Great interest in ZSM Forum @ Layer 123 SDN NFV World Congress 2018

The ZSM Forum @ Layer 123 SDN NFV World Congress 2018 sparked great interest. The importance of the ZSM work, its objectives and approach were once again supported during the highly successful and well-attended forum.

The third ETSI ZSM (Zero touch network and Service Management) forum was hosted by Layer123 at the well-attended SDN NFV World Congress 2018 that took place on October 8, 2018 in The Hague, Netherlands. This year the congress focused on three primary themes relating to ZSM: technology (e.g. cloud native NFV, SDN, security), automation (e.g. zero touch, artificial intelligence, programmable cloud) and business (e.g. 5G, service transformation, use cases).

Klaus Martiny (DT), the ZSM Chair, opened with welcome notes. Klaus reminded the audience that a year ago at the same congress he shared the plan for multiple companies to set up a new initiative, focusing on end-to-end service and network automation, that will address the complexity (in terms of network management) created by the technology evolution. Since then, ETSI was selected as the umbrella for the new initiative and the new Industry Specification Group (ISG) was formed in December 2017. The first meeting of the new ISG took place in January 2018. The ISG has made great progress with the work and is well positioned to facilitate collaboration with relevant open-source projects, standardization bodies and fora to help the industry move to an environment that leverages synergies and achieves alignment through convergence on a single end-to-end network and service management architecture. Cooperation and alignment across the industry are essential to promote the adoption of and alignment with the ZSM architecture and solutions as well as to achieve automated end-to-end network and service management. The ISG ZSM intends to hold an open dialogue with the related organizations and open-source projects so as to encourage mutual convergence. Klaus highlighted the importance of providing early implementations and Proofs of Concepts (PoCs) that can validate the specifications and inject input into the specification work. To this end, he invited the industry players to demonstrate PoCs.

Nurit Sprecher (Nokia), the ZSM Vice Chair, presented (see presentation in ZSM Open Area) the drivers and triggers for full end-to-end automation of network and service management, the rationale for the formation of the new ISG and its goals as well as the work program and status. Currently, the ZSM group includes 59 members/participants of whom 18 are operators.

Nurit also highlighted the important role of PoCs in demonstrating the viability of the ZSM implementations and she invited the different players to join the ZSM PoC projects. The ZSM PoCs are multi-party projects in which network/service providers, suppliers, universities, research centers, open-source projects, integrators and others can participate. The results and lessons learned from the PoCs will be channeled to the ZSM specification work. Nurit pointed to the first ZSM PoC, ServoCloud (see ZSM Wiki) that aims to demonstrate efficient lifecycle and element management automation at scale, and she invited the audience to examine the PoC which was presented during the congress. Nurit concluded that we have just embarked on an exciting journey towards the automation transformation that will help operators to meet user expectations for service agility and create new business opportunities.  Moreover, she emphasized that the ISG intends to drive a highly focused and agile industry effort involving key players spanning the breadth of the ecosystem. The ISG is open to both ETSI members and non-ETSI members. The different players in the value chain are welcome to join the ISG effort, contribute to the development of the specifications and demonstrate PoCs.

Diego Lopez (Telefonica), one of the founders of the ISG ZSM, presented the ZSM scenarios and key requirements which are based on the current content of ETSI Group Specification (GS) ZSM-001. The ZSM scenarios are used to derive the requirements for an automated end-to-end network and service management in general, and to drive the design and specification of the ZSM architecture and solutions. ZSM-001 identifies business-oriented scenarios and related automation challenges faced by operators and vertical industries. The scenarios’ analyses derive architectural, functional and operational requirements. Currently there are 31 scenarios and more than 90 requirements. The ISG is working towards grouping related scenarios and consolidating the requirements. The intention is to outline the key areas for automation and zero-touch operation with the scenario groups and to demonstrate the value and applicability of the ZSM architecture and the management services for supporting future-proof scenarios, such as 5G network-slicing management as well as incremental evolution towards end-to-end automation and zero-touch. The presentation is available in the ZSM Open Area.   

Uwe Rauschenbach (Nokia), the Rapporteur of the ETSI GS ZSM-002, presented the ZSM architectural framework based on the current status of the ZSM-002. The presentation is available in the ZSM Open Area. As described in previous blogpost, the ZSM framework is service-based, modular, flexible and extensible. It allows for the integration and composition of management services via an integration fabric. The ZSM framework supports the separation of management and automation into different areas of concern, i.e. network management domains and end-to-end cross-domain service management; both are responsible for fulfillment (orchestration and control), assurance and intelligent automation within their scopes. Decoupling network management domains from end-to-end cross-domain service management prevents monolithic systems, reduces complexity in the entire service and enables domain and end-to-end management to evolve independently. The architecture supports open interfaces as well as model-driven service and resource abstraction. The ISG describes and defines the management services which are exposed by management domains, including the E2E service management domain. The services are provided and consumed through the integration fabrics.

The architecture allows operational data to be kept separate from the management applications, enabling efficient access to data and cross-domain data exposure (e.g. topology, telemetry data) which can be leveraged by network and service intelligence capabilities (e.g. data-driven machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technologies for automation). The architecture is designed to enable closed-loop automation (connecting assurance and fulfillment processes) at the network and service management levels where the automated decision-making mechanisms (e.g. self-optimization, automated service assurance) can be bounded by rules and policies.

The next steps in the ZSM-002 work are to complete the definition of the management domain services, define the services exposed by the end-to-end service management domain and determine the support for closed loops. The draft specification is publicly available in the ZSM Open Area.  

Dave Duggal (EnterpriseWeb) presented two demos of the first ZSM PoC, ServoCloud.

The first demo describes a healthy, running VoLTE service which is degraded due to a Denial-of-Service attack and demonstrates how the ZSM framework is used to correlate events, auto-scale and assure service continuity by performing an autonomic closed-loop to automate the end-to-end Service Level Assurance (SLA) management.

The second demo demonstrates a high-definition video run by a customer where the Quality of Service (QoS) performance requirements cannot be satisfied by the SLA and adversely impact the customer experience. The ZSM framework reports the service health to an external customer management system which supports “upselling” of the SLA by the customer management system. When the customer accepts the offer to upgrade the SLA, the change is communicated to the ZSM framework which promotes a re-evaluation of service performance relative to the new, upgraded SLA and scales the service to re-balance according to the upgraded SLA.

More details on PoC#1 can be found on the ZSM Wiki - PoC_1_ServoCloud. The demo#1 was recorded and can be viewed in video of PoC1 Demo (2nd half of video). The slides can be found in the ZSM Open Area.

After a refreshment break, Tim Doiron, a principle analyst in intelligent networking at ACG Research, provided key notes and presented the ACG Research networking framework which is well aligned with the ZSM framework. The framework includes service orchestration which identifies the end-to-end physical and virtualized resource needs, NFV which instantiated virtual elements and SDN which controls the resources. The framework is fed by the service definitions and recommendations provided by intelligent services (analytics, machine leaning and artificial intelligence) which aim to automate the decision based on the closed-loop decision process and make it better, faster and more informed. 

Tim presented the 2018 ACG research adaptive network automation primary (sponsored by Ciena). ACG’S research discovered that 75% of network providers expect significant or full network automation within five years. Over the course of the next five years we should expect a 30% growth in investment in automation. The key drivers for adaptive automation are accelerated service delivery, happy customers, faster time-to-market for new services and business agility. Capital expense reduction looks more like a consequence of automation and less like a driver by itself.

ACG also considered the top items which may limit progress in adaptive network automation and found out that these include security concerns, the ability to obtain real-time information from existing networks, lack of intelligence or analytics to turn data into meaningful insights, skills gaps, the immaturity of orchestration software and the convergence of traditional management and cloud management. The key components for increasing automation include analytics and intelligence, the abstraction of intelligent information from data, secured networks and data, network management and control. If there is a mistake in data exposure or a hole in security, issues may be accelerated. To solve that, the security framework should be put right.

Further research undertaken by ACG (sponsored by the Linux Foundation Networking) investigated the impact of open-source technologies on the Communication Service Provider (CSP) ecosystem. For this, ACG conducted extensive interviews with service providers and vendor leaders. Their report hones in on their perspectives towards open-source adoption in three areas of the network: orchestration, SDN control and packet transport infrastructure.  It distinguishes two open categories of vendors: those that perceive open-source collaborations as strategic for their business model and have built their companies in the era of open source, and those that view open-source collaborations more tactically and are motivated by faster time-to-market and/or a reduction in R&D costs for a given development as well as by the priority of their customers.  The research discovered that the key CSP motivation for open-source adoption is to have a common, unified approach among global service providers. The second motivation is to avoid vendor lock-in and reserve the option to replace products if needed. CSPs are also seeking access to a broader talent pool.

Another aspect that the research checked was the way in which CSPs see open-source impacting their operations. They found out that service providers still rely on vendors and intent to offer open-source via their vendors. They look for initial software maturity and are willing to spend more money on testing and quality. They believe that there will be a positive financial impact but results remain to be seen. Regarding the issue of competitiveness, they are of the opinion that the use of open-source enhances competitiveness, ensuring faster development at a lower cost.

Tim’s presentation can be found in the ZSM Open Area. The complete research can be found at the Linux Foundation website.

Next on the agenda was a panel that was moderated by Tim Doiron. The panel participants represented a good mixture of service providers, vendors and technology providers and included: Oliver Cantor (Associate Director of Product Strategy at Verizon), Klaus Martiny (Senior Program Manager at Deutsche Telekom),  Magnus Buhrgard (Open Source & Standardization Manager at Ericsson), Simon Osborne (Head of Strategy, Digital Operations at Nokia), Alex Vul (Principal Cloud Solution Architect at Intel) and Per Kangru (Technologist in the CTO Office of Viavi Solutions).

Prior to the debate and the discussions, both Oliver and Klaus presented their service providers’ top ZSM focus areas.

Oliver Cantor presented Verizon’s key objective for the Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) engine, which is to build a network without touching anything. This includes bootstrap bare mental, instantiation and configuration of Virtual Network Functions, connectivity as well as service activation, auto-checking and on-demand software update in addition to respawn and self-healing. All these can help to reduce truck-rolls, eliminate user error, comply with maintenance needs and recover faster from outages. In terms of the automation journey, Verizon expects to see zero-touch provisioning, orchestration and closed-loop assurance, cross-carrier automation and API first.

Klaus Martiny presented the Deutsche Telekom vision for full automation with no human involvement. This is not only about cost reduction, since it mainly concerns rapid and agile service introduction as well as an acceleration in the pace of innovation. They started to lay the foundations for automation with the move to a data-model-driven network and service management. But, clearly this is not enough! Industry transformation takes time and so does application rearchitecting. There are challenges to address which include orchestration and automation, networking, security and operationalization. In term of priorities, ZSM work should focus on end-to-end cross-domain service management (including the interfaces between the domains) as well as the life cycle management of end-to-end services. Currently, there are too many silos and too many technologies to operate and manage. The presentation can be found in the ZSM Open Area

Key learnings from the panel:

  • Key drivers for automation are rapid and agile service delivery as well fast time-to-revenue. Cost reduction is a consequence.
  • Having a unified approach in the industry is key.
  • Attention should be given to: testing, security, trust building, openness, industry convergence, incremental evolution, end-to-end cross-domain services, CI/CD capabilities.
  • The solutions should include autonomous systems where escalations are only done when needed.
  • Analytics and AI/ML require access to the correct data at the right place.
  • Automation requires a mindset change as no one is willing to give up control.
  • The role of the human is not disappearing but has shifted; it needs to inject/tune policy during the automation process.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning in service providers’ networking are still in the early days; they require expertise in mathematical models as well as support for predictive analytics. 
    It should be ensured that the right thing is done. A challenge to the normal state is unknown but this may be found to be as powerful.
  • Intent-based provides the user/value perspective, addressing capabilities without the need to get into the complexity.
    Intent shows the desired state. This is still not available.
    Intent should direct/guide the closed-loop automation processes.
    Policy is the way to express the intent.
    Different organizations are working on policy and policy frameworks, such as IETF, MEF, ZSM and ONAP.
    DevOps can be used to discover the intent. 
  • 5G and network slicing are where automation is necessary and where all the pieces to enable automation are needed.
  • Operators’ advice to vendors trying to increase automation for their products/services and to help them to realize their ZSM transformation:
    • Realize the transformation based on open standards and enable a trusted model as well as a business model;
    • Facilitate open discussion which is not linked to available products; listen to each other.
  • Vendors’ advice to service providers trying to increase automation and realize a ZSM transformation:
    • Utilize DevOps, which is a structured process and can speed up development;
    • Work together;
    • Automation is not only about technology; it requires changes in the process and in the mindset of the people;
    • Drive innovation through competition.

Overall, the ZSM forum was very successful and sparked a lot of interest and discussion; the feedback from the audience was very positive. I would like to thank the presenters and the panelists for their meaningful contribution to the success of the workshop. Special thanks to Tim Doiron who once again supported the ZSM group, enlightened us with his interesting keynotes and important messages and successfully moderated a very dynamic and fruitful debate.

Let me conclude by referring to the excellent report on the ZSM architectural framework which has recently been issued by Caroline Chappell, a research director at Analysis Mason. In her report, Caroline says that “ZSM is positioning itself as the low-touch management framework for the 5G network that can span multiple domain-specific and open-source network automation initiatives. Its vision and its modern, end-to-end approach provide an important missing ingredient in a crowded market, which will be beneficial if well-accepted and executed”. Let’s continue the good work and make sure ZSM provides significant value to the industry.

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