The three Vs of  automation

Within most traditional Operations Support System (OSS)  projects there is an established methodology for identifying the environments best  suited for automation. People use different names for these network automation  target areas, but I like to refer to them as The Three V’s. These are:

  • Volume  – The number of transactions, either orders or network change events
  • Variance  – The level of difference between each of these transactions
  • Value  – Either the direct value of a service, or the internal cost to perform the  transaction

By determining the right combination of these three factors,  CSPs are able to maximize the ROI impact associated with the automation  platform and related project delivery costs.

Traditional  automation sweet spot

A good example of a target service that matches these  factors are residential telecommunication services such as home broadband. There  is low variance in the service as customers are limited in the number of available  options (e.g. different speeds of service), however there is still a high  volume due to the large population. In these cases, the fact that the revenue  per service is likely lower than an enterprise service this is balanced out by  the relatively high volume of services.

We can illustrate this relationship using a simple vector  diagram of the three factors (see Figure 1). Using existing platforms and  delivery approaches, a CSP would only target a small amount of the total  possible list of activities, maybe < 30% as shown by the shaded area in the  diagram.

Applying the 3 Vs of Network Automation to Residential Broadband Services
Figure 1:  Applying the 3 Vs of Network Automation to Residential Broadband Services

The shift from  craft configuration using machine learning

To meet the goal of dramatically increasing the level of  automation being used, we need to address the cost barriers that have been seen  in the past. A main factor driving the high expenditures associated with  network automation is the IT configuration cost. Typical projects still use a  human craft process to configure the IT platforms. To automate an activity, we capture  the manual steps taken by the best and brightest of our IT and network teams,  and then drive that process into an IT system.

Ciena’s approach to Intelligent Automation looks to address configuration-related  cost barriers in two ways. The first is platform costs. By providing a model  and microservices-based platform, we reduce the time and effort required to  capture the steps required to automate a process. The second is removing as much  of the manual craft from the process as possible by applying analytics and machine  learning.

By leveraging these technologies to identify where automation  should be applied, as well as what combination of existing automation  capabilities can be reused, we can guide the IT team, and further reduce the manual  craft nature of the process, significantly reducing the cost barrier to automation  adoption.

Taking this approach, we can increase the potential target  area of automation closer to 80% of the activities performed by a CSP today. As  can be seen in the diagram below (see Figure 2), this allows us to deal with an  increase in variance of tasks, and the reduction of volume and value to achieve  a greater coverage.

Increasing the Value of Automating Residential Broadband Services with Intelligent Automation
Figure 2: Increasing the Value of Automating Residential Broadband Services with Intelligent Automation


The traditional barriers to automation are being  removed thanks to the advent of intelligent automation platforms that take  advantage of recent technology advances like microservices, analytics,  and machine  learning. Using the three Vs of network automation – Volume, Variance, and  Value – is one way to set goals for the level of tasks you should automate, but  there are many others. The important point is that network automation is  becoming increasingly feasible from a cost perspective, and the time is now to  examine where it makes the most sense to apply it in your network and  operations environment. I also encourage you to read more about this topic by  downloading Ciena’s related white paper Creating Intelligent Hybrid Operations - How  Intelligent Automation addresses the challenges posed by SDN and virtualization.