Heavy Reading: It's Simple – Automate or Die

A new Heavy Reading report says communications service providers face a stark new reality in the need to adopt automation immediately, in every aspect of their businesses, or face extinction.

The telecom industry also needs to shift its thinking and stop considering automation as "a cost and efficiency strategy," states Telecom Automation: Heavy Reading Perspectives, authored by seven analysts. Instead, network operators need to see automated networks as essential to the automation of everything around them, by their customers and competitors.

And while acknowledging that automation has been part of telecom's game plan for decades, the Heavy Reading analysts note that "rather than a gradual and controlled evolution, automation is now a full-on mutation with a limitless capacity for disruption." CSPs are hardly driving the automation train, it states, in fact, they are at great risk for falling behind as the "rest of the world is plunging headlong into an autonomous future" if they continue at their self-chosen pace.

The process won't be simple -- one of the key findings of the report is that there are no easy answers or shortcuts to building an autonomous network. Even in spaces like the business and operations support system (B/OSS) arena, where network operators have been wrestling for decades with automation and integration. However, there is no longer any time to waste in just getting the job done, the report concludes.

Yet it's not all gloom and doom. In looking at every angle of the industry, the Heavy Reading Perspectives piece sees some reasons for hope. For example, the Internet of Things and 5G represent clear drivers and compelling opportunities for accelerating automation, and moving to the cloud is a key enabler for next-gen mobile network automation.

Want to know more about carrier automation and the industry's progress to date? Join us in London on Nov. 2 for Light Reading's Automation & The New Carrier Network There is still time to register.

And there are some signs of progress, namely efforts such as AT&T's ECOMP initiative -- now part of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) -- have reaped dividends in shrinking service deployment times from weeks to minutes. The speed with which the industry has embraced software-defined WAN services is also seen as encouraging.

But the general message in the 40-page report is a blunt one: When it comes to automation, network operators need to be moving faster, or find themselves left behind.

The report covers IoT and emerging technologies, B/OSS, analytics, NFV and orchestration, mobile networks and 5G and network security in looking at automation challenges and opportunities.

In coming days, we'll be taking a closer look at some other details from this exhaustive report about automation in telecom.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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MatthewKNorton 10/27/2017 | 7:30:44 AM
Just Comment Great post
mendyk 10/26/2017 | 11:51:48 AM
Re: Money Talks Right -- automating discrete parts of the network and processes has been going on for decades. The big challenge is to bring all of these bits of automation together to create an autonomous network. This will take a number of years, but one step that can be taken now is to come up with a plan for getting to that end goal. And it means prioritizing development to focus on automation.
Phil_Britt 10/26/2017 | 11:31:09 AM
Re: Money Talks Some companies, like Comcast, Amazon and a few others, are large enough and strategic enough to balance enough long-term thinking while still providing the short-term benefits that shareholders expect. Part of this has to do with proper, ongoing messaging about what to expect short and long-term (under promise, over delive). But there are still too many companies stuck in the "next quarter first, maybe long term later mentality.
mendyk 10/26/2017 | 11:19:56 AM
Re: Money Talks On the TV this morning, Brian Roberts was patting himself on the back over Kabletown's -- I mean, Comcast's -- commitment to long-term strategies. So maybe this will become a trend.
brooks7 10/26/2017 | 11:18:09 AM
Re: Money Talks  

I think their is a disconnect, because I fundamentally agree with Gabriel's post.  Automation exists in large parts of the telco environment - for specific functionality.  This generally happens AFTER there is a scaled deployment of a service, but I have seen it when there is a planned scaled deployment.

They are trying to jump to the final answer and not go through the step of automation support leading to (what I call) 1 Button Bobs (functions that are scripted but under human control) to then taking over some capability in an automated way to finally full control.




Phil_Britt 10/26/2017 | 11:07:55 AM
Re: Money Talks You're absolutely right. But too many U.S. corporations, in and out of telecom, are focused on quarterly numbers. The success of Netflix shows what long-term thinking can provide.

mendyk 10/26/2017 | 11:01:46 AM
Re: Money Talks Phil -- This is why skepticism -- if not pessimism -- about telco automation is in order. For this to really work, telcos need to get beyond the "piece part" phase and come up with a plan to put all this together -- not to mention the will to then execute that plan.
Gabriel Brown 10/26/2017 | 6:35:27 AM
Re: Carts and horses It's worth keeping in mind operators (and the industry at large) have made massive gains from automation over the years. Two examples are:
  • Automated line testing for broadband services (they used to send an engineer to check your line); and
  • Automatic neighbor relations (ANR) for LTE cell planning in place of manual processes in 3G

There are many more examples in fixed and mobile.

This isn't a reason to slack off -- obviously, more can be done -- but to succeed going forward it's important recognize progress to date. Operators have a good track record and can shape their future.

Having done bits and pieces of work* on Machine Learning** for service provider networks over the past year, I'm incredibly excited, and confident, about automation of network operations and business operations in the telco sector.



* I've got the point where I'm realizing how little I know ;)

** ML in CAPS because it's the new thing 
Phil_Britt 10/26/2017 | 6:34:09 AM
Money Talks Rightly or wrongly, financial imperatives will likely continue to drive automation decisions. The quicker a company can expect to receive an ROI, the quicker it will add automation. What others are doing always takes a back seat, which is why sometimes start-ups are first movers -- too many approvals needed in the corporate structures of larger firms.
Carol Wilson 10/25/2017 | 5:13:34 PM
Re: Carts and horses I agree that the most jarring aspect is that they aren't in control of their own destiny on that front. Every operator has hundreds of reasons why they can't get to the level of automation they need, but it's starting not to matter. 
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