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Bringing dynamic changes to telco networks
New cloud systems and software development models have rewritten the rules for large-scale, corporate IT operations. But for the most transformational innovations, communication service providers (CSPs) are still playing catch-up. Take one of the biggest: continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD).
In the world of enterprise DevOps teams, CI/CD provides foundational software capabilities to help businesses be more agile and competitive. Using CI/CD pipelines, they can receive ongoing code changes to production applications and implement them quickly, reliably, and (in many cases) automatically. The world’s leading cloud software companies use this agility to continually introduce new capabilities, fix bugs, and generally deliver more competitive services, while reducing the time-to-market of their offerings.
Unfortunately, over in the service provider space, that’s not how things work—at least, until now. Today, with cloud-native 5G networks, it’s now possible to use software methodologies like CI/CD that couldn’t exist previously in telco environments. Of course, being able to use CI/CD and actually doing it are two different things.
What does CI/CD look like in real-world telecom environments? And how do you need to evolve your change management processes to take advantage of it? As part of our ongoing webinar series, Demystifying Cloud-Native 5G Core, HPE can offer some answers.
Meeting the Change Management Challenge
CSPs and their vendors have worked for years to virtualize telco infrastructure, so network functions (NFs) can be managed like any other software application. The industry has made huge strides in delivering on that vision. But for CSP engineering and operations teams, NF software updates are still a massive undertaking.
Telco networks are so complex and sprawling that NF software updates remain a heavily manual, high-risk proposition. In addition, most still rely on an aging, hardware-centric framework tied to legacy Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) boxes. As a result, CSPs typically take a month or more to plan out network upgrades. As you might expect, those upgrades don’t happen very frequently--once a year for most NFs in 4G networks and maybe twice a year for the most aggressive CSPs.
That’s not great for CSP customers, as they must wait longer for bugs to get fixed or to receive new features and capabilities. It’s not great for CSP engineering teams either, as they rely on antiquated change management processes—acceptance, pretesting, preproduction, deployment—that require a huge amount of time and effort. And it’s even worse for CSP sales and marketing departments, who face long delays when launching newly designed services, making it hard to adapt to dynamic market demands.
5G Changes the Game
5G turns this scenario on its head. By design, 5G brings key IT and cloud innovations (fully service-based architecture, cloud-native network elements, software-like service delivery) to telco networks. These innovations make it now possible to bring CI/CD to CSPs and their customers.
With 5G network functions going cloud-native, it becomes much easier to make code changes to infrastructure and services. Each NF is now a collection of containerized microservices rather than a monolithic application. Therefore, you can now gradually, continually update small parts of NF software without having to reinstall the entire application. With this capability, you can expect to receive and implement NF software updates much more frequently.
This is great news for CSPs and their customers. But, it also means traditional change management processes, designed for one or two major updates a year, will no longer get the job done.
Reimagining Change Management
5G already creates a much more dynamic network. You can expect to go from a handful of core NFs to more than 20 and from a dozen or so interfaces to more than 50. Additionally, 5G moves from relatively static services to a model where you will create and tear down network slices to meet changing needs. Whether updating an existing NF, introducing a new one, or deploying a new slice for a new service, you’ll need to be able to ingest software updates much more frequently and deploy them much more quickly.
None of that is possible with traditional operating models. To keep up with the unprecedented pace and dynamism of 5G, you’ll need to establish an industrialized, systematic, and automated change management process. And, you’ll likely need to build some new skills to do it. After all, while IT tools exist to support CI/CD, most are designed for IT and cloud environments—not for the unique needs and constraints of large-scale telco networks.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. As a longtime leader in both enterprise IT and service provider spaces, HPE is uniquely positioned to bring those worlds together. And with the cloud-native HPE 5G Core Stack, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We start with standard CI/CD tools and add the network descriptors and modeling capabilities to use them in CSP environments. We make it easy to manage different NF software versions running in the same network (something that wasn’t even possible before 5G). And, we provide network abstraction to simplify the underlying infrastructure exposed to higher-level orchestrators, so you can automate software updates and end-to-end testing.
See CI/CD in Action
Want to learn more about what these new software methodologies can do for CSP networks? Check out the latest in our cloud-native 5G webinar series, Continuous Change Management and Automation with CI/CD.
In this webinar, HPE experts take you inside a cloud-native 5G core network to show what CI/CD looks like in practice. They’ll explain the process for upgrading NF software, introducing a new NF, and deploying a new network slice. Next, we explore the CI/CD schematic pipeline HPE uses across our different products and stages of delivery including:
- How HPE builds updated solutions in our labs that integrate software from different sources
- How we deliver those integrated software updates to customers
- How you can use the same CI/CD pipeline and processes to initiate your own changes in the network
It all adds up to a faster, more agile way of updating your network—and a huge benefit to your network teams and customers. Ready to learn more? Watch the webinar now.
About the author:
With 15 years of telco experience, Eduardo is the Outbound Product Manager of HPE 5G Core Stack: a complete 5G Core network solution fully pre-integrated and ready to be deployed in 1 hour. As an Outbound PM, he is responsible for product promotion, pre-sales support, and technical marketing initiatives.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
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