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11 Aug 2022

Why automating legacy telecom platforms is so important 

5G, despite all the challenges, is scaling faster than any previous mobile generation. Ericcson expects 5G subscriptions to reach 1 billion by the end of 2022, with 4.4 billion users by 2027. The Swedish telecom giant reports that global mobile network data traffic has doubled in the last two years, driven by continuing growth in smartphone usage, mobile broadband and the digitalization of societies and industries. Unleashing the power of solutions that connect people would not be possible without automating telecommunications platforms.    

Automate to innovate 

Automation remains a vital part of every modern telecommunication platform, as rolling out services in a cost-effective way would not be possible without that process. By automating network lifecycle management, physical network elements can be supported more efficiently, enabling improved scalability, better performance, and more flexibility. Whether it’s a cloud-native 5G network or 4G virtualized network functions, even including Network Functions Virtualization Management and Orchestration (NFV MANO), automation remains communications service providers (CSPs) best ally in deploying, operating and maintaining telecommunications platforms. 

It is important to keep in mind that communication platforms go far beyond 4G and 5G, with many legacy technologies still widely in use. A solution like Cisco BroadWorks’s virtual private branch exchange (VPBX), that is, a business phone system that provides personal and group calling services such as IVR, hunting groups, private number plans, call centers or SIP trunking, is a technology popular among CSPs. Today considered a legacy platform, VPBX’s automation is not an obvious undertaking. Usually, at best, such platforms are virtualized, and the process of deploying and managing them is manual and rooted in the past. Fortunately, it does not have to be this way. 

Automation – delivering game-changing benefits to the telecommunications industry 

Operators dealing with hurdles created by legacy solutions could be a thing of the past if automation holistically encompasses the entire telecommunications environment. Only then will communications service providers be able to reap the benefits that automation brings.  

What are the main advantages of telco platform automation? 

  • Guaranteeing project cost-effectiveness and better Time to Market, thanks to faster provisioning  and more efficient deployment 
  • Driving down maintenance costs and expenses due to higher quality deployments that are less error-prone  
  • Translating scale-up/scale-down processes into savings by reducing infrastructure and energy costs 
  • Mitigating risks with less potential for human errors through consistent running codes that do not require additional configurations every time  
  • Achieving faster code changes with better performance, which results in more rapid project implementation and quicker releases 
  • Enabling highly qualified engineers to devote time to software development enhances team productivity 

Turning a legacy telecommunication platform into a reliable, scalable and agile network is possible through automation. What do you need to accomplish this? Skilled professionals and the right set of tools. 

Cisco BroadWorks automation using IaC Tools 

Over the last few months, Software Mind’s experienced telco team successfully automated the deployment of Cisco BroadWorks for one of the largest telecom operators in Poland. Using proper Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools played a crucial part in the undertaking. IaC tools allow engineers to write code that automates the process of provisioning infrastructure, replacing the traditional, manual configuration approach. Tailored-made automation tools and a DevOps mindset approach turned a legacy telco system into an efficiently run solution. 

The project’s goal was to treat the Cisco BroadWorks deployment the same way as other application code. Software Mind’s team overcame challenges like infrastructure provisioning, Linux’s machine configuration according to BroadWorks requirements, installing third-party software, software updating and BroadWorks software delivery, installation and post-installation tasks. Ansible and Terraform tools were crucial in the automation process – flexible, easy to use, popular and in line with our client’s needs. 

To learn how exactly Ansible and Terraform turned out to be helpful, what other additional steps the team took, what was difficult, and above all see the live demo of the automated deployment of Cisco BroadWorks voice platform, watch the CNCF on-demand webinar hosted by Software Mind experts: 

Click here to watch CNCF webinar  

Reinvigorating battle-tested network solutions to support 5G 

Contrary to expectations and despite its rapid adoption rate,  the 5G market is still growing slower than expected. Jabil and SIS International Research  surveyed 193 telecommunications stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities associated with 5G deployment in the fall of 2021. The results indicate that only 14% of respondents believe 5G usage is already mainstream. Nearly two-thirds, 64%, think it will take another one to three years, while 19% acknowledge it will be three to five years before 5G is widely adopted.  

Several reasons greatly influence the rate of 5G adoption, including the slow legislative processes related to the sale and availability of the right spectrum necessary to implement 5G networks worldwide. Challenges like these influence companies’ decisions to develop the next killer app to widen 5G adoption. Without the former and the latter, the promise of 5G-fueled technology is still a part of our distant future.  

In light of such developments, reinvigorating legacy telco solutions is as important as ever, since communications service providers and their customers need networks to be up and running – as efficiently and reliable as possible.

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Automation is mandatory – don’t miss out 

Deloitte’s  “The Age of Telecom Network Automation” report sums it up well: “The goal of communication services providers is to become digital services providers (DSP), exposing their network into on-demand consumable services: flexible, fast to provision and manage, with tailored quality of service. In such a world, automation is not an option but mandatory.”  Telecommunication legacy platforms should be a part of that world, and automation is here to help. 

Automation goes beyond just the deployment phase. In order to address ever-increasing business and infrastructure challenges, testing and network maintenance professionals should turn to automation. Proper automated testing frameworks and tools support the delivery phase and facilitate engineering operations. Enabling machine learning during maintenance allows for more optimal data analytics, foreseeing and solving problems before they happen. Both topics deserve a separate article in the future, as they are more and more a vital part of a modern telecommunication platform. 

Telecom systems providers require an experienced and trusted partner who understands the technology and the needs of legacy platform users. If you want to learn more about automating your telco platform, fill out this contact form – our experts are ready to help you build tailor-made solutions and tools.  

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