Self-Organizing Network (SON) Solutions Take a Deliberate, Incremental Path to the Future
The communications industry is well understood to be changing rapidly, even profoundly. The product portfolios of communication service providers (CSPs) are a good example. These portfolios now include services that go well beyond the voice-only days of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)—may it soon rest in peace. They also include on-demand applications and services for business and consumer customers, and will increasingly provide the same for machine-based users. Demand is ballooning for the delivery of instantaneous services that include bandwidth, cloud infrastructure, third-party value-added solutions, media content, network and customer intelligence, storage, sensor connectivity and data collection. Increasingly included in this list of demands are managed operations services such as real-time monitoring and maintenance. The source of this demand is also changing; it is now coming not only from traditional customers, but from partners and competitors alike; making the communications ecosystem and corresponding business models increasingly complex.
Transitioning to new network architectures such as Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-defined Networking (SDN) can help provide the flexibility necessary to meet this demand, and the cost-effectiveness to do so at a competitive price point. In fact, NFV and SDN are sure to be the next two generational transformations for CSPs. However, the more fundamental challenges to meeting future demand will continue to be twofold: (1) scaling capacity and speed to support the enormous leap in traffic volume and expected future demand; (2) intelligently managing the tremendous density of equipment that will be required to carry such unprecedented amounts of traffic. This is where Self-organizing Network (SON) technology needs to step up.
The interesting dynamic concerning these latter challenges is that the first (scaling capacity) has historically been met by engineers with large purchase orders for new equipment. This process is commonly known as throwing more infrastructure at the problem. Such an approach is insufficient for the industry’s immediate and long-term future. Scaling will require the help of analytics, automation and optimization software, such as that inherent to SON. Conversely, the second challenge (managing network equipment) has historically been met by increasingly sophisticated element management, performance management, network management, and analytics systems. SON will have to automate the processes that these systems have historically managed with the help of personnel and error-prone manual manipulation.
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