du in the Emirates gains productivity with network automation
Network automation has been a very popular topic within the telecommunications industry for the past few years.
In this video testimonial, Basel El-Abed who is responsible for the transport network at du explains how the COVID-19 pandemic is making network automation a priority for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) like du.
As Basel explains, everyone clearly sees the benefits of automation to expedite services delivery, but network operations should not be left behind.
With COVID-19 many people are now working and studying from home, using videoconferencing and streaming more video. CSPs had to react to the changing traffic patterns and traffic shift from business to residential areas. Those trends are detailed in the Deepfield network intelligent report.
For CSPs, it does not necessarily mean delivering new services, but rearranging the network, introducing new equipment in some locations, and moving capacity around.
Basel insists that CSPs need to look at network automation beyond the service fulfillment perspective and consider activities within the operational environment, such as software upgrades, which are a frequent task that can get more complex as you go deeper into the network.
In this context, du and Nokia worked together to implement automated software upgrades of network equipment using workflows, without human intervention. This avoided human errors and reduced the time needed by 75%.
Software upgrades need to be carefully designed and planned. To minimize impact on end user services, a maintenance window needs to be scheduled so that upgrades happen when the network is used least. Software upgrades start with a long list of pre-checks to validate that the system and the network are operating in a state that is able to sustain the procedure. The upgrade is then usually executed, followed by post-check and validation to ensure that all services are back to normal.
Automation can be introduced step by step. The pre-check and post-check phases can be automated first. The operator launches the workflow and all the validations are performed in a deterministic manner, no matter who is launching it and regardless of how diligent they are.
For du, those pre-check and post-check activities, as Basel notes in the video, were reduced from 4h to 1.5h.
As a next step, the actual software upgrade operation can be included in the workflow. The operator should have visibility on the status of the upgrade (passed or failed) and have the possibility to stop or rollback any operation in case issues arise.
Once the operator has validated the automated process and has gained enough confidence, upgrade executions for multiple network elements can be run in parallel. The operator defines the procedure scope and the timing, designs the sequence, and then lets the workflow run while keeping an eye on the progression.
Software upgrading is only one of the many examples where automation can help network operations. Nokia has built a catalog of pre-defined, network automation use cases with the Nokia Network Services Platform. It covers the many recurrent tasks that operation teams perform frequently during Day 0, Day 1 and Day 2 configuration, equipment back-up, service migration, etc.
Once those use cases are automated, the operations staff can spend less time on repetitive tasks and more on creative and valuable ones like designing operational guidelines, maintaining and improving automation workflow and, executing and monitoring them. Overall, the efficiency of the operations team can be greatly improved.
This approach — fully embraced by Nokia — introduces a new way of working, increases employee motivation and creates the room for innovative ideas to emerge.