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Bringing network automation to Tier 2/3 operatorsBringing network automation to Tier 2/3 operators

Key findings from Heavy Reading's network automation survey focused on Tier 2/3 CSPs underscore the value of public cloud-delivered automation.

Sterling Perrin

August 16, 2023

4 Min Read
Bringing network automation to Tier 2/3 operators

Hyperscalers laid the groundwork for network automation, and Tier 1 communications service providers (CSPs) are beginning to follow their lead. While this is not an easy journey for large CSPs, they can succeed with the help of their sizeable budgets, skilled staff and supportive leadership. But what is the network automation potential for smaller CSPs that share similar goals yet lack the staff, expertise and budgets of the big players?

To better understand the needs of this important Tier 2/3 CSP segment, Heavy Reading surveyed 217 Tier 2 and Tier 3 CSPs globally in partnership with Juniper Networks. Heavy Reading defined Tier 2/3 as having less than $1bn in annual revenue. We believe this is the industry's first in-depth network automation survey focused exclusively on the needs of Tier 2 and Tier 3 network operators.

This blog highlights some of the biggest takeaways from the survey.

The value of network automation

Although they still are in an early stage of adoption, Tier 2/3 CSPs see automation as an important strategic initiative. They understand the value and potential of automation to address some major challenges. 81% of survey respondents agree with the statement that more network automation is needed to remain competitive and increase customer value (37% strongly agree). Additionally, 78% agree that evolving to artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps)/AI is essential for the future of automation, 77% believe that network automation is needed to cope with traffic demands and 75% believe that network complexity is a key reason to invest in automation.

To what extent do you agree with each of the following statements?


Source: Heavy Reading

Automation via the cloud

A new and highly promising trend in network automation is service via the public cloud using the software as a service (SaaS) model. Network services delivered via the public cloud hold many advantages, but the public cloud model also raises potential concerns. Operators expressed concern about their customer data housed in a public cloud, data traversing the internet without full encryption, meeting data sovereignty requirements (i.e., data travel out of the country or region not managed) and ensuring specific customer service-level agreement (SLA) thresholds.

Significantly, and despite cloud concerns identified by operators, an overwhelming 93% of Tier 2/3 CSPs report that they are at least likely to adopt public cloud-delivered automation in some form. And over one-quarter (26%) say they will definitely adopt the public cloud model.

How interested is your organization in adopting at least some automation applications delivered from the public cloud?


Source: Heavy Reading

For these Tier 2/3 operators, public cloud-delivered automation promises the following key benefits:

  • Reduce cloud automation integration complexity by moving the burden to the cloud software vendor, which would coordinate all releases, updates and deployments and do so quickly.

  • Address staff issues felt keenly by Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators, including insufficient staff count as well as insufficient in-house expertise.

  • Increase innovation velocity, with much faster release agility and automatic weekly updates that provide new features and functions that help them to innovate service offerings and stay competitive.

  • Reduce DIY and third-party implementation times from many months to potentially weeks (or less).

  • Deliver guarantees of higher availability and resiliency through the built-in redundancy of the cloud.

  • Provide a more secure environment when implemented by using best practices refined by the hyperscalers.

An AI future?

With the explosion of ChatGPT and other advanced AI applications in 2023, the impact of AI is a hot topic across every industry — including communications. In a significant endorsement of the role of budding AI in cloud-delivered automation, an overwhelming 83% of Tier 2/3 CSPs said that they would consider an AI-enabled SaaS solution that is also trained on other leading networks. The survey results show a high degree of interest in AI among operators. They also indicate that operators are okay with sharing their data to benefit from more advanced trained AI. With only 9% against AI-enabled SaaS, the pros clearly outweigh the cons — at least for Tier 2/3 CSPs.

Would you consider an AI-enabled SaaS solution that is also trained on other leading networks?


Source: Heavy Reading

While challenges exist for both network automation and the cloud delivery of automation, Tier 2/3 operators are confident that challenges are being addressed. They will look to automation software suppliers to help them adopt these technologies, including network automation delivered via the public cloud.

Looking for more information?

This blog is sponsored by Juniper Networks.

About the Author(s)

Sterling Perrin

Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

Sterling Perrin has more than 15 years' experience in telecommunications as an industry analyst and journalist. His coverage areas at Heavy Reading include optical networking, cable MSO infrastructure and services, and digital content. He also authors Heavy Reading's Packet-Enabled Optical Networking Quarterly Market Tracker, a special quarterly research service. Perrin joined Heavy Reading after five years at IDC, where he served as lead optical networks analyst, responsible for the firm's optical networking subscription research and custom consulting activities. Prior to IDC, Perrin worked for Standard & Poor's, where he delivered global industry analysis on a range of IT segments. He is a former journalist and editor at Telecommunications Magazine, and has also done consulting work for the research firm Current Analysis. Perrin is a frequent speaker at telecom industry events and is a highly sought-after source among the business and trade press.

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