Iricent attended the Layer123 Reunion: Intelligent Network Automation Congress held week before last in Madrid. It was great to be back at a physical in-person event again and catch up with up customers, partners and industry colleagues.  It was also a great opportunity to take stock of developments in the network automation sector and it was good to see not just significant advances in solution development, maturation in concepts, etc. in the two plus years since The Hague 2019 Layer 123 event but most importantly how business drivers for network automation were front and centre of the presentations, panel discussions, exhibits, breakouts, etc.

This post summarises what were our key takeaways from the event and a follow on post will look at some of the dominant topics that commanded most attention. As always, if you would like to learn more or to discuss any of these topics in more detail then feel free to contact us directly at

Drivers for Automation

Most of the sessions introduced the business, technical and operational drivers for network automation summarised as follows:

Domain Expansion and SDN/NFV Disaggregation

Domains keep expanding: – Public 5G, Private 5G, Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Edge Cloud, Backbone WAN, Campus / LAN, Branch. Cloud is ubiquitous with virtualization extending from Edge to Core.

SDN/NFV disaggregation has delivered

  • Increased choice and technology innovation
  • Service and business model innovation
  • Multi-vendor collaboration

But has also increased complexity and coordination costs

Digital Transformation and Network Evolution

On-Demand – the Digital Transformation foundation is driving network infrastructure changes to support customer self-service ordering, configuration and management via a portal or API and has given rise to transformational pillars:

  • Network control moves to software on central compute
  • Network appliances evolve to software virtual appliances
  • Proprietary platforms evolve towards standard compute (whitebox)
  • Distributed Edge

In parallel, network transformation is evolving from Network Virtualisation (VNFs on VMs, Open Networking, Orchestration) to Network Cloudification (Era of CNFs, Edge Cloud and Automation) in turn, creating Next Generation Networks with new capabilities and operational requirements that can be characterised as:

  • Open
  • Distributed
  • Virtualized
  • Data Driven
  • Complex
  • Convergent

These new networks bring great opportunity and enable new services but they also present a great challenge – the need to operate them in a different way.

In summary:

  • Networks have become too expensive to operate
  • Ratio of OPEX/CAPEX is way too high

New ways of managing networks are required, meaning a real revolution is needed to manage the new ecosystem. As one commentator at Layer 123 Reunion put it:-

“Bottom Line: as humans can’t keep up, let the machines do the work!”

Features and Benefits of Data Driven Network Automation

Many of the presentations, panel discussions and exhibits described the features and benefits of data driven network automation which are summarised below:

  • Deploy and validate networks at scale
  • Orchestrated innovation – service factory
  • Accelerate new revenue streams
  • Massive efficiency gains
  • Reusable & maintainable automation
  • Workflow and business process integration
    • CPQ (Configure, Price & Quote)
    • Inventory management (Physical & Logical)
    • Invoice & Settlement
  • End-to-end customer care workflow
  • On-demand, self-service delivery
  • Operational excellence
    • Service Provisioning & Control
    • Service Readiness Testing
    • Network optimization
    • Predictive maintenance
    • Performance Management
    • Anomaly detection
    • Fault Management & Trouble Ticketing
    • Assure SLAs- availability, performance, experience
  • Networks cloudified
    • A secure, orchestrated scalable software driven network
    • Cost effective to build, operate and evolve
    • Operations simplified
      • Transformed and automated
    • Customer experience reimagined
      • Predictive maintenance & customer personalisation
      • Differentiated services with flexibility and agility
    • APIs leveraged to drive consistency, enable innovation, Network on Demand
    • New Architectures
    • Being able to work with both physical and virtual network elements and infrastructures
    • New tools and platforms, private/public clouds, inventory management, data lakes, AI/ML  platforms, orchestrators,…

Obviously this is quite a large list and perhaps not universally applicable in all cases given the characteristics and stage of development of individual networks. However, it is fair to say that even a subset of the above features and benefits will be of interest to any network operator looking to take advantage of new and emerging opportunity and further control costs.

Automated to Autonomous Networks

A further theme and perhaps one that is more forward looking related to the idea of autonomous networks. There is a first level of automation based on rules, but the next level requires discovering these rules and patterns from the network data using AI/ML. The key building blocks for future autonomous networks identified:

  • AI / ML enable closed-loop automation and network intelligence
  • Simplified Operation
    • With Full Automation, ML, and AI, operations can be optimized and simplified
    • Centralized Monitoring & Control
  • AI/ML Driven Closed Loop Assurance
    • Proactive, intent-driven assurance policies, automatically address service impacts in the network
    • Intent defines what an autonomous network is expected to achieve, but it leaves the details of how a network is designed and operated to the internal operations of the network platform
    • Zero Touch Networks
    • E2E Automation of Entire Network

We will take a closer look at some of the dominant themes from the conference in a follow on post.