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Dynamic Assurance: The Linchpin in Carrier SDN Deployments

For the past several years, communications service providers (CSPs) have been moving toward a major network and operational transformation, with the twin goals of operational efficiency and service agility. Software-defined networking (SDN) has emerged as a bedrock technology in this effort, ensuring that the on-demand network services CSPs are bringing to market are dynamically provisioned, and that they make the best use of available assets through real-time network control. But as carriers begin commercial deployments in earnest, it’s becoming clear that adding assurance capabilities to the mix is necessary to capture the full range of SDN-enabled benefits that CSPs are looking for.

Taming the Unpredictable

When it comes to carrier SDN progress, CSPs have defined the vision, goals and architectures, and are progressing from field trials to commercial deployments. The goal is the dynamic delivery of on-demand network services, using automated provisioning and intelligent services placement. But operationalizing these services requires much more. CSPs need mechanisms that ensure quality levels and network efficiency. They need active network assurance systems that ask, how is my network service performing? Where are the issues and potential issues that could impact the end-user experience? What should I do to fix any problems? This requires assurance integration with carrier SDN.

The first part of an integrated carrier SDN assurance solution requires that all the KPIs, analytics and alarm correlations that are the basis of assurance capabilities today – as well as all the service/network supervision and fault management applications this data drives – must be supported in a multi-vendor, multi-layer carrier SDN context.

The second part recognizes that while network assurance was always important in legacy-network environments where service and network behavior were well-defined and static, it becomes critically important in a carrier-SDN world where the network provisions services on the fly, calling up virtual network functions (VNFs) as needed, and dynamically allocating network resources to services. In this shifting environment where the composition and demand for a service can change from second-to-second, the visibility provided by assurance data begins to guide SDN automation. In this new process, referred to as dynamic or closed-loop assurance, KPIs/analytics/correlations are used to trigger automated SDN optimization actions that allow networks to adapt to changing demand and traffic patterns to assure network and service health in near real-time.

Innovating in Assurance

To address the requirements for an innovative, modernized assurance approach, Nokia is expanding its carrier SDN offering by adding assurance capabilities to its Network Services Platform (NSP). Combined with the NSP's automation and network control features, assurance equips operators with the tools to establish and maintain healthy SDN networks and services, even as the dynamic consumption patterns of cloud applications makes demand and traffic patterns less predictable.

"Nokia brings a wealth of experience assuring IP and optical network services at the world's largest service providers. The company is extending this expertise to multivendor services and elements managed by our carrier SDN offering,” said Sasa Nijemcevic, general manager of the Network & Service Management business at Nokia. “We are not only addressing the need for assurance, but also providing additional value by leveraging our investment in policy-based SDN control to automate assurance processes. As a result, operators will maintain the highest levels of customer satisfaction while optimizing their network assets to move confidently into the next era of carrier SDN."

Nokia SDN automation and control capabilities allow operators to make assurance processes far more efficient and impactful than ever before. With automated, dynamic assurance, KPIs and analytics can be used to dynamically trigger changes at the SDN control layer without the need for manual intervention.

These integrated KPIs and analytics capabilities of the NSP will allow service providers to quickly gain visibility into potential problems within their multi-vendor carrier SDN networks and assess overall impact; trigger and guide automated corrective measures, so that networks and services remain healthy; and drive SDN control policies that can redirect paths, traffic and bandwidth at any layer—flow, IP, Ethernet or optical—and across both physical and virtual domains.

The NSP dynamic assurance capability is part of Nokia's comprehensive multi-domain Service Assurance program and a key component of the company's domain-specific closed-loop automation architecture to drive greater network agility and optimization.

As SDN deployments move into the commercial phase around the world, assurance will become an important linchpin to successful transformation outcomes.

"Service assurance is a critical requirement for successful SDN-based automation and optimization in the WAN (aka ‘carrier SDN’),” said Dana Cooperson, research director for network, software and virtualization at Analysys Mason. “Without adequate assurance capabilities, uptake of carrier SDN has been slow, particularly for complex multi-domain, multi-vendor networking applications. CSPs are recognizing the need for integrated assurance and asking vendors for solutions. In this market context, Nokia's announcement of NSP with assurance is both important and timely."

Read more on Nokia's Network Services Platform here.

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