5G promises a world of unprecedented speed and differentiated quality of service with the potential to unleash a wide array of use cases, new services and business models. Network slicing is the cornerstone of the 5G architecture that supports this. By Oren Marmur, VP, Head of NFV, Amdocs
A network slice is a logical network that serves a defined business need with a particular set of characteristics, comprising all the required network resources that are configured and connected to each other. Network slices span across the 5G RAN, transport and core domains, utilizing physical and virtual network resources that can be either dedicated to a particular slice or shared between slices.
For communications service providers (CSPs), network slicing introduces the ability to build elastically-scalable and dedicated logical/virtual networks. In turn, this allows them to support diverse services with specific performance or control requirements on a common network platform to address a large variety of use cases, services, industries and customers.
As a result, the technology empowers them to offer specialized services that address the precise needs of customers, by tailoring them to meet the specific technical, performance, regulatory, security or other requirements to improve service performance, customer experience and enhance customer satisfaction.
The challenge however remains in identifying the means towards reaching this end state. Specifically, how do you manage these network slices from end to end, given their composition of multiple network functions, controlled and managed by different network domains (5G RAN, transport and core networks) across a hybrid network?
CSPs: “we need to adapt”
To better understand whether this is indeed a top-of-mind concern for service providers, and to better understand CSPs’ current approaches to 5G network slice management and monetization, Coleman Parkes recently conducted a survey on behalf of Amdocs of 50 mobile operators across the globe. Key research findings revealed:
• 76% believed that to cut time to market and reduce fail risk/cost, it is vital to automate the end-to-end network slice lifecycle from design to fulfilment and operations
• 70% believed their current operational systems cannot handle the adaptive, real-time resource allocation needed for 5G network slicing management
• 52% believed Network Slice as a Service (NSaaS) will be the leading approach to network slice monetization, while 30% expect to charge for specific QoS parameters (e.g. throughput, latency)
The optimal answer to the challenge facing service providers lies in adopting a holistic, automated approach to end-to-end network slice lifecycle management, enabling 5G networks to be transformed into agile monetization platforms. Efficient network slice management requires:
• End-to-end lifecycle automation of the network slices across network domains and multiple vendors, enhancing operational efficiency, optimizing network resource utilization and reducing time to market
• Responsive, adaptive and real-time network and processes for tuning network resources to specific business and customer needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner, in order to control and guarantee QoS, SLA delivery and security requirements
• Business and customer-centric slice segmentation fully integrated with the CSP’s ordering and charging system to support new business and monetization models (e.g. network slice as a service – or NSaaS) with new levels of performance and functionality.
The solution: network slice lifecycle management
To successfully manage network slices across a multi-domain hybrid 5G network, CSPs must adopt a 5G slicing management entity, hierarchically positioned at the top of the 5G network management architecture. The purpose of such an entity is to coordinate and automate the RAN, transport and core network slices’ subnets operations and services across the network’s siloed operational domains. Specifically, the entity must be able to coordinate the coexistence of multiple network slices, while also guaranteeing that the required resources within each network domain remain available for each network slice.