Innovation is often described in incremental or transformational terms - with the latest news from Ericsson very much building on its culture of continuous advancement, to push the boundaries of positive change.
Indeed, I believe the unveiling of the new Intelligent Automation Platform by Ericsson Digital heralds a milestone moment in telecoms history, combining scalability, performance and operations simplicity for mobile networks – whilst unleashing a democratisation for development affect – more on this later! It enables for the very first time a truly open and cloud native platform for multi-vendor and multi-technology RAN service management, automation and orchestration, all infused with embedded Artificial Intelligence capabilities to move from reactive to active intelligence, increasingly in real time. The Intelligent Automation Platform also offers an easy to use software development kit (SDK) that provides developers with all the capabilities needed to build new applications known as ‘rApps’.
Building upon Ericsson’s cloud native dual-mode 5G core solutions with key partnerships such as Vodafone, and its Cloud RAN portfolio too, the Intelligent Automation Platform with SDK and rApps offering, feels the natural next transformation in its innovation trajectory with benefits across the ecosystem, starting with CSPs who can reap the benefits from day one. With RAN accounting for nearly 50% of operational costs in most communication service providers (CSP) mobile networks, the ability to heavily automate RAN operations, deployment, optimization, field maintenance and power management brings significant operational savings. Telecom operators can use the Intelligent Automation Platform for both existing and future 4G/5G Radio Access Networks (RAN) environments, whilst supporting RAN equipment from various suppliers, as well as Open RAN technology. This is a key step forward for enabling service innovation and automation across Open RAN and purpose-built networks alike.
And why does this matter so much? Firstly, operator networks are complex - and getting more so, with multi vendor strategies adding inevitable technical and management complexities. Many operators pursue a multi-vendor strategy for RAN, not wanting to be totally reliant on a single strategic vendor for such a critical part of their business. With every new generation of radio technology, service providers assess and analyse potential vendors based on their own criteria before making a purchasing decision. As a result, the vendor mix in each new generation is likely to be different and – with many service providers having 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G networks – this results in significant complexity. This driver for change was brought to the fore by Neil McRae, MD Architecture and Strategy and Chief Architect at BT Group during a Total Telecom webinar ahead of the platform news, and echoed by David Espadas, Product Marketing Manager OSS at Ericsson as recently discussed in his related blog:
Almost every time we discuss new OSS solutions or approaches with a CSP they ask us: Are you making my life simpler or harder?
And the answer is a resounding Yes! It is fantastic to see the Intelligent Automation Platform addressing this very need, plus enabling multiple other benefits too, from improving agility to increasing the productivity of resources and accelerating upskilling, right through to differentiating customer experiences and securing new enterprise revenues. Through the automated handling of services and resource orchestration against demand, it provides the intelligence to manage conflicting needs and constraints - becoming the ‘brains’ of the operation if you will. The platform can take in multiple external data sources, from location to weather and beyond to create AI/ML driven models. And this ability to handle external data sources is one reason why fully expect the automation applications or rApps, to be highly diverse, enabling democratisation too!
The advanced software development toolkit fosters ecosystem growth and affords a system of capabilities to enable software developers to build products to empower the next generation of applications, whilst also benefiting an array of use cases including app life cycle management. It offers developers a suite of APIs in the following areas: AI/ML Training and Execution, Analytics Data Collection, Analytics Insights, Base Services, Data Management and Movement, Design and Onboarding Environment, Controller Framework, Inventory and Topology, Policy Design and Execution, Service Orchestration and Workflow Execution.
And with Interfaces, API Instruction, Automated Toolkits, Helper Libraries and Templates Apps all included, the SDK enables anybody to build apps quickly and efficiently – opening up the accessibility to create! This all underpinned by Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) lifecycle management and integration to testing and deployment systems too. Designed with the facilitation and accelerated development of rApps clearly front of mind, the platform automatically adds various functionality and uses a non-real-time RAN intelligent controller (Non-RT-RIC) to run the rApps – this is very similar to the function that a computer operating system has.
Ericsson rApps with proven capabilities in practice will be available across 4 domains from launch, namely efficient automated deployment, network healing, network evolution and network optimisation. And this suite portfolio will continue to grow in collaboration with customers and ecosystem partners. One of the earliest independent software vendors to contribute its solution already is VIAVI bringing its NITRO Mobility geolocation capabilities as a rApp – a solution with global presence across a number of Tier 1 operators and which also has proven impacts on sustainability supporting reductions in energy consumption.
As this discussion brings to the fore, it is clear that Ericsson’s Intelligent Automation Platform enables CSP’s to manage their mobile network environments more easily and, above all, more efficiently too, affording a full automation opportunity for better network performance, enhanced operational efficiency and a superior customer experience. And within this, I believe the SDK is the ‘jewel in the platform’s crown.’
The value of a service management and orchestration platform is its ability to run many diverse and specialized automation applications from network vendors, such as Ericsson, service providers and any other third parties who have an interest in creating, deploying and monetizing applications for the mobile communications industry. This is where rApps come into play – they are the key to unlocking new value whilst also supporting broadened democratisation of the capacity to create. The time is now to power to empower and this innovation from Ericsson does exactly that! To find out more, all the details are available here.
Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced Chief Technology Officer, Professor in Advanced Technologies and a Global Strategic Advisor on Digital Transformation specializing in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, 5G, Cloud, Security and IoT disciplines, for business transformation and social impact at scale. An international Keynote Speaker and Author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations and has been described as the ‘torchbearer for ethical tech’ founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity and belonging in the technology space and beyond. Sally is also the Chair for Global Cyber Trust at GFCYBER.
Dr. Sally Eaves is a highly experienced Chief Technology Officer, Professor in Advanced Technologies and a Global Strategic Advisor on Digital Transformation specialising in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, FinTech, Blockchain & 5G disciplines, for business transformation and social impact at scale. An international Keynote Speaker and Author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations in 2018 and has been described as the ‘torchbearer for ethical tech’ founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity and belonging in the technology space and beyond.