The industry has made considerable progress in the past 3 years following our first report titled “MANO SUPPLIER SCORECARD: TOP PICKS FOR 2015” published in May 2015. Our research shows more CSPs have moved out of the PoC phase and investing in SDN and NFV deployments for mobile core, enterprise edge, RAN, and firewall/security based virtualized solutions (figure 1). We reflect this progress against the four management domains that we believe show a critical importance to future operational and business outcomes.

These four domains are Dynamic Inventory, Rapid, Automated Service Assurance (RASA), Modeling/Onboarding, and Policy Driven Orchestration. This report is a follow up to “2017 MARKET SUMMARY: CRITICAL ADVANCES IN ORCHESTRATION FOR AGILITY AND AUTOMATION” published in July 2017.

The full report expands Appledore’s update of the state-of-the-art in MANO and orchestration (“MANO+”), with a survey of industry progress, tables showing the progress of leading suppliers, and 22 “mini profiles” with our summary analysis.

Supplier assessment is useful for CSPs to understand the maturity of products and solutions and more importantly how each supplier fits into the overall MANO+ ecosystem. Suppliers include Aria Networks, Amdocs, CENX, Ciena, Cisco, Cloudify, CoMarch, Dell EMC, DonRiver, Ericsson, EXFO, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Moogsoft, MycomOSI, Netcracker, Nokia, Openet, Oracle, Spirent, and VMware.

Since our inaugural report the market has progressed significantly, from simple VNF instantiation, through initial steps to assure NFs and services, and is now evolving to support automation.

Automation is critical: we believe that virtualization can change the fundamental cost structure of the industry, making it vastly more competitive; but only with significant business, process and software technology changes.

Inventory is only slowly moving from offline, monolithic databases to the real-time, distributed and autonomous inventories that will be demanded in the future. It is being addressed in several ways:

·        MANO vendors building inventory into orchestration

·        Domain managers building inventory into their solutions (SDN-C, SON, VIM)

·        Assurance vendors building topology that either a) replicates or b) consumes domain data to provide an E2E view.

·        Part of the industry’s challenge is the inherent conflict between a distributed future, and CSPs’ need for working, complete solutions to today’s problems

Orchestration is transitioning from pre-defined workflows toward model and policy driven products. This is essential for many aspects of automation, from self-instantiation to controlling complexity and risk. Today, policy constructs are often rudimentary. Today’s operational models have not yet stressed the products – most VNFs reside in “FAT VMs” and most network services are relatively simple and relatively static. Yet, we are seeing substantial re-architecting of products in anticipation of future needs, and likely in response to CSPs’ current buying requirements. To understand differences, it is important to investigate the richness of models, and the extent to which rules can act on model parameters.

On-Boarding mirrors orchestration. The state of the art is vastly ahead of 2015, but since most VNFs are still not cloud native, neither are models. Even with cloud-native VNFs, the industry needs practice with granular models, and the DevOps artifacts needed to automate their lifecycles. In fact, most models and on-boarding processes only capture DevOps logic for existing NFs simply if at all. On the other hand, the rate of change is significant, and a few suppliers are investing in tools and communities that allow the industry to share best practices – which we believe is critical. We cannot afford to re-invent best practices for dozens of hundreds of CSPs worldwide. These innovators are called out in the mini profiles that are the core of this report.

Assurance shows the most embryonic progress, and the greatest variation among players. This is not surprising, since the industry (e.g.: ETSI) began serious work on assurance more than a year after basic orchestration. We are looking to a future where “assurance+analytics” provides a flexible, real-time platform to guide scaling, healing and insights and ultimately leverage Machine Learning to help identify problems and opportunities that elude human efforts.

A look through the mini-profiles illustrates the broad spectrum of assurance approaches. Some of these are in fact complementary (e.g.: real time data collection complements a real-time topology graph). Others aspire to deliver a mostly E2E assurance process, and a few truly re-think what assurance may be in the future.

Some of the areas CSPs must consider include:

·        flexible extensive topologies

·        focus on orchestrated assurance that complements traditional orchestration

·        integrated architectures that break down data and use-case silos

·        real-time operation of both assurance and analytics.

Successful assurance players will be those that enable the convergence between assurance, orchestration and software network function.

Communication Service Providers and Cloud Providers can receive a free copy of the the summary report and key findings by contacting Appledore Research directly.

Future articles will look at each of the four areas critical in the MANO market.

1.      Dynamic Inventory and Live Topology

2.      Model and Policy-Driven Orchestration

3.      Rich On-Boarding, supporting DevOps

4.      Rapid Automated Service Assurance, re-architected to support virtualization and automation

Image courtesy of van dobbenburgh

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