UPDATED 00:01 EST / JUNE 28 2021


IBM’s newest Cloud Pak offering brings automation to 5G network deployments

IBM Corp. is expanding its portfolio of automation software with a new offering for communications service providers that’s meant to help them to stand up and manage new 5G networks faster and more easily.

The offering was announced at the Mobile World Congress 2021 event in Barcelona, where IBM also revealed it will partner with some of the world’s leading telecommunications firms in areas relating to 5G, edge computing, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

The IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation offering (pictured) allows CSPs to stand up new 5G networks on any cloud or on-premises environment of their choosing and scale it up in a matter of minutes, the company said. It provides a full suite of automation tools for implementing 5G and edge services that works by managing multivendor software-based network functions, IBM said.

The package also includes analytics capabilities that customers can use to discover hidden patterns and trends in their 5G network data. Using these insights, Cloud Pak for Network Automation can then optimize network operations on the fly to ensure peak performance is maintained at all time. The offering also integrates with IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps and IBM Edge Application Manager to allocate network bandwidth and resources dynamically when and where they’re required.

IBM said the main benefit for CSPs is reducing the time it takes to stand up new 5G networks. Traditionally, it takes two to six months of manual-intensive work to set up a new network deployment. IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation can reduce that time to about four or five days, the company claimed.

“The solution enables hundreds of thousands of network functions, including host name details, server ports, network architecture, tenants, IP address plans and more, to be organized and brought together in real-time to deliver a holistic network service,” IBM said in a statement.

What’s more, the company said, it will integrate IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation with Turbonomic Inc.’s network performance management and assurance software. That will happen once IBM closes on its acquisition of Turbonomic and, when it does, it enable more insights on the performance of network services, helping CSPs better manage their day-to-day operations, the company said.

Partners jump onboard

Several telcos are already working with IBM to implement their 5G networks. Chief among them is Verizon Telecommunications Inc., which announced at MWC that it has selected IBM and its subsidiary Red Hat Inc. to build and deploy an open, hybrid cloud platform with automated operations and service orchestration that will serve as the foundation of its 5G core.

Verizon’s new 5G network services will be built atop of the Red Hat OpenShift platform in order to support cloud-native container workloads and services such as network slicing and multi-access edge computing, the company said. The IBM Global Business Services systems integrator will help Verizon integrate IBM Telco Network Cloud solutions with the Verizon Service Orchestration Platform too, enabling it to automate and manage services more effectively. By doing this, Verizon said, it will benefit from greater automation of virtual network functions and see improvements in both service quality and predictability.

Another new partner is Telefónica Tech S.L.U., which said it’s working with IBM to deliver a new artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant that aims to streamline customer service for enterprises. It’s also working with IBM to create a new blockchain platform for managing enterprise assets.

Telefónica said the AI virtual assistant will be deployed on its Cloud Garden hybrid cloud services platform. It’s powered by IBM Watson Assistant’s natural language processing capabilities and helps to automate responses to frequently asked questions and common tasks such as changes to customer information, billing questions, claims processing and the like.

The new Telefónica blockchain platform, meanwhile, is based on the IBM Blockchain Platform and will be offered to enterprise customers that need a more reliable way to track their assets through supply chains.

Finally, IBM said today that it has expanded its IBM Edge Application Manager ecosystem with more than 30 new partners. The IBM Edge Application Manager is a cloud service launched last year that makes it possible for enterprises to easily deploy and autonomously manage dozens of AI, analytics and “internet of things” devices and workloads via a single administration console.

New ecosystem partners include the likes of mimik Technology Inc., ClearBlade Inc. and FogHorn Systems Inc., whose devices and solutions have been integrated, tested and certified to work perfectly with the Edge Application Manager, IBM said.

As well as the new partners, IBM said, the Edge Application Manager has been expanded to support up to 40,000 devices at once.

Analyst Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. told SiliconANGLE that today’s announcements underscore how telecommunications firms’ next-generation application platforms are moving to very specific cloud infrastructures that must be tailor-made for their unique requirements. With that comes the need for greater portability, making Red Hat OpenShift an enticing offering, he said.

“It’s no surprise to see Verizon and Telefónica are adopting OpenShift for very different use cases, ranging from network management to blockchain,” Mueller said. “Many telcos need to mix both 5G and edge, so it’s good to see the expanded Edge Application Manager ecosystem too.”

Image: IBM

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