The critical role of telecommunication networks is amplified by the needs in current times.

These include emergency medical services, remote working, distance learning, friends and family connections, and entertainment, among many others. The demand for higher and greater connectivity, bandwidth, and quality are drivers by which Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are transforming their networks to achieve the scale, flexibility, and elasticity in cost that characterizes Cloud Providers.

The first instantiation of this transformation took place by adopting virtualization—with SDN and NFV—in vertically delivered network functions, which resulted in limited cost savings. Operating models, however, remain the same.

There is a new transformation cycle in preparation for 5G deployments—characterized by the adoption of open platforms, cloud delivery models, and mature industry standards with ETSI’s Network Function Virtualization—that is beginning to harness the value of open source software.

The value of an open and scalable platform at the core, metro, local, and edge

CSPs and the ecosystem are relying on ETSI’s Network Function Virtualization infrastructure and OpenStack as the main software for creating private and public clouds. Red Hat OpenStack is established as the preferred distribution for a reliable cloud foundation with a large certified partner ecosystem.

To support multicloud delivery of telco workloads, enabled by the use of containers and microservices that will simplify future development of network functions, Red Hat OpenShift is emerging as the preferred supported platform to build applications faster and simplify the deployment of those functions.

The rise of services management and orchestration software

The management and orchestration of network functions has long been a gap in the industry; yet, the open source community—specifically Linux Foundation Networking—and suppliers have made significant progress. IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager uses an intent-driven approach and AI algorithms to achieve service lifecycle automation when on-boarding VNFs and CNFs, orchestration and instantiation of functions, and change management.

It is also important to leverage IT processes and tools for testing and integration of target configurations via automation tools, which can be achieved by applying CI/CD principles for VNF and CNF certification. New services can be designed from the VNF/CNF catalog to enable new use cases, support marketing campaigns, and scale with built-in automation that is integrated with business support systems.

From proof-of-concept to massive deployments

Most CSPs have done lab trials or limited deployment of cloud-based network services, with—at best—15% of traffic flowing through these networks. To make these systems fully operational, it requires the integration of business and operation support systems with each telco’s network cloud. IBM Services and IBM Integrated Managed Infrastructure are well-positioned to build and operate robust telco network cloud and edge infrastructure.

Take the next steps with IBM

IBM is partnering with CSPs across the world in modernizing telecommunication networks to become platforms for IT and network workloads, enable 5G adoption, and adopt cloud operating models for higher efficiencies. Get started by exploring the following resources:

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