You can’t go far in the broader tech industry these days without coming across a conversation about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). I’ve been talking about AI and machine learning (ML) in telecom networks for quite a while, and for good reason: network operators desperately want and need AI to help simplify their complex network operations.

A flood of raw data

Troubleshooting and resolving issues in today’s increasingly complex and dynamic networks has become a major operational burden, complicated by multiple management systems and a flood of raw network data and alarms.

This results in two major challenges. First, the flood of raw data obfuscates true insight into the state of the network, making it difficult to detect indications of potential network outages before customers have been impacted. Second, the “trouble-to-resolve” process becomes slow and tedious as the team struggles to identify, isolate, and rectify the issue’s root cause.

These challenges can result in network troubles that last for weeks or even months. In North America alone, an IHS Markit report from 2016 estimated that network outages cost enterprises $700 billion a year in lost revenues and productivity.

AI-assisted operations to "prevent" network outages is here

To address these challenges, Blue Planet has today introduced a comprehensive solution built around AI and advanced analytics. Proactive Network Operations (PNO) is one of the first “Intelligent Automation” solutions we’ve unveiled since we announced Blue Planet as an independent division of Ciena back in February (with more to come).

Because each network is different, Blue Planet PNO is designed with human input in mind, using “supervised learning” to adapt and fine tune the prescribed actions based on the network’s unique characteristics and needs.

Blue Planet PNO strikes at the heart of the challenge of operational overload, leveraging machine learning algorithms to detect abnormal network behavior that indicates an impending network outage, pinpoint its root-cause and prescribe the necessary actions to correct the abnormality.  It then uses software-defined automation to proactively resolve the issue before customers are impacted. Based on an extensive trial in a global production network, the solution has been shown to accurately predict up to 95% of loss of signal (LOS) network outages.

But it gets even better. Because each network is different, Blue Planet PNO is designed with human input in mind, using “supervised learning” to adapt and fine tune the prescribed actions based on the network’s unique characteristics and needs. Combining human oversight with AI-driven insights results in a closed-loop automation process that continues to improve and adapt over time to produce the best possible business outcomes. This aspect of the PMO solution also aligns perfectly with Ciena’s Adaptive Network vision, which calls for utilizing automation, guided by analytics and intent-based policies, to rapidly scale, self-configure, and self-optimize by constantly assessing network pressures and demands.

The business impacts to productivity, costs, and customer satisfaction

As you can imagine, the ability to reduce costly network outages and rapidly resolve trouble tickets can have a positive material impact on multiple aspects of a service provider’s business.

Since every customer’s situation is unique, we’ve created an OpEx savings calculator that allows you to estimate the potential savings and operational impact that the Blue Planet PNO solution can have on your network.

Using this tool, our calculations show that in a network comprised of 100,000 to 150,000 ports, a network operator can save up to 38% in trouble-to-resolve workflow OpEx per year, on average, through improved focus on critical issues, acceleration of root-cause identification and corrective actions, and the reduction in emergency truck rolls. These findings equate to a payback period of less than one year for the PMO solution. Further, it’s important to note that these results don’t even factor in the impact of reduced SLA penalties due to eliminating network outages, nor the reduction in spares inventory, which would deliver additional savings. Click here to try the OpEx savings calculator for yourself.

See Blue Planet PNO in action at Digital Transformation World

We’re showing off the capabilities of Blue Planet Proactive Network Operations this week at TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World conference. If you’re not lucky enough to get to go to Nice, France, we’d be happy to give you a demo of the solution. You can also learn more on the PNO solution page, or by downloading the Blue Planet Proactive Network Operations solution brief.