Following on from our recent post where we looked at the key takeaways from the recent Layer 123 event in Madrid and while there were numerous presentations and discussions regarding network automation enablers, often reflecting the areas of expertise of the particular standardisation body, analyst, consultant, vendor, SI, etc., we identified a few dominant topics that commanded most attention.

Inventory Management

Inventory management was a constant and recurring theme in presentations, panel discussions and informal conversations at the Layer123 Reunion: Intelligent Network Automation Congress and indeed the most noted change in emphasis from the Hague event in October 2019.

This heightened focus on network inventory management recognises that automation requires high data quality inventories to provide a unified view to align all teams and streamline processes for building and operating the network. From physical/ passive to logical/active, network inventory management provides the tools to detect and reconcile data quality issues.

An inventory management platform discovers and documents a fragmented, multi-layered and multi-vendor network. By providing a unified view of the network, processes can be streamlined and a true network Digital Twin (a digital replica of the real network) is enabled providing accurate data and optimised workflow support as well as a Network Simulation Engine enabling:

  • Root-Cause-Analysis
  • Single-Point of-Failure prevention
  • Capacity Analysis,
  • Impact Analysis, e.g. of planned maintenance

Real-time, federated (a single, unified view of network information) inventory provides a comprehensive view of the hybrid network and is the single source of truth for the network’s state, enabling reproducible automated deployments, monitoring, etc.

As indicated above there were quite a few references to inventory management in the context of network automation. Even at one point from a representative of one of the Tier 1s  who stated that its takes them “ages to figure out what they have in any one portion of the network” and that solving this inventory management problem is now Job 1 on their automation journey.

TIP MUST – Accelerating automation through standard interfaces

Considering the critical role played by SDN Controllers in:

  • Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO)
  • Service Order & Management
  • Lifecycle Service Automation
  • Multi-domain Service Orchestration

how to implement TIP MUST requirements in SDN Controller deployments was the subject of a number presentations and discussions at the Layer 123 Reunion event.

M.U.S.T. – Mandatory Use Case Requirements for SDN Transport


  • MUST is a subgroup within TIP’s Open Optical and Packet Transport (OOPT) project group
  • The objective is to define a common SDN architecture and open and standard interfaces between each element of that architecture to fulfil operator use cases
  • The subgroups deliver periodic requirement documents that operators can use as part of their RFI, RFP and RFQ processes
  • Additionally, the subgroup tests and validates the solutions available in the market to ensure full support of the requirements


  • Open Transport Solutions are being deployed
    • Potential volumes are high, requiring integration with existing and future SDN controllers/management systems
  • Industry Fragmentation
    • Several organizations driving SDN initiatives
    • Competing standards addressing same areas and use cases
  • High Integration Costs
    • Slow and costly integration and API development
    • High operational overhead


  • Building a seamless unboxing experience for SDN in Transport
    • Ensure full SDN compliancy against MUST Requirements
  • Provide best in class validation process through high standards of quality and compliance, addressing TIP Technical requirements and Test plans
  • Reduce operators’ effort & costs by reducing the number of new products and solution validations carried out individually by operators
  • Reduce time-to-market for SDN Solutions

The role of  Zero-touch network and Service Management (ZSM)

The ETSI ZSM (Zero-touch network and Service Management) group was formed with the objective of accelerating the definition of the end-to-end service management architecture to enable automatic execution of operational processes and tasks. While the ETSI ZSM group is focussed on the deployment of 5G and network slicing, much of its work, e.g. closed-loop automation and data-driven ML/AI algorithms for intent driven autonomous networks, is relevant to other network domains and hence a summary of the topic presentations at the Layer 123 Reunion is presented here.

Market needs:

  • Full end-to-end automation of network and service management has become an urgent necessity for delivering services with agility and speed

ZSM mission:

  • Define a future-proof, end-to-end operable framework and key automation technologies to enable agile, efficient and qualitative management of emerging and future networks and services
  • The ultimate target is to achieve the highest degree of automation (100%) and enable fully autonomous network  operation
  • Realizing this vision requires:
  • Developing a novel end-to-end architecture framework and enablers designed for self-management, closed-loop automation and optimized for data-driven artificial intelligence solutions
  • Demonstrating the viability of the technology
  • Facilitating collaboration in the industry to ensure alignment and leverage of synergies

The ZSM architecture as a framework for next-generation automation platforms supports end-to-end service lifecycle management and cross-domain service orchestration and automation.

ZSM defines Onboarding, Fulfillment and Assurance processes where each process is a target for autonomous operation.


  • End-to-end zero-touch network and service automation are essential to unleash the business potential of network automation
  • The ETSI ZSM framework
    • is versatile and built on service-based principles offering scalability, modularity, extensibility and flexibility
    • supports the transfer of autonomy from the operator to the network using intent-based interfaces
    • integrates capabilities for closed-loop operation and coordination, in support of the zero-touch operational goal
    • provides means to integrate AI-based functionalities, enabling operational autonomy.
  • ZSM specifies key automation capabilities

While these three topics above did command a significant amount of attention and discussion over the course of the conference this did not come as a surprise as in many ways this is reflective of our many discussions with customers and network operators on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to learn more about this or have specific questions, feel free to get in touch at