What does network virtualization mean for inventory and asset management?

What does network virtualization mean for inventory and asset management?

Historically, resources and services had been tied to hardware. If we needed to, for example, increase capacity for a specific service, we increased the footprint of the specific physical resources associated with it. This approach meant that networks typically required specialist, proprietary hardware, dependent on specific manufacturers.

This created lock-in, limited choice and created interworking issues. The growth of standards-based commodity hardware sought to address this situation by providing common physical elements that could easily be reused or adopted for multiple use cases but, for many, the change was too slow and, in any event, services and elements were still tied to specific resource clusters.

Virtual networking is perceived as the answer to this problem, as it enables resources to be created in software dynamically, to reflect changes in service demands, with the support of data centers that are composed entirely of commodity hardware blades and processors. In theory, if more capacity is required for a service, it will be allocated at the level of the virtual resource. When this calls for more physical capacity to deliver the virtual resource, additional hardware can be allocated, as required. When less capacity is required, the resources can be released for other activities or other virtual resources.

As a result, virtual networks offer elastic flexibility. They are gradually being adopted, as service providers transform their networks and operations, and are also fundamental to the next generation of mobile and fixed network architecture, 3GPP’s 5G[1]. Today, we are at a transitional point, as many service providers have hybrid networks, spanning legacy physical infrastructure, as well as new virtualized elements and services.

However, there is a paradox with this new vision. While the network core and other infrastructure may exist as virtual assets, a service is delivered to something – be that a device, object or person using a terminal. In other words, virtual resources must correlate to a device or object to which they are delivered, irrespective of any elastic or volatile capabilities that can be dynamically orchestrated and provisioned.

So, network operators need to be able to understand the entirety of their asset base, across all layers – physical, logical, virtual and service. This has profound implications for network and asset inventory management – and there are some significant challenges ahead. Put simply, future service delivery depends on a clear understanding of what these assets are, how they relate to each other and their respective status. This is of critical importance for future service delivery, across both virtual and hybrid networks.

Why not get in touch to learn more.

 

[1] 5G provides a completely converged network and service architecture, allowing different forms of access connectivity.

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