Pushing forward in the ZSM#7 meeting: the ZSM architecture work has reached the finishing line and work has commenced on closed-loop – the key automation enabler

The ZSM#7 meeting was hosted by Intel on 17-21 June, 2019, at their headquarters in the sunny city of Santa Clara, California.

ZSM7 2019

The meeting was highly productive and significant progress was made. In a nutshell, we are now finalizing the work on the ZSM requirements and architecture. The final drafts for approval of these specifications will be available during July 2019 and publication is expected to take place in September. In addition, we advanced the work on the means of automation, end-to-end management and the orchestration of network slicing as well as on the ZSM landscape. We agreed on the skeleton of the end-to-end cross-domain service orchestration and automation specification. Noteworthy is the kickoff of a whole bunch of new work items dedicated to closed-loop automation.

In my previous blog on the ZSM story: the power to transform, I described the ZSM architecture and the work done by the ZSM group. Since that post, we have consolidated the requirements that are derived from various business-oriented scenarios and the related automation challenges faced by operators and vertical industries.

We have also worked to enrich the ZSM service-based architecture (on ETSI server in open draft area).  As described in the previous blog, logically, the ZSM framework is composed of distributed management and data services, organized into management domains and integrated via an integration fabric. Since that post, we have specified additional management services that aid the zero-touch network and service management. We have provided details relating to the integration fabric. The integration fabric enables management service consumption, communication between management functions within and across management domains, including the registration, the discovery and invocation of management services (involving access control) as well as integration with 3rd party management systems.

The description of the cross-domain data services has been enhanced. Data is the lifeblood of automation; rapid and efficient access to current, real-time management data is the key to analytics, machine intelligence and closed-loop automation! Cross-domain data services provide the means to data persistence and allow data to be stored separately from the application and shared with authorized consumers (within and across the management domains), coupled with appropriate governance and security. Data may include performance-monitoring data, assurance data, trace data, configuration data, miscellaneous log data, topology data, inventory data, etc.

Special attention in the architecture work was given to the issue of security with the aim of ensuring the security and privacy of data being transmitted/processed/stored within the ZSM framework as well as the security of the ZSM framework components.

The ZSM architecture is designed for closed-loop automation and optimized for data-driven analytics and machine intelligence. Closed-loop (feedback-driven) operation enables the continuous optimization and adaptation of network and resource utilization, and automated service assurance and fulfilment. It is bounded by policies and rules to determine the operational conditions under which autonomous operation is allowed (e.g. levels of human oversight, conditions for escalation, delegation and coordination). Closed-loop operation can be performed at the management domain level and at the end-to-end service management domain level and can span multiple management domains. Multiple closed loops can run simultaneously and use various subsets of the management services and management functions to realize their purpose. We added a section to the ZSM architecture document to describe the operational considerations for supporting closed-loop operation and illustrated (see Figure 1 below) how closed-loop can be supported by the ZSM management functions with their respective management service capabilities.

ZSM figure showing closed loop

Figure 1: Illustration of closed-loop operation

Closed-loop automation is a very important but complex topic. In order to handle the work in a consistent and focused way, we agreed to start working on the following three multi-part work items which relate to closed-loop automation:  

  • GS ZSM009-1 - Closed-loop automation: Enablers

This work item will focus on the specification of the enablers to automatically deploy and configure closed loops (involving both the end-to-end service management domain and the management domains). It will cover the means of coordination/delegation/escalation between closed loops as well as the ways in which their behavior can be steered (e.g. using policies, rules, intents, etc.).

  • GS ZSM009-2 - Closed-loop automation: Solution

This work item will specify solutions for specific end-to-end service and network automation use cases, based on the ZSM009-1 enablers and the ZSM architectural elements for closed loops, defined in ZSM002. It will include the interaction of the end-to-end closed loop with the relevant ZSM consumers associated with the particular use cases.

  • GR ZSM009-3 - Closed-loop automation: Advanced topics

This work item will investigate advanced topics relating to closed-loop operations, such as learning and cognitive capabilities, ways to set and evaluate levels of oversight, autonomy, and operational confidence regarding the behavior of the closed loops. 

The work on closed-loop operation covered by these three new work items is expected to be completed by mid-2020. 

End-to-end automation is a big deal and represents the industry’s fascinating journey for the coming years that will help operators meet user expectations for service agility and create new business opportunities. Closed-loops are fundamental for network and service automation and we plan to drive a highly focused effort to develop qualitative specifications that will help the industry accelerate the automation transformation.

The ISG is open to ETSI members and non-ETSI members alike. The different players in the value chain are welcome to join the ISG effort, contribute to the development of these key specifications and demonstrate Proofs of Concepts (PoCs).

The next ZSM F2F meeting (ZSM#8) will be hosted by Deutsche Telekom in Bonn, Germany, on 11-13 September 2019. The meeting will follow the Deutsche Telekom summit on “Telcos transformation journey – Open Source and Standardization as key drivers” that will take place in Bonn on 9-10 September 2019.

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