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Why CI/CD is a Gamechanger for CSPs

As 5G networks continue to expand, the need to modernize toolkits is as important as ever.  Whereas Pre-5G networks catered to the delivery of services to people, the 5G era promises to be fundamentally different from previous communications standards in that it must support various types of non-human use-cases.   

These new use cases demand a dramatic increase in software deployments and updates.  And as CSPs continue to adopt cloud architectures, there is a strong need to automate processes for enhanced efficiency.   Finally, business models from CSP to Enterprise is changing with concepts like Network Slicing and Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), so CSPs need a flexible means to move beyond traditional consumer-centric business model to varied vertical markets such as automotive, health, energy, education, manufacturing, and many others.   

Networks need to be modernized to realize the potential of 5G. Fortunately, CSPs now have tools available to cope, and Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery CI/CD is perhaps the most prominent. 

Growing Relevance of CI/CD Automation in the 5G Era 

CI/CD is a crucial tool for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to adapt, especially as networks are increasingly becoming software-driven with cloud-native functions that require automation.   

One wireless provider recently commented that “CSPs are usually interested in three things: Network Deployment, Network Operations, and Service Enablement – and CI/CD is important because it touches all these areas in different ways.”   

In simple terms, CI/CD seeks to automate the software design to deployment flow. This typically includes software design, coding, testing, integration, delivery, validation and deployment.      

Automating the entire software lifecycle process adds agility to network operations, allowing service providers to reduce the time to introduce new and diverse services in the market. 

The adoption of CI/CD is a gamechanger because it leverages automation of the software life cycle to enhance network reliability and efficiency, making it easier for CSPs to quickly introduce new services in the market. 

The full vision of CI/CD is to continuously introduce improvements and functionality from multiple vendors into service providers’ systems without any impact on performance. Automation of the entire process reduces the time as well as the expense of rolling out new features. This has allowed CSPs to deploy new networks in weeks rather than months or years. 

One example is DISH Wireless, which has targeted enterprise customers for new services and applications.  Serving enterprise customers in the 5G era demands the implementation of network slicing, which requires a cloud-native orchestration and delivery architecture.  

DISH used CI/CD to accelerate the deployment of Radio Centralized Units (CUs), averaging more than 100 CUs in a day – a process that could have taken several months without CI/CD. In addition, continuous and automated updating of the software allowed it to meet the deadline of launching 5G services by June 14 this year, covering 20% of the country’s population. 

CI/CD for Reducing Manual Errors and Simplifying Processes 

Orchestration and CI/CD needs to be integrated and work in tandem to ensure limited or no service disruption during upgrades. Orchestration can also help in shifting the traffic during deployment as per the deployment model strategy. 

The frequency of software upgrades will continue to increase as networks become more software-centric. CI/CD can potentially make any software upgrade routine for CSPs, yielding improved performance with minimal effort. 

CI/CD automation helps reduce errors and improve security posture. Automation ensures that software always uses the latest release and there is no delay in updates, including updates targeted at improved network resilience and security.   

Manual errors can be mitigated in the build-out of cloud infrastructure artifacts.  For example, creating Kubernetes Artifacts in application deployment is typically done manually but is a complex task prone to errors. CI/CD automation makes it significantly easier to carry out the various processes in creating artifacts, like creating helm charts, and YAML/JSON files as per the CNF application. 

Leveraging a common “Zero Touch” CI/CD framework is a significant milestone in the evolution of streamlined operations, moving away from manual deployments and reducing human error. Zero Touch-based CI/CD operations help CSPs streamline and simplify operations leading to faster deployment, better network management, and improved network economics. These improvements will ultimately help CSPs improve customer experience in the long run. 

Implementing CI/CD is not without challenges for CSPs. The most important aspect is that CSPs typically work in silos with legacy solutions and processes. However, successful CI/CD demands close collaboration between the IT and network teams. This means that CSPs need to change their processes to accept and leverage automation.   Here is where Mavenir can help.   Mavenir comes with a deep understanding of the telco processes and its open-source-based interoperable solution is helping CSPs to maximize the benefits of CI/CD. 

For example, Mavenir, along with O2 Telefonica, recently demonstrated the Zero Touch CI/CD framework in O2 Telefonica’s German network to help the CSP streamline operations for faster deployment and leaner operations. 

With CI/CD, CSPs can efficiently manage new services, multiple vendors, and ever-growing traffic. It provides better resource utilization by moving the workforce away from manual and repetitive tasks, and benefits CSPs in day-to-day operations by reducing speed and cost of deployment in the 5G era. 

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