How SDN and NFV Extend the Adoption and Capabilities of Self-organizing Networks (SON)
When networks ran on 2G, the monolithic infrastructure that many communication service providers (CSPs) still have in place today was sufficient. We’ve come a long way since that time, through IP-only, 3G and 4G – with user-centric 5G now replacing the older operator driven solutions. Those same CSPs are now looking at how to improve network performance in telecommunication services, and beginning to implement the SON – self-organizing network – concept.
SON telecom solutions can automate operations that have until now relied primarily upon human intervention – with all the associated costs in time and money, and the risk of error, that this entails. Implementing such solutions in the radio access network (RAN) is a relatively straightforward procedure, but for maximum optimization CSPs need to consider the core and backhaul networks too.
Here, things become more complex. A single network may be based on multiple older technologies, deployed in different geographical configurations, and delivered using a variety of media. That’s on top of the changing standards (consider the abovementioned path from 2G to 5G) that demand networks capable of self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing in order to reduce the time to market for new and adapted services, and to “future-proof” networks by guaranteeing scalability.
SON functionalities in the backhaul rely on the twin concepts of the software-defined network (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).
SDN encompasses those elements such as protocols, standards, technologies and solutions that empower the network operating system to manage network behavior by centralizing some of the formerly device-based functions and implementing the protocols and interfaces (APIs) that program the devices. In this way, an SDN controller becomes a platform for SON in the backhaul network, providing a foundation for SON algorithms, streamlining the network programming interface and implementing the logic that defines network behavior. NFV takes virtualization a step further, so that generic resources running purpose-specific software can take over the work of some physical devices.
SON telecom solutions therefore enable S1 and X2 interfaces for LTE to be configured and optimized automatically; working together, SON defines capacity and latency requirements, while the SDN controller tells network elements which routes to use for interfaces. Among other benefits, this allows dynamic bandwidth allocation and avoids inefficient and costly overprovisioning.
Comarch’s OSS architecture for SON is what makes this happen. Deployed as a network function on top of the OSS – itself acting as a network operating system (NOS) integrated through SDN-ready controllers and managing physical and logical resources to provide NFV MANO (network function virtualization management and orchestration) – the SON receives data from the OSS and has an overview of the network and its elements, allowing it to provide algorithms and optimization proposals, and return these to the OSS for provisioning.