To communications services providers, one of the most compelling features of 5G networks is the ability to offer customized communications solutions that can meet the needs of a wide range of use cases and users across virtually any sector. A business customer might want a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) or a virtual private network (VPN). A consumer might want voice and data services or internet access for the home. Still others might need Radio Access Network sharing or Mobile Network Operator services. Each will have different service requirements in terms of throughput, latency, load, and quality – but all can be handled over a single 5G network through network slicing.
Network slicing enables the creation of multiple, virtual, and independent networks to deliver the unique needs of individual users or groups. But here’s the question for CSPs: What’s the best approach to manage network slicing? It’s an issue of architecture.
Slice management architecture must be disaggregated, technology agnostic, and flexible to enable agile future extensions. Disaggregation allows each management layer to be loosely coupled and integrated over standard interfaces. This provides maximum flexibility and control, enabling CSPs to choose any communication services management function (CSMFs), network slice management function (NSMF), or network slice subnet management function (NSSMF) required to support open integrations based on industry standards. Being technology agnostic allows CSPs to independently choose evolving network technologies in radio, access, or core networks without worrying about the impact on the NSMF. Flexibility allows CSPs to independently customize and scale slice management functions based on evolving requirements.
Standards organizations, such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), are leading the effort to standardize and further optimize slice management architecture. This enables product organizations to come up with a uniform approach towards slice management and reduces confusion for CSPs.
Background: Network Slicing
A network slice is a logical (virtual) network that contains one or more network slice subnets such as a radio access network slice subnet, transport network slice subnet, or core network slice subnet. A network service may include several virtual network functions (VNFs), physical network functions (PNFs), or cloud-native network functions (CNFs) as depicted in Figure 1. Network services may use various slice subnets based on their requirements. They may also share slice subnets with other network services.