Industry Specification Group (ISG) Zero Touch Network and Service Management (ZSM) Activity Report 2022

Chair: Diego Lopez, Telefonica

Examining use cases and requirements for zero-touch network and service management; producing specifications to define a future-proof, end-to-end operable framework, solutions and core technologies for autonomous networks.

The pivotal deployment of 5G and new network consumption paradigms – such as network slicing or non-public network integration – have triggered the need for a radical change in the way networks and services are managed and orchestrated. In particular there is a need to accommodate:

  • an increase in the overall complexity resulting from the transformation of networks into programmable, software-driven, service-based and holistically managed architectures, and
  • the unprecedented operational agility required to support new business opportunities enabled by technology breakthroughs, such as network slicing.

These new network deployments come with an extreme range of requirements, including massive seemingly infinite capacity, imperceptible latency, ultra-high reliability, personalized services with dramatic improvements in customer-experience, global web-scale reach, and support for massive machine-to-machine communication.

Maximizing the efficiency of end-to-end network operations requires increased automation of functions that are currently administered with direct human intervention, such as configuration and capacity management. In particular, the automation of network and service management has become an urgent necessity to deliver 5G services with speed and agility while ensuring their economic sustainability.

Driven by documented business scenarios, ISG ZSM is examining requirements, defining specifications, and demonstrating technologies for tomorrow’s zero-touch networks.  The group’s ultimate target is to enable network autonomous operation steered by high-level policies. These autonomous networks will be able to self-manage and self-organize (configuration, healing, assurance, optimization, etc.) without human intervention beyond the initial transmission of intents.

ISG ZSM works to strengthen the collaboration with key organizations to promote the adoption of and alignment with the ZSM architecture and solutions, ensuring that automated end-to-end network and service management can be achieved.

In 2022 ISG ZSM published two new Group Specifications, together with revisions to one existing Group Specification and an existing Group Report.

Published as a Group Specification in July, GS ZSM 008 is a normative document that defines management processes during the lifecycle of E2E services, and the interactions between E2E service management domain and management domains.

Published in June, GS ZSM 009-2 represents the second part of a multi-part Group Specification on ‘closed loop’ automation that can be empowered by advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence. Based on the generic enablers and architectural elements for closed loops as defined in the previously-published ZSM 002 and ZSM 009-1, it presents solutions for automation of E2E service and network management use cases. Still in development – with publication anticipated in 2023 – the third part of this GS will investigate advanced topics related to closed-loop operations such as learning and cognitive capabilities, ways to set and evaluate levels of oversight, autonomy, and operational confidence in the behaviour of closed loops.

In February we issued an updated edition of our Group Specification GS ZSM 006 V1.2.1 that presents a Proof of Concept (PoC) framework for use by ISG ZSM to coordinate and promote multi stakeholder PoC projects illustrating key aspects of ZSM.

In January we published a revised version of GR ZSM 004 V2.1.1 – a landscaping document which compiles information on activities in other SDOs, fora and open source communities.

During the year progress was meanwhile made on several further Work Items, anticipating publication during 2023:

Intent-based management enables simpler and more user-friendly expressions of input information and higher flexibility in automation. GR ZSM 011 will present a study of intent-driven autonomous networks, investigating the potential use of intents as key enabler for enhancing autonomous network and service management within a ZSM framework.

GS ZSM 012 will specify extensions and new capabilities – the so-called AI enablers – for the ZSM framework reference architecture. The set of AI-enabling capabilities is specified as management services, complementing the existing management services defined in GS ZSM 002. The study focuses on AI-related areas such as data handling and analytics, action, interoperation, governance and execution environment.

GR ZSM 013 is a report on the automation of CI/CD (continuous integration / continuous development) for ZSM services and managed services. It studies use cases, potential requirements and possible solutions of automating CI/CD of software-related primarily to management services and/or functions and secondarily to managed services.

Building on work in GR ZSM 010, GS ZSM 014 specifies security capabilities for the ZSM framework architecture. The set of security capabilities focuses on automatic security governance of management services, with a focus on automatic security governance of management service/function including AI/ML-enabled service/function, adaptive trust relationship between management domains, dynamic access control and exposure of ZSM service, as well as supporting intelligent security services built on capabilities of ZSM framework. It also documents deployment aspects of the security scenarios to validate the applicability of the security requirements and management services/functions.

A new report GR ZSM 015 will describe the Network Digital Twin concept, investigating its applicability for automation of zero-touch network and service management and introduce existing, emerging and future scenarios that can benefit from it. Identifying existing specifications and solutions (both ETSI and external ones) that can be leveraged to maximize synergies, the report will outline recommendations of additional capabilities needed in the ZSM framework to support Network Digital Twins.

Meanwhile progress was made on updates to GS ZSM 007, our glossary of terms and concepts related to Zero touch network and Service Management. The goal of the guide is to achieve a common language and understanding across all ETSI ISG ZSM deliverables.

See the full list of ISG ZSM Work Items in development here.

During the year ISG ZSM continued its regular exchange of information with other ETSI bodies (notably ISG NFV, ISG ENI) as well as with key external organizations (ITU FG AN, O-RAN, 3GPP, LFN ONAP), hence maintaining fruitful collaborations to promote the adoption of and alignment with the ZSM architecture and solutions. The ISG intends to maintain the overall mindshare and architectural integrity in ZSM (beyond ETSI) and strengthen these collaborations to ensure the leverage of synergies and alignment.

At the close of 2022 the number of ISG ZSM signatories stood at 76 organizations, of which 46 are ETSI Full or Associate members.