Shanthi Ravindran, Principal Analyst at Appledore Research, presented and released the white paper An Architecture Evolution: Thinking differently to achieve success at the Autonomous Networks Industry Summit in Dubai, which TM Forum hosted during the Ultra-Broadband Forum (UBBF) 2023. The paper focuses on the architecture evolution of Autonomous Networks (AN), outlines the latest trends in AN, and offers several AN case studies and suggestions for the industry.

Shanthi Ravindran, Principal Analyst at Appledore Research

The telecom industry is undergoing significant transformation, as outlined in the white paper. With new technologies such as 5G and cloud computing, leading communications service providers (CSPs) have numerous opportunities. However, they also face stiff competition from emerging CSPs. To manage new networks effectively, CSPs must adopt an innovative mindset and make fundamental changes. In the new digital ecosystem, CSPs must also deploy agile AN to capitalize on the opportunities for revenue growth. Surveys indicate that the enterprise WAN market alone has the potential for revenue growth exceeding USD 100 billion. To take advantage of these opportunities, CSPs must implement automatic and intelligent network operations.

AN implements self-management through a closed control loop, significantly improving agility and operational efficiency. A hierarchical and loosely-coupled architecture is necessary for AN. This architecture involves different technical domains forming independent, autonomous domains (AD) that interact with the cross-domain service orchestration layer through intent-driven APIs. Each AD must perform closed-loop control for full-lifecycle service management. This architecture enables the seamless integration of new technologies in the future. Renowned device vendors in different domains have started developing AN controller based on their expertise. Many CSPs, including China Mobile and AIS Thailand, are actively deploying AN in various key scenarios.

The AN architecture comprises two layers: a technical-domain autonomous controller at the bottom layer and a cross-domain service orchestrator at the upper layer. The bottom layer includes devices provided by vendors from different domains, whereas the upper layer is jointly deployed by system integrators and CSPs. In the future, networks will evolve into an ecosystem where services are selected from a domain service library and assembled. This approach is key to improving reusability and agility while also reducing costs.

Principles for AN deployment include:

  • While AN is a long-term strategy, it is important to achieve quick wins to bring about mindset changes within the organization and deliver immediate value.
  • The network is composed of various ADs and is domain-specific. Network software and O&M software must be layered and loosely coupled. Self-management of individual technical domains must be realized without affecting the service layer.
  • Data and logic must be distributed instead of being isolated in separate information silos.
  • All interactions must be implemented based on intents (declarative APIs) rather than imperative details.
  • Intent translation must be achieved through various algorithms, such as a rule engine and AI.
  • Analytics and AI are critical in guiding the control loop to heal, scale, and eventually optimize.

To achieve AN, CSPs need to redefine their processes, organizational structures, and employee capabilities. Conventional OSSs are closely tied to these structures and must be reconstructed. Employees must also adopt a mindset that embraces the dynamic changes in business and technology.

Despite the challenges, the telecom industry is steadily working toward network intelligence. CSPs can begin deploying ADs in key technical domains and then gradually expand toward cross-domain automation at the service layer. This transformation requires collaborative innovations in software, hardware, and organizational processes. Ultimately, it will unlock the tremendous potential of CSPs, enabling them to participate in the digital ecosystem and discover new sources of growth.

Read the white paper at

Appledore Research is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the telecommunication and software market. We provide market share, forecast, business models, industry trend reports, and custom research in the areas of network automation, 5G, Edge compute, SD-WAN, SDN, AI, and analytics, in the telecommunication and media market segments.