Thursday, December 20, 2018

2019 Network Predictions - 5G just can’t ‘contain’ itself

by John English, Director of Marketing, Service Provider Solutions, NETSCOUT

5G just can’t ‘contain’ itself 

In 2019 as virtualized network architectures are rapidly adopted to support 5G we expect to see containers emerge as the de-facto platform to run new applications and workloads

The excitement around 5G is building as we hear more news about network deployments, trials and handsets. However, one 5G-related issue that hasn’t yet been crystallized is what form 5G software and innovations will take, and how these new services and applications will be deployed into the network. Unlike 4G/LTE network infrastructure, the architectures that support 5G are virtualized and cloud-based, so the smart money is on application developers, mobile operators and equipment vendors using microservices, and in particular containers, to drive 5G evolution.

It makes sense to use containers to support 5G as they will provide operators with a flexible and easier to use platform to build, test and deploy applications that is now also becoming more secure. This is vital for the development of 5G services at a time when the use cases for 5G are still being defined. Operators will need to be in a position to spin up services as and when needed to support different use cases, by using containers it will be possible to serve customers quickly and efficiently.


Another key aspect is the need to deliver services and applications closer to the end user by utilizing mobile edge computing. This is integral to ensuring the low latency and high-bandwidth associated with 5G and will support use cases across a wide range of verticals including transport, manufacturing and healthcare. However, flexible architectures will be required to support this type of infrastructure throughout hybrid cloud and virtualized environments. As operators move network infrastructure to the edge, the use of containers will become pivotal to supporting 5G applications.

The use of microservices and containers will increase during 2019 as operators’ ramp up their 5G propositions. Despite offering clear advantages, they will also add a new layer of complexity and carriers will need to have clear visibility across their IT infrastructure if they are going to make a success of 5G.

5G will drive virtualization in 2019 

Momentum is building behind 5G. The US and South Korea are leading the charge with the rollout of the first commercial networks; trials are taking place in every major market worldwide; and Verizon and Samsung have just announced plans to launch a 5G handset in early 2019. Expectations for 5G are high – the next-generation mobile standard will underpin mission-critical processes and innovations, including telemedicine, remote surgery and even driverless cars. However, vast sums of money will need to be spent on network infrastructure before any of this can happen, and it's the mobile and fixed carriers who will be expected to foot the bill. This is compounded by the fact that many of the aforementioned 5G use cases have yet to be defined, so carriers are being asked to gamble on an uncertain future.

So, what will the 5G future look like and what will it take to get us there?

One thing is for certain - 5G will drive network virtualization. In 2019, we will see an increasing number of carriers committing to deploying virtualized network infrastructure to support 5G applications and services. Without virtualization, it will be ‘virtually’ impossible to deliver 5G. This is because 5G requires virtualization both at the network core, and critically at the network edge. Puns aside, the days of building networks to support a single use case, such as mobile voice and data, or home broadband, are behind us. If 5G is to become a reality, then the networks of the future will need to be smart and automated, with the ability to switch between different functions to support a range of use cases.

However, moving from the physical world to the virtual world is no mean feat. Carriers are now discovering that their already complex networks are becoming even more so, as they replicate existing functions and create new ones in a virtualized environment. Wholesale migrations aren’t possible either, so carriers are having to get to grips with managing their new virtual networks alongside earlier generations of mobile and fixed technologies. Despite these challenges, 5G will undoubtedly accelerate the virtualization process. Subsequently, no-one will want to be left behind and we will see greater competition emerge between carriers as they commit funds and resources to building out their virtualised network infrastructures.

To justify this spend, and to tackle the challenges that lie ahead, carriers will require smart visibility into their constantly evolving network architectures. Virtual probes that produce smart data, supported by intelligent tools, offer much-needed visibility into the performance of these new networks and the services they support. The invaluable knowledge they provide will be absolutely critical for carriers as they accelerate their use of virtualized infrastructure to successfully deploy 5G.

See also