5G marks a turning point for operators. The disaggregation of software and hardware in 5G enables operators to offload telecom workloads to public or hybrid public/private cloud infrastructures, giving them unprecedented agility and flexibility to deliver exceptional customer experiences and realize cost efficiencies. However, the full benefits of running large-scale telecom services in the cloud can only be achieved if cloud adoption is accompanied by a comprehensive approach to network analysis and automation, supported by cloud-based big data and AI.
Today, Azure for operators launches a Network Analytics Solution Accelerator program that offers a standardized approach to data collection and visualization that supports operators on their journey to full end-to-end AI operations (AIOps). The solution leverages the same operational techniques and capabilities that Microsoft uses to manage Azure and is purpose-built for operator analytics. Our network analytics solution includes existing Azure services combined with unique capabilities designed specifically for communications service providers, enabling network planners and engineers to visualize performance and troubleshoot service anomalies.
Disaggregated cloud-native 5G networks add many new individual elements that need to work together effortlessly. These increasing dependencies mean that management and analysis tools can no longer run in relative isolation. Successfully deploying and managing end-to-end services in such environments requires the ability to analyze network and host platform data simultaneously from multiple sources. Only then can operators diagnose problems reactively and proactively, while ensuring that operational costs are kept under control and customers are always provided with the best user experiences.
Given the scale and complexity of such services, network management must operate autonomously and in a closed loop, gaining operational insights into the health of network elements and the underlying distributed cloud infrastructure, and ensuring that a service is optimally configured.
At Microsoft, we understand this journey because Azure went through a similar evolution. In the early days, we recognized the challenges of troubleshooting disparate services. To solve this problem, we set up a common data analysis infrastructure that gives us a comprehensive view of the performance of our services, which has resulted in reduced engineering overheads and better service quality.
Control starts with network insights
Large operators generate petabytes of data every day, complicating the challenges associated with quickly ingesting, inexpensively storing, and accurately analyzing the information to uncover meaningful insights. Public clouds are ideal for solving these problems as they simplify the ability to collect and analyze data and allow operators to quickly identify and act on anomalies or opportunities. Azure excels in this area with a portfolio of trusted storage, machine learning, business intelligence, and automation tools.
For example, Azure Data Lake can collect and store a wealth of disparate log data generated by communication services. Data lakes are more adept than traditional data warehouses when it comes to handling the sheer speed, volume, and variety of information operators need to store. Lakehouses, such as those enabled with Azure Databricks, provide a mediation layer to enforce data quality and consistency.
Once ingested, Azure has several standardized services for aggregating and analyzing otherwise disparate data streams such as logs, traces, telemetry information, and alerts from inherently disparate platforms, network capabilities, and devices. Azure Data Explorer (ADX) quickly ingests and analyzes petabytes of unstructured, structured, and semi-structured data formats. Similarly, Power BI provides real-time analytical intelligence through a combination of dynamic visualizations and AI-driven insights.
Azure network analysis empowers operations teams to accelerate root cause analysis, enables capacity planners to understand where to provision new resources, and empowers engineers to improve customer experiences by improving network performance and quality of service. Our analytics offerings can also help business teams align marketing strategies to reduce customer churn and increase monetization opportunities.
Of course, as large companies and many users share enormous amounts of potentially sensitive information, we must guarantee the governance, integrity and security of this data by providing role-based access while ensuring that relevant compliance standards and policies are adhered to. Microsoft’s Purview offers a fully managed and centralized unified data governance service that provides the tools such organizations need. Purview can even eliminate duplication of analytics dashboards, providing a quick and easy way to search for existing interfaces that meet your immediate needs.
Intent-based management and closing the loop
A critical step toward a fully automated network is the ability to identify anomalies and predict problems before they become catastrophic failures. Existing rules-based systems rely on heuristic approaches that struggle to scale to the volume and complexity of data they must ingest to pinpoint potential problems in modern network infrastructures. Instead, big data and machine learning-driven inference approaches are required to predict issues hidden in terabytes of disparate logs, error messages, and lower-severity security alerts.
Closing the loop from detection to solution requires a comprehensive vendor and platform agnostic approach to delivering self-contained network functions and end-to-end services. This is evolving to solutions that operate at the application layer, making decisions about how and where elements are instantiated, enabling full end-to-end service. Such solutions work across multiple access, edge, core computing, and cloud platforms and are responsible for allocating appropriate resources and fine-tuning configurations within each component to meet the needs of the service. This is underpinned by multi-cloud and edge lifecycle management systems such as Azure Archthat provides ongoing governance and management of virtual machines, Kubernetes clusters, and databases.
Ultimately, the goal is for the network to operate autonomously based on a loose set of expected outcomes, rather than explicit rules that define how to respond to specific requests or conditions. Such intention-based management systems require the application of artificial neural networks that apply deep learning to the vast amounts of real-time data streams that allow them to train themselves to perform tasks and carry out actions.
There are many scenarios where our network analysis capabilities are needed today. Operators can use the solution to proactively analyze service quality in mobile and fixed voice networks, identify problems, prevent outages and gain insight into infrastructure utilization for capacity planning. The network analysis solution also monitors core mobile performance, looks for underlying platform issues, and reports poor quality of service to speed root cause analysis. In addition, the solution performs comprehensive packet analysis of end-to-end services, accelerating deployment and reducing mean time to repair.
Partner with Microsoft on the AIOps journey
The path to network management and automation can seem daunting, but with our Network Analytics Solution Accelerator program, we offer operators an easier path. With the right technology and the flexibility to process data from many systems, operators can adopt automation incrementally and at their own pace, while meeting their business goals. Azure network analytics enables operations teams to build trust in big data and AI, and provides the foundation for closed-loop automation.
As part of the Azure for operators program makes it easy for Microsoft to discover the power of Azure’s network analytics offerings. Our solution accelerator enables service providers and system integrators to take advantage of the Azure tools and services available today as they evolve their longer-term AIOps analytics strategies. Our experts are on hand to guide you through the process of importing, analyzing and visualizing the vast amounts of data generated by the networks you manage. Plus, we have resources available to help you solve any networking problem you’re having today, or simply to understand how your infrastructure works. To learn more about joining our Solution Accelerator program, Contact us here.