& cplSiteName &

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
The 'gleaming city on a hill,' Steve Saunders calls it. But who is going to take us from today's NFV componentry to the grand future of a self-driving network? Here's a look at the vendors hoping to make it happen.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
September 28, 2017, Denver, CO
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue – London
November 10, 2017, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Could 5G Have Found Its Glass Ceiling?
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/20/2017
1 Million Pirate Set-Top Boxes Sold in the UK
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 9/20/2017
Comcast Shuts Down OTT Again
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/19/2017
Why Amazon May Be Cable's Biggest Threat
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/22/2017
Photo Highlights: Operations Transformation Forum 2017
Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, 9/17/2017
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed