Resource management

Resource management: a key success factor for 5G networks

5G is a crucial part of the digital economy, especially in industrial technologies for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Only reliable and fast networking can enable applications with new business models and a high degree of automation. Yet the complexity of operating the hardware infrastructure and associated software applications continues to increase for mobile operators and communications service providers (CSPs).

Hybrid networks consisting of passive infrastructure, traditional active network components, and increasingly virtualized resources form a complex foundation for services and network slices. This hybrid infrastructure, combined with the growing interest in an Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) strategy and ongoing mergers, places particular emphasis on the need for end-to-end resource management.

Current challenges in 5G networks

With increasing frequency, particularly in the millimeter wave range, 5G networks have physically decreasing ranges. To compensate for this, the number of transmitting and receiving stations must increase significantly to achieve adequate network coverage. For mobile network operators or 5G-based enterprise network operators, this significantly increases the number of locations with the respective devices and antennas, network connections, as well as servers and software installations, which must be deployed and put into operation as efficiently as possible in the shortest possible time and with a high degree of automation.

With the deployment of 5G networks, the trend to rely on an open RAN to enable greater interoperability between RAN components is increasingly established. This openness of RAN in mobile networks breaks a manufacturer’s lock in a RAN domain and thus can ensure faster innovation through a diverse ecosystem in addition to lower costs through competition. However, this approach also increases diversification and the number of devices from different manufacturers that need to be managed. That’s why a vendor-neutral asset inventory and management solution that maps the current and predicted state of physical, logical, and virtual network resources end-to-end, like a digital twin, has become increasingly important. .

Last but not least, numerous acquisitions and mergers in the communications industry mean that the respective network landscape is usually heterogeneous in terms of manufacturers and technologies used. A digital twin of network resources is the basis for efficiently exploiting such a heterogeneous network landscape and planning extensions or modifications. It also forms an ideal basis for taking over the various areas of the network in the event of a merger in a structured manner and integrating them into the processes.

Have a complete overview of resources

Along with the introduction of 5G, a huge transformation is also underway for mobile operators. While virtualization is already widely used in the mobile core, it is also increasing significantly in the RAN domain. Networks are becoming more and more hybrid as more and more virtual resources are added to the physical assets of active and passive infrastructure components. At the same time, the number of locations and the number of systems are increasing significantly. This hybrid network infrastructure consists of the following resources:

  • Physical resources: antennas, radio units (RUs) and other 5G physical equipment at mobile sites
  • Data center infrastructure: edge and core data centers, with racks, power and cooling equipment
  • Logical telecommunications resources: front-end, intermediate and link connections
  • Computing resources: servers, server clusters, platforms and storage
  • Virtual resources: clouds, virtual machines, containers, virtualized baseband devices, and multi-access edge computing (MEC) applications
  • Resource-oriented services: network slices for IoT, augmented reality, etc.

Only operators who have a complete overview of all resources can perform proper planning. In the past, many of the problems CSPs had with using and expanding their networks were the result of inadequate documentation. Whether or not companies have control over the management of their resources determines the success or failure of their 5G expansion.

Planning new locations

For 5G, mobile operators need a significantly higher number of RAN sites with active and passive components that need to be planned and documented. Resource management can therefore already play a decisive role in the acquisition of sites. For example, when a supplier searches for potential sites near the desired geographic coordinates for a new site, various information is collected to perform an evaluation and selection. All of this data can be stored in a structured way in a resource management database for later use. After site setup, the data will be centrally available for further planning and operation via a simple status change.

Orchestration and automation

A successful automation strategy requires accurate and consistent asset and inventory data tied to higher-level management and orchestration systems. To support this initiative, resource and inventory data should be cross-domain and dynamically updated by the active network whenever possible. Any inaccuracies and gaps in inventory can lead to errors, costly rework, and time-consuming reprogramming, preventing efficient and automated deployment. A complete acquisition of inventory data of all active and passive network components and resources is the first step towards automation.

The importance of unified resource management

Overall, unified resource management is the foundation for planning, deploying, and operating a 5G network. It is also crucial in the acquisition of new mobile sites and forms the basis of deployment planning and execution. But also the operation of a 5G hybrid network infrastructure as well as any type of automation and orchestration makes cross-domain and always up-to-date resource management essential.

For example, as an open RAN increases diversification and the number of manufacturers on the network, an inventory and resource management solution that maps hybrid network structures with all RAN and edge dependencies and relationships from the network to the main data center as a digital twin is becoming increasingly important.

Meanwhile, mergers and acquisitions are often also triggers to start introducing such platforms. If unified network resource management is available, it makes it easier and faster to merge different areas and technologies of the network.

When looking for a unified resource management solution, consider the following features and capabilities:

  • Near real-time synchronization between the database and all active network resources
  • A central end-to-end repository for all active and passive infrastructure with all physical, virtual and logical resources
  • A variety of open interfaces for integration with upper-layer management, control, and orchestration systems that interact with — and make decisions based on — the unified database
  • A high level of configuration options to support customer-specific data and processes and to avoid vendor lock-in.

Ulrich Schälling is Vice President, Market Strategy at FNT software. In this role, he is responsible for FNT’s software product strategy in the telecommunications, data center and IT markets. Before joining FNT, he held various positions at Alcatel-Lucent in the field of OSS and systems integration. Schälling holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and has over 30 years of experience in the communications market.