ETSI's 'Zero Touch' Group Issues Telco Automation White Paper

Ray Le Maistre
12/14/2017
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The ETSI group focused on zero-touch networking and automation, which has been in gestation for the past few months, has been officially launched with the likes of Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, NTT, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and ZTE amongst its core members.

The aim of the group is to define working practices and systems that will enable "agile, efficient and qualitative management and automation of emerging and future networks and services … The goal is to have all operational processes and tasks (e.g., delivery, deployment, configuration, assurance, and optimization) executed automatically, ideally with 100% automation … [the group] will initially focus on the 5G end-to-end network and service management (e.g. network slicing management) and will extend to the management for future network generations," said ETSI in a statement.

The formation of the group was first touted in October, when Klaus Martiny, senior program manager at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), outlined the group's aspirations during a conference presentation. (See Automation Gets Its Own ETSI Group.)

Now it is an official industry specifications group (ISG) under the auspices of ETSI, with the official name Zero Touch Network and Service Management (or ZSM). The initial members are:

  • Deutsche Telekom
  • Docomo Communications Laboratories Europe
  • Ericsson
  • Huawei
  • Intel
  • NEC Europe
  • Nokia
  • NTT Corp.
  • Seven Principles
  • Sprint
  • Telefonica
  • Viavi Solutions
  • ZTE

In addition, there are three "participants" -- EnterpriseWeb, Infosim and MC5G.

And to help launch the group and attract members, a telco-authored white paper on "the necessity and benefit of automating network and service operation in next generation networks" has been issued. The authors of that paper represent some of the biggest network operators in the world -- China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, NTT, Sprint and Telefónica.

Central to that white paper is the topic of Automation of Network & Service Management and Operation, or ANSMO (there's a new five-letter abbreviation to watch out for in 2018…). According to the white paper's authors, they key priorities for network operators wanting to achieve "full ANSMO" are:

    - Enabling hybrid networks with end-to-end automated management of new virtualized network elements while supporting legacy OSS/BSS and legacy network and element management
    - Enabling network and service management of end-to-end vertical resource
    - Supporting a realistic evolution path starting with end-to-end automation of critical aspects and adding automation of additional aspects over time to permit real world deployments
    - Defining an end-to-end network and service management concept including features and capabilities in the context of automation, based on a 5G use case (e.g. network slicing)
    - Defining an end-to-end network and service management functional architecture and solutions (within the context of a cloud native architecture), including interfaces, APIs, protocols and information data models
    - Enabling network and service management of inter-domain/service provider network

Yet some of those author companies are not currently members and, indeed, the list of members seems very light for a topic that is right at the top of network operators' agendas. That's just a timing issue, it seems. There are a number of big names set to come on board in the coming weeks and help drive the agenda in 2018 and beyond, Martiny, the group's convenor, tells Light Reading.

And not just network operators: Other major vendors are set to join shortly too. And while Martiny cannot speak for those that might sign up, a checklist of those companies that have been involved in formulating a cross-industry approach -- such as Ciena, HPE and IBM -- suggests which names might soon be added to the list of active members.

The formation of the group comes at a critical time for network operators, as they figure how they can embrace automation to become more efficient, speed up processes and improve customer experience. (See Bell Canada Pioneers Production ONAP, B/OSS Transformation Defies IT Budget Cuts, Automation Opportunities a 'Top 5' Topic for BT, Says Tech Chief and Juniper Takes On Network Automation for Telefónica.)

As Martiny has stressed previously, the key focus of the group is to bring together use cases and automation frameworks from multiple parties so they can be shared with the broader industry and ultimately define some best practices. Key to that is interaction with other industry organizations, including other ETSI groups such as the NFV ISG and, of course, ONAP, which is attracting a lot of attention (not all of it positive). (See Sprint & MSOs Drawn to ETSI's Automation Group, Says DT's Martiny and Ambitious Amsterdam Makes ONAP's Case, ONAP Takes Flak as Telcos Prep for Release 1 and ONAP Strikes Back, Saying Critics Are Misinformed.)

But it may also become involved in delivering some specifications if they're not forthcoming from other bodies: The group's statement paper notes that part of its work, while not the core focus, could include "Specification(s) of the end-to-end network and service management functional architecture and solutions including interfaces/APIs/protocols and information/data models."

So what's next for Martiny and the group? The first in-person meeting for the group's members will be in mid-January 2018 and no doubt there will be some activity around Mobile World Congress. By then it should be clearer exactly which companies are looking to directly impact the automation roadmap through this latest ETSI vehicle.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, Light Reading

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