Four Reasons Why Assurance Is More Critical Than Ever


Last September, Cisco completed its acquisition of Cisco Provider Connectivity Assurance (formerly Accedian). As a foundational component in the Cisco assurance portfolio, Provider Connectivity Assurance provides the hyperprecise and granular performance data for critical service assurance and end-to-end service visibility.

We also bring the closed-loop, high-fidelity active testing that Cisco Crosswork requires for industry-leading network and service orchestration. Although our initial use cases were around automation and the Cisco Crosswork set of solutions, Provider Connectivity Assurance is well suited to solve performance and service visibility challenges across a wide array of different network architectures. There is significant potential for assurance to create new value across these environments, while also providing some “insurance” for the consistent delivery of customer experience.

Assurance and user experience requirements on the upsurge

Assurance is top of mind for our customers, analysts, and the market at large. Here are four reasons why assurance is more critical than ever, and why it should be on your radar as well.

1. Beat the squeeze—automate, differentiate, and win

Service provider economics are changing, and the margin squeeze is real. According to IHS Technology, one dollar of communications service provider (CSP) CapEx in 2022 needs to do 11 times the work it did in 2012.

So, how can CSPs keep a handle on their margins? Mass-scale infrastructure, software-defined networks, and modernized automation (the magic words). The economics of Cisco’s automation platform, Crosswork, speak for themselves: 60% CapEx savings, 66% OpEx savings, and 80% faster time-to-revenue for new assured services.

2. Stringent performance requirements up the ante, multidimensional complexity gets … more complex

On top of that squeeze, CSP environments are becoming more complex and more expensive to manage as they evolve to take advantage of cloud-native and 5G technologies. Future networks, network as a service (NaaS), MEC, 5G—the list goes on—require network-wide, stringent performance requirements (including latency) as they become more dynamic, flexible, and customizable. They need full-stack, even multidimensional observability, as they rearchitect their telco clouds. They also need forensically auditable performance data.

Analytics and AI make these networks more intelligent, more automated, but only if they have forensically auditable, highly granular data that can enable predictive and near real-time actions.

These network architectures will catapult network and service teams, beyond shoring up some margin and improving network and resource efficiency, to become the drivers of any telco’s digital agenda to enrich exceptional customer experiences and develop new innovative services that open new revenue and service tiering opportunities.

 

Traditional networks Future networks with automated service assurance
Monolithic Software-defined, NaaS
Slow Agile
Manual, reactive maintenance Digitized and automated
Standard feature sets “Hyperpersonalized”—Classes of service, differentiated service tiers
Network data used for tracking and improvements Network data used to generate broader business insights—improve, innovate, strategic differentiation

Figure 1: Future networks with intent-based, zero-touch service assurance
Source: McKinsey

3. They want it all, and they want it now

Customer demands are also increasing—they want it now, they want it hyperpersonalized, and they want it functioning perfectly. We are in the age of more—more new services, more innovative services, more bandwidth, more instant service, but hey, also, how about less cost?

Technology has changed the definition of “fast,” and as we say, “slow is the new down.” The evolution of consumer tastes and demands can indeed cause challenges for businesses, but also great opportunities.

Quality of experience (QoE) is a key driver for customer loyalty and assuring services now means assuring a customer experience. With the right technology in place, there is no reason a service provider cannot meet and exceed customer expectations.

The proof is in the granularity of visibility. Moving in real time requires real-time visibility and granular data that allows rapid change, improvements, and innovation. With Provider Connectivity Assurance’s microsecond-level accuracy and millisecond precision, control over service experience in a fast-moving 5G environment is well in hand.

Another new battlefield for customer experience? Self-service. Provider Connectivity Assurance’s real-time end-customer portals, providing transparency on the experience and service levels that they are receiving from their provider, allow you to check the box for service differentiation, for personalized, self-service management, and for fully capitalizing on cloud-native architectures. Additionally, real-time performance data can be used to proactively upsell existing clients facing service exhaust, all through their own (the end client’s) performance portal.

4. Assurance is absolutely foundational for closed-loop automation

A few years ago, we saw the signs. We saw how service providers and mobile operators would move towards network as a service (NaaS), with complex multivendor, multidomain, multicloud environments that had multiple operators in the loop. Too many multis—we like to call it the “massive multi.”

All those years ago, we saw how a SaaS-first performance analytics and monitoring solution, an intent-based service assurance platform with full-stack and granular visibility, would be an integral part of any next-generation network looking to automate beyond the use of automotives for drive testing.

As Patrick Kelly, Principal Analyst at Appledore Research, writes in the recent white paper, Intent-Based Networking – Automated Assurance’s Critical Success Factor, “Our focus on assurance is a deeply held belief that you can’t automate what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure what you can’t see or observe. Automated assurance is not an independent system. It is a collection of key technology assets that allows operators to process massive streams of telemetry data in near real time and extract a signal from the noise. This requires applied knowledge of the different technology domains and a full view up and down the 7 layers of the protocol stack.”

The listeners in the audience experience the concert, not just the percussionist who hasn’t missed a beat

Assurance of digital experiences is about all the orchestra sections working together, in sync, and without missing a beat. It is about ensuring that everyone stays on time, plays within their note thresholds, and delivers to the audience, the end users of the performance (credit on the metaphor belongs to Mark Leary from IDC, by the way).

Now that Provider Connectivity Assurance’s intent-based, zero-touch service assurance is a key component of the Cisco Service Assurance portfolio, we are excited to be on the journey to becoming a leader in the assurance and user experience space.

 

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