The Promise of 5G
5G technology is being promoted mostly on the basis of dramatic increases in network speed and reliability. This will be accomplished to a great degree by moving intelligence and computing to the edge of the network. Through edge computing, 5G promises to eliminate the latency created by the centralized mobile core and public cloud-based applications and to bring low-latency connectivity to all kinds of machine-to-machine communications and video delivery services.
5G is also being driven by the inadequacies of the 4G transmission scheme, which is approaching unsustainability faster than industry experts predicted it would. Once we enter a world where millions of smart machines and IoT devices are deployed and machine software is talking to other machine software, and people are talking to machines more than to one another, the end-to-end dynamic of service delivery changes. 4G was not built for these changes and cannot keep up. 5G is a must. And time is running out.
5G will constitute an overhaul of communications infrastructure that could end up being the biggest in history. Once complete, the 5G transition plan will establish more sustainable business models for CSPs.
That’s all well and good, but no matter how operators decide to deploy and “slice” their 5G network, they still need to manage it. And the complexity of managing 5G service is going to make 4G look like a piece of cake!
With Flexibility Comes Complexity
Networks by the Slice
“Network Slicing” is the name given to the 5G architecture in which the physical network is carved up into many logical instances of a single network infrastructure. Each slice constitutes a logically independent network and compute resources that are able to meet diversified service requirements and to support a theoretically unlimited variety of application scenarios.
For example, a network slice could be dedicated to each enterprise on the network, with full ability for customers to control and manage their own slice. Or it could be used to divide classes of internal network functions, such as separating enhanced mobile broadband services (eMBB) which rely on mmWave antennas, from M2M and IoT communications which may only need narrow signaling services, and from communications where ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC) are critical.
While 3GPP has defined slicing for end-user communication to the core (user plane and data plane), there is no such clarity in the transport layer and no single standard (OTN, FlexE, WDM, L3-VPN, etc.) for doing it. It’s all up in the air, including exactly what route each network slice would take through the logical infrastructure. Tier-1 telecom operate will likely work with industry partners find viable solution at L1 as it can promise true slice isolation. The focus of the eMBB use case in the initial phase of 5G promotes less isolated, yet available, L3 solutions which, when using it with segment-routing, can increase control and SLA.
From Single Path to Full Mesh
No matter how you slice it, the key to managing, controlling and automating 5G services will rely on operators being able to see and control everything that is happening in each network slice, and across the entire network. This requires both current-state knowledge and the ability to predict the end-to-end resources used by each slice and by user-plane or data-plane components of the distributed EPCs (evolved packet core).
When “core services” are distributed across the network toward the edge, they are closer to the action and better able to respond quickly to requests. Instead of hauling every transaction back to a centralized core for authentication and processing (which is how it works in 4G) 5G will provide critical services closer to or within each network slice. The goal is to lower latency – dramatically. For example, end-to-end latency of 1 millisecond or less is needed for self-driving cars or autonomous robots, where decision time for reacting to a possible accident must be instantaneous.
If 5G is to live up to its promise of “one network for all occasions” operators also need to analyze and optimize traffic and connectivity both on the user plane and the data plane, potentially within every slice. The complexity of slicing and core distribution can be mind-boggling.
- Slices are network resources that can be reserved for a specific use case (e.g. IoT, eMBB), and the route it takes through radio, transport, cloud, and core infrastructure
- A use case may have several mobile core components in EPCs (evolved packet core) at the edge
- The former mobile backhaul transport connection is now a group of segmented connections between different functions in a slice.
Turning the Promise of 5G into Reality
To successfully manage these and other 5G complexities, operators must have a multi-layer, cross topology view of the network slices (user and data plane) and a centralized controller that can automate service creation and orchestrate service delivery routes through the distributed network infrastructure.
The best and most efficient way to do this is by abstracting the underlying network and service routes into an all-encompassing model of the network that can be viewed, searched and manipulated at any level. To this end, Sedona NetFusion employs patented automated discovery techniques to map network topology, slices, traffic, services, connections, and resources, into a live network model that shows everything in the network and on the network, and how it is performing. Since communication between the now distributed core services is crucial for service delivery, operators must be able to identify and predict potential problems, risks and vulnerabilities in real-time before they impact customers and services.
Sedona NetFusion helps operators manage complex 5G networks by providing:
- Live, multi-layer visibility of the network from Fiber to L3
- Accurate, single source of inventory of SDN, NFV and legacy IT
- Unified management of a transport slice across vendors and domains
- Accurate mapping of diversity and reliability of IP flows
- Unified view of gNodeB to core connectivity
- Powerful network controller that integrates with any service orchestration
Armed with Sedona NetFusion’s unified visibility and management toolkit, operators can embrace the complexity of 5G and make its promise a reality. Check out NetFusion