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Zero-Touch Provisioning and telco automation with Red Hat

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What is Zero-Touch Provisioning?

Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) is an automation practice that is used to quickly deploy and operate large-scale telco networks and perform network upgrades by eliminating a considerable amount of manual intervention and physical time on site.

Time on site is costly. As telco network locations can be remote, and their environments hazardous, it is paramount to maximize productive time at the physical site whenever possible. With ZTP, telco technicians in the field can be focused on tasks directly related to being at the physical site, such as running power, connecting cables, and troubleshooting connectivity issues, rather than configuration issues that can be automated or handled remotely. As service providers start to roll out their 5G RANs, this on-site efficiency is increasingly important, as the scale of RAN deployment can exceed 1,000 nodes in a geographic location.

As their networks evolve to be more decentralized, Telecommunications service providers (telcos) that maintain revenue growth while lowering operational costs will remain competitive. Using automation to manage increasingly complex telco networks at scale will be critical in driving cost savings and shortening time-to-value.

Automation will be helpful for the deployment and operations of telco radio access networks (RANs) due to their virtualized and disaggregated nature. The RAN now has the ability to be broken into smaller pieces and placed in the most optimal locations to deliver the best user experience. This, however, increases its overall density and number of nodes that traditional operations practices and tools will not be able to maintain.

Automating the deployment and operations of a telco network can:

  • accelerate new service delivery,
  • reduce operational expenses (OpEx), and
  • streamline network infrastructure lifecycle management at scale.

To fully leverage telco automation, service providers can automate workflows across business, operational processes, and network domains using a holistic approach and a unified platform/tool suite. However, selecting the right techniques from numerous options is challenging. Ensuring secure and compliant operations will help service providers keep up with the speed of innovation.

  1. Automated network upgrades: ZTP standardizes network upgrades, reducing error and risk, and simplifying the update process.
  2. Improved network security: Consistent configurations through ZTP reduce vulnerabilities and help maintain secure and compliant network infrastructures. 
  3. Edge computing deployment: ZTP facilitates rapid deployment of edge computing infrastructure, enabling service providers to stay competitive and better serve customers.
  4. Scalable network management: ZTP provides a scalable solution that adapts to growing network requirements, ensuring efficient management and optimal performance as telco networks expand.

ZTP should be used with other automation practices such as infrastructure-as-code (IaC), development, security and operations (DevSecOps), GitOps, and pipelines to automate telco network infrastructure provisioning, and to ensure processes execute consistently.

Infrastructure-as-code (IaC): IaC enables ZTP by automating the deployment and management of telco network infrastructure. It uses version-controlled code to define, configure, and maintain infrastructure components. This approach simplifies provisioning, reduces human error, and accelerates scaling, ensuring seamless, consistent, and reproducible infrastructure deployment with minimal manual intervention.

GitOps: GitOps uses Git repositories as a single source of truth to deliver IaC. This allows telco service provider personnel to use a declarative configuration to define the end state they intend to deploy at a site.

Development, security, and operations (DevSecOps): DevSecOps means thinking about application and infrastructure security from the start. Using a DevSecOps approach means that the entire ZTP process integrates security from the very beginning.

Pipelines: Advanced management of data pipelines facilitates ZTP by automating the collection, processing, and transfer of configuration data. Correctly automated data pipelines enable the integration of telco infrastructure components, simplify management, and enhance the efficiency of provisioning workflows. 

For ZTP to work most effectively for telco service providers, it needs to be part of a larger, holistic automation solution. Red Hat can help. 

Red Hat gives service providers a unified and intuitive automation platform to consistently automate IT operations across their entire infrastructure. This platform will manage policy, enforcement, and processes for a more secure and stable foundation for deploying end-to-end automation solutions.

With Red Hat® OpenShift®, service providers benefit from simplified workflows that can be used to optimize their operational model and reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO). ZTP and pipeline adoption is achieved with Red Hat OpenShift Pipelines, a Kubernetes-native, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) solution that provides a consistent CI/CD experience through tight integration with Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat developer tools.

To help adherence to security requirements, Red Hat Advanced Cluster Security for Kubernetes provides built-in controls for security policy enforcement across the entire software development cycle, helping reduce operational risk and increase productivity. Safeguarding telco cloud-native applications and their underlying infrastructure prevents operational and scalability issues and helps service providers keep pace with increasingly rapid release schedules. 

Red Hat gives service providers a number of capabilities to automate network infrastructure deployment and operation, which can create the following benefits:

Increased feature governance based on the needs of service provider IT, DevOps, security, and network operations teams.

Maximized return on investment (ROI) with a holistic automation strategy that draws value from existing automation investments by integrating them into automated cross-domain workflows.

Significant operational benefits across service provider teams that include process efficiencies, faster cycle times, cost reductions, improved team collaboration, consistent regulatory and security compliance, increased DevOps agility and execution, faster decision-making, improved control, and service transparency.

Comprehensive life cycle management will achieve more frequent and reliable deployment and upgrades of service provider infrastructure and platforms by checking software adheres to relevant policies.

Keeping pace with modern technology and network evolution will help modern telco service providers remain competitive. Red Hat has the solutions for service providers to automate their large-scale network infrastructure consistently. 

 

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