Connectivity is one of those things we don’t notice until it goes missing. It’s only then we’re reminded just how hard it is to live without.
Service providers know this and go through great lengths to keep services up and running. Still, outages happen. Whether it’s a Big Tech consumer platform or a major tier-one operator in a developed nation, no network is immune to unplanned downtime. This is despite continuous network advancements over the years.
In fact, it’s those very advancements that are making it more challenging than ever to ensure uptime. Even in cases where services collapse because of a change or upgrade that was planned carefully.
As more functions are virtualized, a diverse set of software suppliers enter the network and more types of devices and customers are supported, assuring network uptime is becoming more complex than ever.
This is why now is the right time to say goodbye to passive monitoring and introduce active testing with network-aware service assurance.
Passive assurance is no match for today’s network topology and market stakes
When networks fail today, human error is often to blame. A misconfiguration. A wrong parameter. Lack of comprehensive testing. The problem is that once user traffic stops, passive assurance systems go blind. Immediately, they lose upstream visibility, hampering the ability to assess root causes. Literally any part of the network could be the culprit and unless a passive box was deployed in the right part of the network at the right time, there’s no easy way to tell which.
Suddenly, every network team is scrambling to figure out if something within their purview is to blame. Every network vendor to the operator is frantically analyzing data and recent activity to rule out involvement. Meanwhile, the minutes and hours tick by. This is how sustained network outages happen.
Especially as operators seek to serve mission-critical enterprise needs across industries and aim to differentiate services in a competitive consumer market, network outages must become exceedingly rare. And when they happen, they must be diagnosed and repaired in record time. This means getting better at detecting those critical degradations that cause outages and resolve issues before they cause damage – especially since we know one outage can quickly lead to another as attempts to reroute traffic ultimately overwhelms even more systems. Virtualized networks offer some relief on this front, providing the ability to isolate network outage fallout and contain any impact to a small set of users as the underlying issue is identified and resolved.
Network-aware active service assurance rises to this new challenge by:
Preventing outages before they happen. Even in instances where a misconfiguration or incorrect parameter is introduced via a network change or upgrade, network-aware service assurance that uses active testing can catch these errors in a pre-production test environment before services actually go live. Further, they continually monitor the network by injecting emulated customer traffic, and check for anomalies that could soon lead to trouble.
Quickly diagnosing root causes and solutions if an issue arises. As long as there are networks, there will be network outages. 5G’s expansive network topology makes putting a passive assurance box literally everywhere a cost and time non-starter. Active, network-aware service assurance looks at every domain of the end-to-end network to immediately pinpoint problems – right down to the system and specific interface causing it in the precise region.
Network-aware service assurance will change how we think about outages
Think about some of the big network outages from the past few years. In nearly all cases, network-aware service assurance could have prevented or dramatically mitigated the fallout.
This capability is within every network operator’s reach. Using cloud-native, virtual test agents, a next-gen approach is affordable, comprehensive and as dynamic as the network and services themselves. Many are working to adopt a cloud mentality and introduce CI/CD processes into the network. But it’s not enough to have the will, they must also have the right tools to support their transformation. They need proactive feedback. They need to be able to see exactly what will happen as a result of any changes.
We know that 5G will only bring more components, more complexity, and more that can go wrong. Compute infrastructures, containerization of infrastructure, with more layers and network functions built atop, each with their own upgrade cycles, is a recipe for failure without active test, network-aware service assurance and automation keeping things running smoothly.
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