Observability: the next big thing in the telecom industry

November 22nd, 2022 by · Leave a Comment

By Andy Burrell, Head of Portfolio Marketing, CNS Business Applications, Nokia

The term observability is gaining recognition in the telecoms industry. Experts predict it to cross the chasm and become a mainstream telecom topic in the near future – and it’s all because of the cloud.

Multi-cloud will be a major factor. In fact, the average Enterprise has its data and applications spread across 5.3 different cloud environments. And while the telecoms industry is not as fragmented, it certainly is going in that direction with factors such as the increasing migration of CSP operations to a cloud-native environment, and the adoption of cloud native applications, micro-services architectures and the disaggregation of networks.

As observability continues to gain traction, it will be critical for CSPs to begin implementing it into their offerings, so that they can meet customer demand in the future. But before they do so, CSPs must understand what observability is and how does it impact today’s industry.

Defining observability

Understanding observability requires an adoption of a new mindset or philosophy. It is not simply a tool or technology – think the earlier IT crossover of DevOps. Observability has many meanings, but it can be commonly understood as having contextualized knowledge about what is going on and understanding the dependencies between different applications, functions, and micro-services.

It can also be understood as being able to quantify the impact of issues on service quality, availability and end user experience, as well as having an end-to-end view about what is happening in a distributed multi-cloud environment.

Importantly, however, is to not mistake observability as just another buzzword for monitoring. While CSPs can easily monitor a monolithic application or a single domain, observability goes far beyond that.  Consider software updates as an example: traditionally a CSP might plan two major upgrades a year, and monitoring these pre-scheduled activities was comparatively simple.  In a fully cloud-native environment there could be two hundred software changes in a single day! 

Observability’s impact on the telecom industry and Network as Code

Observability is an important topic for the telecom industry as there is potential for it to have a big impact across the whole of a service provider’s operations. For example, it brings different approaches to service assurance, better ways to manage unpredictable security threats, and new insights to guide network planning and optimization.

Today the operation of telecom networks largely relies on well-defined, static processes to deliver standardized services (voice and data).  Those processes such as fault management or network design have often been built up and refined over several decades. With differentiated 5G enterprise services and new B2B2X business models we are entering a world of “Unknown Unknowns”. This is where a new approach to programmability, known as “Network as Code”, can come into play. Network as Code will enable CSPs to move beyond connectivity by exposing the capabilities of the network through APIs to application developers. The new service chains that will be created by app developers will place extremely dynamic, and unpredictable demands on the network (after all, who could have predicted Uber 15 years ago?). To meet these needs observability is essential to provide the contextual understanding and intelligence that is required for autonomous operations. The below figure attempts to build a simple framework to illustrate the progression that is needed by the industry to deal with the “Unknown Unknowns” on our journey towards Network as Code.

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Categories: Big Data · Industry Viewpoint · SDN

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