Subvert the Tradition through NFV Network Automated Design and Deployment in the 5GC Era


By regarding 5G as the next-generation wireless network communication technology, global telecom operators are accelerating its network construction. Major countries and regions have proposed 5G pilot plans and commercial timetables, striving to lead global 5G standards and industrial development. The GSA reports show that by the end of March 2020, 381 operators in 123 countries and regions around the world had announced their investment in 5G. 70 operators in 40 countries and regions including China have launched one or more 5G services that support 3GPP standards. The global 5G era has approached.

As operators want to put 5G into commercial use quickly, how to accelerate network construction becomes the key. However, the virtualized core network is an indispensable core foundation for future 5G development. Therefore, all major operators put forward new requirements for fast and large-scale deployment of NFV networks. It is urgent to introduce automatic construction solutions in the NFV construction process to reduce network construction difficulties and improve the overall network deployment efficiency.

Automatic requirements of 5GC construction scenarios

5G core network is a new virtualized network. Because virtualized networks are evolving in hierarchical decoupling mode, decoupling means that more hardware and software manufacturers are introduced. In addition, the standard 5G core network architecture involves multiple NEs, and the network architecture is complicated. Therefore, the operator will face the huge challenge of integrating multiple vendors with multiple interfaces cross domains with respect to a series of cycles such as NFV network design, verification, deployment and check.

  • Automatic design requirement of NFV network  

The complexity of NFV network determines the difficulty in network design. Normally, the NFV LLD (Low Level Design) network design involves dozens of data tables and thousands of parameters, and there are complicated logical relationships among the data tables. In the manual planning mode, planning and design personnel must have rich practical experience and high-level skills. Even in this case, the manual mode cannot avoid time-consuming and error-prone problems, causing trouble in troubleshooting and project duration extension during network construction and deployment. Therefore, from the perspective of operators, it is hoped that an automatic design tool can help simplify design difficulties, shorten design duration, and improve design accuracy.

Figure 1 Interpretation of China Mobile's Virtualization Integration Specifications --- NFV Network Integration Design Data

  • Automatic deployment demand of NFV network  

NFV network construction starts from hardware deployment and integration, and ends with software deployment and integration. The entire process involves a large number of components, configuration object parameters, and operation steps, resulting in a long deployment period. In the traditional construction mode, it usually takes about one month to complete hardware integration and VNF instantiation. Therefore, from the perspective of operators, automatic deployment is expected to be implemented, so that automatic installation and deployment can be implemented throughout the process and the overall deployment efficiency can be improved.

Figure 2  Interpretation of China Mobile's Virtualization Integration Specifications --- NFV Network Integration Engineering Plan Data

Automatic design realization road and value analysis of NFV network

ZTE NFV network automation is implemented through the AIC (Auto Integration Center) tool. The AIC tool provides a series of end-to-end and one-stop services such as NFV network integration planning and design, solution verification, test design, integration deployment, and integration test. With the ZTE OpenLab and pre-integration workflow, the AIC tool can provide a variety of 5G core network NFV integration service scenarios covering NFVI integration, MANO integration and VNF integration, greatly reducing the integration difficulty of 5G core network scenarios, speeding up the construction of 5G network and facilitating network transformation.

  • AIC automatic planning: The overall efficiency is promoted by 75%  

The AIC iDevise tool is based on the workflow of parsing the NFV network planning and design. It parses the work contents in each stage of the LLD design process (including the integration design requirement quantification, non-functional requirement confirmation, project scope/constraint/dependency input, configuration list input, naming planning, computing resource planning, network resource planning, storage resource planning, cloud management planning, end-to-end reliability planning and end-to-end security planning) to determine whether the tool can be used to improve efficiency in this phase. As shown in the following figure, most of the work in LLD planning and design can be optimized through the tool and the efficiency can be improved.

When the AIC iDevise tool runs through the complete service flow of planning work, it can be seen that the planning time is shortened from the original 1.3 persons per month to 0.3 person per month at the same scale, and the overall efficiency can be improved by 75%.

Figure 3 Implementation Realization Road and Value Analysis of NFV Automatic Planning Design of the ZTE AIC Integration Platform

  • AIC automatic installation and deployment: The overall efficiency is promoted by 85%   

The 5G network deployment involves a wide range of contents. The overall deployment process includes BoQ re-confirmation, DC environment information collection, hardware networking configuration, COTS integration installation, Cloud OS integration deployment, MANO integration deployment and APP onboarding. The AIC automation installation and deployment tool resolves the work contents of each installation step, and automatically connects and runs the manual installation procedure through the installation script to implement one-click zero intervention deployment.
After the AIC automation installation deployment tool runs through the complete service flow of installation work, it can be seen that the original installation duration of 1.47 persons per month in the same scale is shortened to 0.2 person per month, and the overall efficiency can be improved by 85%. 

Figure 4 Implementation Realization Road and Value Analysis of NFV Automatic Installation and Deployment of the ZTE AIC Integration Platform

AIC helps China Mobile with automatic and fast deployment of the NFV network cloud project  

ZTE's NFV automation design and deployment solution has been successfully applied in many projects at home and abroad. In December 2019, the solution was put into application of China Mobile's NFV network cloud construction in Phase I. The data of one regional branch’s project is used as an example.

Figure 5  Promoting Large-Scale and Fast Automatic Deployment of the NFV Network Cloud Project of China Mobile

In 2019, in the network construction of Hebei regional network of Phase I of the NFV network project of one operator in China, it is necessary to complete the large-scale deployment of 1,006 servers rapidly. The traditional construction mode usually requires 4 engineers in 2-3 weeks. With the help of the AIC automatic tool, the project team implemented zero intervention in the whole process, and completed the virtual layer installation and debugging of all 1,006 servers in the resource pool in only 14 hours. The subsequent NFVO+ deployment duration is 3.5-4 hours. The VNFM deployment duration is 50 minutes. The deployment duration of a single EPC NE is 45-55 minutes, and all operations are passed at one time. Compared with traditional manual deployment, the overall deployment efficiency is increased by 40%-50%.

The AIC automation tool ensures the successful deployment of the NFV cloud network of the operator in China. In addition, AIC continues to play a role of promoting efficiency and speed in end-to-end deployment and construction in other regions of the operator's NFV network cloud.

ZTE's automatic NFV network design and deployment solution based on the AIC platform has been applied in operator 5G pilot offices and commercial networks in China, India, Japan, Austria, and other countries. In 2018 and 2019, this solution won the "Annual Best Practice Award in the SDN/NFV Field" and "Excellent Solution in 5G and Industrial Applications" awards in the ICT World Annual List. At the ZTE Global 5G Summit & Wireless User Convention, China Mobile Global Partner Convention, and other domestic and international conventions, this solution was presented and recognized by many telecom operators. 

The commercial 5G era has been fully opened. ZTE will work with global operators and partners, including China Mobile, to continuously promote the research and verification of the automatic NFV integration solution and automatic integration tool platform, to jointly build an NFV industrial ecosystem and welcome the new 5G era.