Communication service providers (CSPs) have all grappled with one central question through every generation of wireless networking: what’s the “killer app” that will help them attract more customers and grow revenues? Each generation has found its own answer that changed the way people used their mobile devices, including innovations like text messaging, bandwidth, app stores and streaming video. But with 5G, things are different: because 5G opens up so many new opportunities in untapped enterprise markets, and no single killer app can possibly be applied across every single vertical. Organizations in the transportation industry are going to need very different things from 5G services than the healthcare sector would, for example.
It’s helpful to take a step back here, and recognize that for 5G, the killer app will be the network itself, which will be an enabler for quickly creating and launching tailor-made 5G services to meet the needs of customers across different vertical markets with different use cases. Getting to market faster with new services while optimizing the costs of services is the key to generating real business value in the 5G era.
Achieving the kind of flexibility and agility needed for this will require an established foundation first. In yoga, you can accomplish any pose by taking a step by step approach with awareness. Similarly, this foundational principle applies to 5G. By taking critical steps, including the establishment of a cloud native network core and adoption of automation-driven continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), CSPs can add value to their networks.
Finding Advantages for a Cloud Native Network Core
Nokia defines a “cloud native” network core as one that includes a microservices-based architecture with containers, infrastructure-agnostic software, open interfaces and application programming interfaces (APIs).
Many CSPs have embraced the idea of going cloud native, while others are trying to determine whether it’s better to go with containers over bare metal or containers on top of virtual machines (VMs).
When looking at the long-term implications, however, containers over bare metal have a key advantage, bringing much-needed simplification to the network with fewer layers to manage. This results in greater agility and flexibility, and without the virtualization layer between the hardware and software, CSPs benefit from improved efficiency and optimized total cost of ownership (TCO) through reduced capital and operating expenses.
Building Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment
The CI/CD methodology can streamline and automate how software is developed, tested, delivered and deployed. The method involves faster and more frequent building and releasing of new applications and services — which is especially important for 5G. The current cycle of twice-yearly software releases will not be able to meet the dynamic demands of today’s enterprises. CSPs must be able to quickly introduce new services, for any vertical or market segment.
For this reason, using CI/CD, the process of taking software from availability to production deployment can be reduced from about 100 days to just four or five days. Extreme automation makes this possible, as there are no manual steps for testing and deployment with CI/CD.
A highly automated CI/CD can help improve time to market by up to 70% after taking into account other commercial activities in addition to production deployment.
Taking a Holistic Approach to 5G Transformation
CSPs that have begun network transformations with cloud native deployment and are now implementing automated CI/CD methodologies have experienced successful value being added to their 5G networks. Other CSPs that begin with CI/CD are now looking to introduce cloud native network functions. Again, just like in yoga, variations in pose are needed based on what stage in the journey a person may be in.
Regardless of approach, a strong foundation is needed for success, and CSPs must do things correctly from the very beginning of the process to get the agility and flexibility needed for 5G. In 5G networks, success means not searching for one killer app, but instead looking at the network in its totality to see how it can become an enabler of overall business value.
Feature image via Pixabay.