially reduce costs.

With its vision of delivering any application on any device on any cloud, VMware has extended its technology to cross every infrastructure boundary there is, from the data center into public and telco clouds, and the network edge supporting edge clouds and IoT devices.

VMware vCloud NFV – A platform for Multi-Cloud

At Mobile World Congress 2019, VMware has taken another step in the expansion of its vCloud NFV offerings, with the announcement of VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 vCloud Director Edition.

With support for VMware vCloud Director 9.5, the new release features key enhancements in NFV performance, secure multi-tenancy, networking, and multi-site operations, enabling Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to quickly scale and grow revenues while reducing cost and complexity.

VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 vCloud Director Edition

Enhancements in VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 help CSPs realize the true potential of distributed multi-cloud services through accelerated time to revenue leveraging NFV automation and service onboarding, lower infrastructure costs while delivering greater performance, and optimized operations for increased network efficiency and reduced operational costs.

Key capabilities provided with the VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 vCloud Director Edition include:

  • Secure Multi-tenancy and Enhanced RBAC – VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 includes support for vCloud Director 9.5 that implements a redesigned multi-tenant Role Based Access Controls (RBAC) model. The model allows CSP administrators to create Global Tenant Roles assigned to tenant users enabling self-service management without the need of service provider involvement. CSP administrators can also create rights bundles that correspond to tiers of service, separately monetizable functionality, or any other arbitrary rights grouping and make them available to various organizations.
  • Deterministic NFV Performance – VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 includes support for VMware NSX-T Data Center, which adds Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) based techniques to deliver accelerated data plane network performance with the new NSX Managed Virtual Distributed Switch (N-VDS) in Enhanced Data Path mode. Efficient separation of data plane functions from control and management plane functions enables CUPS based architectures while automated NUMA alignment, multi-tiered routing, bare-metal edges, and HugePages support enable increased workload performance while preserving the benefits of key vSphere functionalities like HA, vMotion, and DRS.
  • Efficient Multi-site Deployment – VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 enables CSPs to achieve the scale and manageability required to efficiently deploy and operate distributed multi-cloud deployments. It facilitates efficient cloud services management with the flexibility to deploy centralized VIM for a common management plane across sites or a distributed architecture with federated management. Decoupling NSX-T Data Center functionality from vCenter server enables cloud-scale performance using a distributed control plane architecture, while the separation of data plane workloads from control plane and management plane workloads enables CUPS-based scalable architectures.
  • Advanced Networking – VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 supports a range of new carrier-oriented networking capabilities through dual stack support for NSX-V and NSX-T. The vCloud NFV platform delivers increased network resiliency through fast link failure detection, ERSPAN port mirroring, and support for a broad category of workloads including container-based workloads, multi-cloud workloads, and PaaS platforms.
  • Intent-Based Service Assurance – VMware vCloud NFV 3.0 with support through vRealize Operations 7.0, vRealize Log Insight 4.7, and vRealize Network Insight 3.9, delivers a new paradigm in NFV operations with intent-based assurance that allows CSPs to define operational and business intent for the network and continuously verify performance against the defined intent through Day 0, Day 1 and Day 2 operations.

Evolution of Networking in vCloud NFV

Also announced this year at MWC 2019 is the release of VMware NSX Data Center 2.4.  CSPs need for highly scalable networks that are truly reliable is at an all-time high.

NSX-T Data Center is a core component of vCloud NFV providing the networking overlay support across the complete NFVI and supporting multiple telco-oriented use cases. New networking features now available in NSX Data Center are:

  • IPv6 Support: As business around the world ramp up IPv6 deployments, support for IPv6 in NSX-T meets a critical requirement of telco networks.
  • Scalability: NSX-T 2.4 can scale to hundreds of thousands of routes, over a thousand hosts per NSX domain, and enables high-scale multi-tenancy. 
  • High Availability: NSX-T 2.4 supports clustering with NSX managers, enabling a highly available management plane for GUI and API, reducing the likelihood of NSX operational failures.
  • Service Function Chaining: NSX-T 2.4 introduces the ability to perform Service Insertion and Service Function Chaining, through the IETF SFC framework and NSH, enabling CSPs to rapidly onboard, automate, and launch new services to meet dynamic subscriber demands
  • Container Networking and Cloud Native architectures: VMware is enhancing support for containers with enhanced visibility into all container and PaaS clusters that are supported by a NSX deployment, as well as visibility into all containerized applications supported by a NSX deployment.

VMware Ready for NFV

The VMware Ready for NFV program is a certification program that recognizes VNF partners that have made commitments to the vCloud NFV platform.  VMware Ready for NFV certified partners have completed a range of operability and interworking assessments in a dedicated accreditation facility and have access to VMware product roadmaps and solution development strategies in order to ensure their solutions continue to maximize the potential of the underlying vCloud NFV platform.  CSPs can look to the VMware Ready for NFV certification program as proof of close VNF integration with the vCloud NFV platform.

VMware continues to increase the number of partners that have been certified within the VMware Ready for NFV program. At MWC 2019, we have announced certification of more than 105 Virtual Network Functions from 85 vendors worldwide.  VMware’s broad ecosystem of certified partners creates a true marketplace that helps CSPs remove barriers to successful NFV implementations.

Additional Resources

To learn more about VMware’s vCloud NFV Platform

Introducing VMware Service Assurance: Real-time network intelligence for your network

Planning for 5G

Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are in the midst of a network transformation as they plan their evolution from 4G to 5G networks.  As CSPs plan their network rollout and the delivery of new 5G services, ensuring reliability, availability, and quality of service (QoS) in their networks is paramount to their success. Service Assurance plays a key role in delivering the foundations of a highly available network with the ability to provide greater insights and analytics along with real-time automation and optimization.

At Mobile World Congress 2019, VMware announced the continuing momentum of delivering key strategic network initiatives with the latest release of VMware Smart Assurance v10.0 and VMware Smart Experience.

VMware extends it operations management portfolio with VMware Smart Assurance and VMware Smart Experience solutions. Six key characteristics are seen necessary for an effective design strategy:

  1. Advanced analytics and automation, fueled by machine learning for proactive avoidance
  2. Distribution, graph based topologies with hierarchical analytics
  3. Real-Time intelligence, for dynamic optimizations and avoidance
  4. Intent-Driven, moving away from static rules to dynamic policies and operational intent
  5. Extensible solution, to cater to declarative constructs
  6. Open solution, that is model driven and offers ease of integration

Key Use Cases Addressed by Smart Assurance and Smart Experience

VMware Smart Assurance and VMware Smart Experience deliver real-time intelligence in a hybrid physical cloud environment spanning transport, network, infrastructure, and services. Operational intelligence ranges in granularity from fault and performance monitoring to individual subscriber experience management.

Key capabilities in VMware Smart Assurance to look for include:

  • Dynamic Topology Discovery: automated VNF and network discovery using VMware Integrated Openstack multi-tenancy and standardized blueprints including TOSCA and HEAT correlating and isolating faults and performance issues across physical (transport, IP core, MPLS) and virtualized layers
  • NFV Assurance: VMware Smart Assurance v10 includes integration with VMware vCloud NFV with support for virtual compute (vSphere), virtual networking (NSX-T), both Virtual Infrastructure Managers – VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) and vCloud Director (vCD). Smart Assurance 10 enables VMware vRealize Operations to perform multi-tenant cross-domain performance monitoring and isolate faults and degradation across physical, virtualized, and service layers
  • Assurance for Virtual IMS Deployments: VMware Smart Assurance v10 extends a new common information model for vIMS, correlated across several layers such as VNF components, VIM Tenancy, Cloud Infrastructure, and Physical Network, providing effective Performance Monitoring, Root Cause Analysis and Issue Isolation
  • SD-WAN Assurance: VMware Smart Assurance v10 supports SD-WAN enterprise services and is fully integrated with VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud for fault management. It provides discovery of branches, gateways and networks along with providing issue isolation and impact assessment of sites, gateways, and networking. VMware Smart Assurance’s multi-vendor SD-WAN monitoring strategy already in place for Viptela and Versa Networks.
  • Performance Management & Analytics through integration with vRealize Operations: the integration extends vRealize Operations virtual operations management with a single pane of glass visibility across service, virtual and physical domains and includes powerful features such as capacity planning, performance monitoring, cost analysis, and compliance monitoring. The integration with Smart Assurance auto discovers and collects performance statistics from telco services (SD-WAN, vIMS) and physical networks (router, switch, interface, port), enabling vRealize Operations to provide correlated health visibility across VNFs, virtual machines, hosts, logical networks, and physical networks, including Machine Learning with dynamic thresholding and behavioral alerting.

VMware Smart Experience is a streaming analytics solution that delivers real-time actionable insights, at a subscriber level, for mobile access and core network management and optimization. Valuable capabilities and use cases include:

  • Network Planning and Real Time Operations: understand the demand and capacities of cell/sectors, gateways, regions, and data centers.
  • Customer Experience Management: understand the quality of services and effective customer experience over the 2G/3G/4G mobile networks and proactively optimize VIP customers.
  • Fraud Detection: identify various SIM swap and device swap use case scenarios and avoid revenue leakage for voice and data.
  • Location-aware marketing: enable up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to customers with location based subscriber profiling and service consumption.
  • QoS analytics: measure and analyze data and voice QoS with precise granularity – per subscriber, per application, per cell site – in real-time
  • Application and Device profiling: understand the consumption of various applications such as multimedia, browsing, social, etc. dimensioned by devices for targeted cellular network planning, QoS management, and network tuning.

 

The VMware Smart Assurance platform also delivers a new modular architecture featuring:

  • New Data Collector Framework (DCF): enabling a variety of new data sources integration, additional scalability and distribution using Kafka publish/subscribe
  • New Platform Architecture: based on Kafka messaging bus allowing more scalability, application decoupling and sharing of data
  • KPI Engine: declarative component for KPI definition and calculations using multiple streams and expressions
  • Enhanced persistency of events: active and historical events can now be easily analyzed using ElasticSearch simple and sophisticated querying mechanism
  • Enhanced UI/UX: new notification screens based on VMware Clarity framework

VMware solutions are poised to address the key characteristics of an effective service assurance solution which can be enabled in 5G distributed cloud environment composed of hybrid physical and virtual transformations. A real-time dynamic discovery engine embodies the complex multi-directed correlations providing the foundational constructs to enable effective fault and performance management decision trees. Intelligence engines with signature and machine learnt algorithmic approaches, achieve the real-time proactive optimization cadence necessary for autonomous assurance in transport, physical, virtual, and service domains.