Building the Adaptive Network: what is Intelligent Automation?

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Change is inevitable and businesses are constantly seeking ways to be future ready. Today, digital technologies are key for effecting change, while utilising AI and machine learning (ML) in various functions is fast becoming the norm. Intelligent Automation (IA) is at the heart of back-office operations, improving processes to drive efficiencies and in doing so, providing a better customer experience (CX). Intelligent Automation combines software-defined control and orchestration with big data analytics, allowing service providers to use deep knowledge about the network to power adaptive automation of their services and operations.

The operations environment for service providers is growing increasingly complex. While advancements like Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) enable on-demand services, among many other benefits, existing network management and Operational Support Systems (OSSs) lack the scale and flexibility to meet the requirements of these more dynamic network technologies. Simple automation techniques like custom scripting are often used to reduce repetitive manual tasks, but providers are looking for more robust automation capabilities to reduce operational complexity and improve efficiency, at scale. By leveraging software that is purpose-built for dynamic SDN/NFV environments, and incorporating recent advancements in big data analytics and machine learning, network operators can make true intelligent automation possible and, as a result, run their businesses smarter and much more efficiently.

The evolution of service providers to SDN/NFV and intelligent automation progresses in three stages:

  • Present mode of operations: Today’s service provider architecture and the current state of operations are based on many operational silos for manually managing multiple physical networks, as well as multiple OSSs and processes customized per service. As providers start to examine their new requirements and plan their transitions to SDN/NFV and automation, they’ll need to engage with an industry thought leader to map out an evolutionary approach to modernising their operations.
  • Transitional mode of operations: At this stage, the service provider will have identified which network domain or specific network functions to virtualize, and the approach to managing and orchestrating these resources, including ‘lightweight’ integration into key OSS elements such as order management, customer self-service portals, and billing. This often takes the form of adopting SDN-based control within a vendor or technology domain, or deploying a new virtualised service for a select group of customers. An important step for the service provider at this evolutionary stage is the move from a siloed, inventory-centric service fulfilment model to a Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) approach that provides unified, end-to-end service inventory and control across multiple domains. At this point, operators can also begin leveraging analytics to derive actionable insights from network performance data.
  • Future mode of operations: In the final stage of evolution, the service provider utilises intelligent automation, guided by the cornerstones of multi-domain LSO, with integrated analytics and machine learning-assisted decision-making. With an architecture based on tight interworking between these components, service provider operations benefit from continuous learning and the ability to dynamically adapt to changing service demands and traffic patterns. In addition to reducing costs through predictive and proactive operations, as well as end-to-end automation, this enables the delivery of more differentiated services and a higher-quality experience for end-customers.

Service providers face an increasingly complex and dynamic environment as more business-critical applications migrate to the cloud and IoT starts to take hold. Intelligent automation, built on software-defined control and orchestration with integrated analytics, is a key concept underpinning Ciena’s Adaptive Network™ vision—and one that should be on every provider’s road map.

Colt On Demand is a market-leading example of the Adaptive Network, enabling customers to add connections and flex bandwidth in minutes. Especially for those used to the flexibility and scalability of the cloud, Colt On Demand delivers this at a network level.

If you want to find out more on how to build the Adaptive Network for your customers, read our whitepaper with Ciena now.

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