The Evolution of Telecom Network Configuration Management with Open RAN
The telecom industry is witnessing significant transformative changes, propelled by the advancements in 5G, IoT, and Cloud Computing, and evolving and maturing the evolution of Open RAN Technologies. With the spotlight on Open RAN following its significant adoption in 2020, the shift towards a software-centric, open infrastructure for building radio networks has taken central stage, despite its rapid growth, highlighted by Rakuten Mobile’s Open RAN deployment and multiple successful trials attracted the attention of a large number of mobile operators. There are still many questions, and the transition raises concerns such as uneven over-network performance, possible security issues, and Capex/Opex gain vs. the cost-benefit analysis compared to Legacy RAN Networks.
The industry’s interest in Open RAN is primarily for its cost-effective deployment and operational benefits, which has led to a strategic shift. Leading legacy RAN vendors like Nokia and Samsung are committed to providing and spearheading the development of 5G Open RAN solutions. This emerging trend signifies the gradual integration of Open RAN with existing legacy networks, underscoring the need for comprehensive management of these complex systems.
Centralized Configuration Management: The Backbone of Telecom Network Configuration Management
In the face of these industry shifts, the role of centralized configuration management systems, particularly in Mobile Network Configuration Management/Telecom Network Configuration Management, becomes crucial. Innovile’s Configuration Management (CM) solution emerges as a pivotal tool for mobile operators, addressing the growing demands for automated, streamlined network processes such as node integrations, parameter compliance, optimizations, and operations. Automation, the cornerstone of these demands, aims to enhance the Quality of Service. The software solutions are vital in lowering spending and letting operators complete the network tasks without error using lower headcounts. To provide efficient and cost-effective solutions, Innovile is expanding its portfolio and focusing on automation use cases while efficiently managing CapEx/OpEx.
Innovile’s comprehensive CM solution, augmented with a Self-Organizing Network (SON) and Network Management System (NMS) Operation Module, offers a robust framework for Configuration Management in Telecom. This vendor-independent approach simplifies complex network management tasks, significantly reducing operational costs and facilitating more accessible updates and training processes.
Figure-1 : Innovile CM Modules
Innovile Solutions Architecture: Enabling Efficient Configuration Management in Telecom
Delving deeper into the technical framework, Innovile’s solution architecture is designed around microservices and APIs and includes a data collection ETL layer and an NMS Execution Coordinator layer. This architecture supports various data collection protocols, predominantly utilizing SFTP connections for collecting vendor-specific files, emphasizing the importance of a vendor-independent platform. Parsing and loading this data are the responsibilities of the ETL layer. Another vendor-dependent layer is the coordinator layer, which executes the changes. Innovile has a module coordination responsibility to prioritize the requests and manage conflicting items.
Figure-2: Innovile Solution Architecture
NBI: A Key Module for Open RAN Integrations in Configuration Management
The integration of Open RAN systems into established CM platforms underscores the necessity for robust Northbound Interface (NBI) implementations from Open RAN vendors. Integration ensures seamless parameter adjustments without disrupting the management processes, advocating for a harmonized approach to managing network elements indirectly through CM platforms. In legacy systems, for some nodes, it is possible to connect to make changes directly. Still, these changes should be synchronized with the vendor management system so as not to cause any conflict in the management processes. If a change is made without vendor NMS knowledge, it may use wrong or old parameter values for network functions. To prevent this kind of conflict in Open RAN systems, as it is implemented in legacy systems, each Open RAN vendor should implement NBIs to allow parameter changes in their system.
Organizations defining and developing Open RAN standards cannot force vendors to use NBI protocols as vendors can handle functionalities in their preferred way. For example, the O-RAN alliance defined the Operation and Maintenance (OAM) interface, and the network protocol to be used was decided to be The Network Configuration Protocol (NetConf). Open RAN vendors implement this interface and provide compliance with the specifications, but NBI could use a different approach since external interactions with the system are not regulated. Open RAN communities share similar concerns, and new projects are planned to work on a unified management supporting multi-vendor systems. As explained above, Open RAN vendors’ NBI implementations will be crucial to managing their systems using existing CM platforms. During the trials, NBI requirements should be identified, and the scope of the prosecution should contain these interface tests as another success criterion. Standardized vendor-agnostic NBI interfaces are essential when implementing zero-touch networks to overcome the challenge of non-standardized vendor-specific interfaces and protocols.
Conclusion: Pioneering Telecom Network Configuration Management with Innovile
Innovile’s suite of solutions, encompassing CM, SON, and NMS modules, presents a unified solution for telecom operators seeking simplicity and E2E management capabilities. Open RAN continues to gain traction as a formidable alternative to legacy networks. Innovile’s dedication to embracing innovative technologies and expanding its solution capabilities underscores its commitment to catering to the dynamic needs of the HetNet environment.