Affirmed: Lack of Automation Will Kill Innovation

Dan Jones

Mobile core virtualization startup Affirmed believes that the lack of network automation in today's carrier networks is becoming a stifling impediment to the innovation needed for the incumbents to take on over-the-top players in an ever-more competitive environment.

Having launched its service automation platform in April 2016, Affirmed Networks Inc. has added features like automating "pre-5G" network slicing this year. The company has also worked on further 5G-like features such as a so-called decomposed -- or "decoupled" -- virtualized core. (See AT&T: Virtualized Mobile Core Key to 5G.)

We checked in with the company last week to take a further slice into the automation pie. Angela Whiteford, VP of marketing and product management, answered some questions:

Light Reading: Affirmed has previously said that that automation is the next major disruptive technology change. Can you explain how?

Angela Whiteford: Lack of automation is a cultural and structural barrier to innovation and driving top-line service revenue growth. Operators are facing intense competition from the OTT [over-the-top content providers], and customers are demanding higher service expectations. Operators need to find ways to innovate to provide new revenue-generating services that customers will purchase.

The current process of designing and rolling out a new service is a very manual one, and it can take months to deploy a simple gold, silver, bronze type service. Given that the burden is so high to roll out a new service, only the "highest runners" actually make it to market. Innovation is stifled, and revenue generation is significantly impacted.

Automation allows operators to rapidly create, deploy, measure performance, make modifications -- iterate on services -- and decommission (fail fast) services 80% to 90% faster than they currently do today. It also reduces the cost to create these services by 70% or more. This powers the innovation engine in operators and drives growth.

LR: So, what would you define as automation in the context of a mobile network core?

AW: Lifecycle management of services -- this could be existing operator services and new services. Or, service lifecycle management, which is the designing, deploying, assuring (measuring performance of the service), modifying (fine tuning of services) and decommissioning of services. These services are comprised of a complex mix of multiple functions -- these could be both legacy appliance-based functions or virtualized functions.

LR: You've previously described this as a process. How long does the process take?

AW: Affirmed has examples of a simple process of onboarding an MVNO [mobile virtual network operator] customer in two months or more without automation. Automating this process reduced the time down to less than one week and reduced the costs by 90%.

LR: How far do you think automation could extend into the mobile network? Could some RAN functionality even be virtualized and automated?

AW: Automation is already an important driver within the core network to support new services around enterprise offerings, innovative rating plans -- free music -- and IoT: thousands of enterprises and hundreds of thousands of devices. Virtualized Cloud RAN [vCRAN] brings another dimension to automation where more virtualized BBU [baseband unit] instances are deployed closer to the edge. Edge Computing is another emerging area where more VNFs [virtual network functions] will be deployed closer to the edge, further driving the demand for automation.

LR: If automation is a disruptive event for networks, can we see a timeframe for how long the switchover will take?

AW: There is no cliff event where they go from non-automated to automated. It will be a gradual transition. The biggest payoff is to automate the highly repetitive tasks first.

Nonetheless, Affirmed is hanging plenty on automation being a big play in mobile networks and beyond. Earlier this year, Affirmed CEO Hassan Ahmed told Light Reading that he wanted the startup to be a big part of what he anticipates will be a major wave of disruption as network processes become more automated. This wave could help wash Affirmed up on the shores of an initial public offering (IPO).

"You will see Affirmed as a public company at some point," Ahmed said.

Related posts:

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Blogger
8/24/2017 | 2:41:40 PM
Re: Long haul
Yeah, I've heard other estimates of 10 years, maybe double that.
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/24/2017 | 10:02:37 AM
Long haul
That last bit of the Q&A is important for everyone to understand -- "automation" involves a yuge number of processes that will take years to address. It's a piecemeal upgrade, which is going to frustrate the short attention spanners. But that's the reality of the situation.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
September 25-27, 2018, Denver, Colorado
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Net Neutrality Moves Are as Futile as Trump's Comb-Over
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/18/2018
Samsung Plots New 5G Modem – Report
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/18/2018
Europe Urges US to Block Trump on Net Neutrality
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/22/2018
Last Look – CES 2018 Spectacular, in Photos
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/22/2018
Has the 5G Upturn Begun?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/19/2018
Animals with Phones
I May Have an Appointment Available Later Today... Click Here
Let me check my schedule.
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed