Dynamic service assurance is needed to support IoT and 5G

In an interview with RCR Wireless News during Mobile World Congress 2018, John English, Netscout Systems product line manager, explained the challenges operators face in maintaining service assurance as they virtualize infrastructure to gradually automate quickly evolving telecom networks.

English characterized the introduction of network functions virtualization tools as a gradual process, not a “flash cut. They’re going to be smart about identifying what applications or services make sense given the state of their virtual infrastructure. They’re going to make some rational decisions. There are some things that make a lot of sense right now,” he said, mentioning firewalls, IMS core functionality and DNS functions.

Through the virtualization process, English said Netscout takes an approach dubbed “business assurance” that is the result of the company’s engagements with both communication service providers and large-scale enterprises.

“Business assurance I think comes from the fact that Netscout, about half of our business comes from enterprise and half is service provider. With the overarching trends that are really happening in the industry with digital transformation, that’s affecting every business.” 

Discussing the continuing evolution of service assurance to meet 5G network slicing, a maturing technology that would see application service requirement-specific network and spectrum resources automatically provisioned on an end-to-end virtual network, English said Netscout is “5G-ready” and noted the company is actively supporting IoT networks, and has a deep understanding of latency-sensitive applications based on experience in the financial sector. 

“I think we’ve got a lot of the piece parts. As you’re spinning up these networks, there could be this transitory property. We’ve already solved that problem in that, because we’re don at the VNF layer, we can put together, from a monitoring perspective, a microservice, and then address the inter-operation of it with other networks. Even when it spins down, there’s a snapshot of that instance even if it’s not a continuing operation. I think there’s going to be challenges, but I think we’re well positioned to handle those changes.”

On the IoT front, English said Netscout is working in LTE-M and NB-IoT networks. Service assurance is built on a foundation of turning real time network data into actionable insights that improve network and user quality of experience while monitoring for adherence to service-level agreements. As IoT devices with widely-varying data traffic profiles join networks, an operator has decisions to make. English gave the example of the huge amount of data created by autonomous vehicles.

He said data related to collision avoidance, telemetry and other safety and guidance systems is “going to be your number one priority.” But given the sheer volume of data and need for real-time decision-making, English said there’s a need to “skinny that data down but retain the key metrics.”

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