The future of 5G analytics: Oracle Communications launches Network Analytics Data Director

Matthew Beal, Senior Vice President, Software Development, Oracle Communications

The communications industry is moving into a new era—one with a new customer focus—enterprises rather than consumers—new technologies in 5G and cloud, and entirely new approaches to working in order to deliver agile, fast service through analytics and data science. As of January 2023, the GSA reports 243 commercial 5G launches worldwide with 112 operators investing in 5G standalone. This commercialization will lead to new B2B and B2B2X applications, and as they do, operators will need to make sure they have the ability to service these customers, not just scale capacity or even flexibly change service levels and resources.

The stakes are high with 5G deployment and leaders across the service provider industry are doing everything they can to ensure success as they work to evolve from consumer-focused organizations to providers capable of fueling the transformation of their enterprise customers. As we continue to work with our operator partners to achieve their 5G endeavors, we are faced with two fundamental questions. Namely, how do I increase revenue and improve customer experience and how do I run my network in the most optimized way.

At Oracle we understand what it takes to effectively run networks at scale and enable CSPs to navigate through the challenges of increased complexity in data collection, and a lack of compatibility with legacy data collection tools. Our telco heritage in 3G/4G signaling platforms provide a future proof blueprint for elastic 3G/4G/5G network signaling and policy management. Helping our customers to safeguard access and interconnect network borders to maintain service availability and quality and to move fast with 5G while preserving the value of their 3G/4G networks.

While we know the future of 5G operations must evolve to be insights-driven automation based on solutions like our recently released Oracle Communications Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF), we recognize carriers must also scale their multi-generational networks. Hence, we are announcing the second application in our Network Analytics portfolio, the Oracle Network Analytics Data Director which enables operators to flexibly integrate their 5G core into their existing operational tools, even for network functions that are not provided by Oracle. In designing Data Director we embraced the cloud native principles for accessing data in a secured 5G network environment which makes it the ideal solution for those who have already adopted next-generation analytics frameworks—and for those who still rely on traditional operational tools and platforms.

What is Data Director?

The second solution released in the Network Analytics portfolio, Oracle Communications Network Analytics Data Director is a packet broker in the 5G network, essentially ingesting data traffic from various sources such as Oracle 5G Network Functions, like Service Communications Proxy (SCP) and Network Repository Function (NRF), and sending it securely to subscribed third party applications or probes. With both incoming and outgoing data encrypted, users can be confident in the end-to-end transport of data.

We have integrated modern analytics tooling like Kafka messaging into Data Director, allowing the operator to easily implement configurable aggregation, filtering, and replication rules to flexibly feed third party network monitoring and assurance tools, other applications, or already deployed probes—and to enable simple and rapid reconfiguration as the operator upgrades their operations tooling. Data Director is designed to support data enrichment, data correlation XDR, reports, and visualization options too, delivering far more value and flexibility with less integration effort than the traditional bit-copy solutions advocated by others. For those carriers already operating in a hybrid mode, Data Director can simultaneously feed next-generation analytics platform.

5G analytics: Ensuring innovation and vision are achieved

As networks are deployed and the IT environment grows increasingly complex, many CSPs are faced with challenges in securely accessing the 5G data and sharing it with the necessary third-party applications without compromising operational practices. With systems that were previously used for 3G and 4G networks unable to perform with 5G’s cloud native service-based architecture or meet 5G’s more stringent security requirements, data engineers and data scientists need new resources to access network data, share it in a secure and simplified way, and in turn, drive company-wide objectives.

In previous generations of networks technologies such as 3G and 4G, networks were predominantly static, the signaling protocols were not encrypted, signaling connections had well know endpoints and it was easier to tap traffic in the network through probes, sniffers, and switch port monitoring. In this new 5G era network functions are dynamically configured, provisioned, deployed, and reused. The communications between two network functions is API based through Service Based Interface (SBI). The communication between the network functions is also encrypted, and the network topology, interfaces and data flows are also hidden.

Analytics solutions such as the newly released, Data Director provide an application-based message feed with 5G awareness and the support needed to seamlessly reinforce operational practices while ingesting 5G data, securely sharing it with third party applications, and alerting engineers to any issues that may arise through a clean, easily navigable dashboard. Oracle Communications Data Director provides five key differentiators designed to future proof the 5G investment:

  1. Optimized for big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool sets—The solution was designed to not only meet the needs of our current telco customers but to support future customers as well. Oracle Communications Network Analytics Data Director is flexible enough to support CSPs analytics strategy while providing the foundational capabilities needed to drive other analytics functions. It includes toolsets for data collection and management, AI/analytics, and development. This helps to fast track the development and upgrade of new applications, which is a critical part of a CSPs ongoing journey with analytics.
  2. Entirely configurable—Oracle Communications Data Director provides flexibility to support the diverse range of CSP deployment needs with scalability and agility. The solution integrates with various third party vendors monitoring and software probes so CSPs can select their unique “best-of-breed” approach to network management. Additionally, Data Director provides integration with Insight Engine, another solution in the Oracle Analytics Portfolio, designed to drive automation-enabled network analytics.
  3. Secure—Data communications between the Network Functions and third-party consumer applications are secure. Incoming data streaming towards the Data Director and outgoing data streaming towards the third-party applications are transport layer security (TLS) encrypted. The TLS can be disabled and enabled for the third-party application using the configuration feature via Data Director user interface. Data Director supports end-to-end TLS encryption of 5G core SBI (Service Based Interface) message. Further, high availability (HA) ensures a fault tolerant and distributed system that offers data redundancy and reliability.
  4. Simplicity in design—All of a CSPs 5G data is consolidated into one feed, regardless of vendors, layouts, and topologies, eliminating the need to try to solve for analytics NF by NF or vendor by vendor. Any and all data is accessible through Oracle’s SCP and Data Director. With an intuitive, simple, workflow-based, user interface designed for multiuser management, the Oracle Communications Network Analytics Data Director can provide a rich set of insights in the form of operational dashboards that offer visualization for multiple metrics, KPIs, and alarms.
  5. Accessible—Built on the principles of the Open-source community, Data Director captures network signaling messages from hundreds of ephemeral cloud native, microservices. It can be provisioned to have several feeds run in parallel towards third party monitoring applications, tools, or probes with dedicated HA pool of pods per destination. It can also filter according to metadata (e.g., consumer id, producer id) with optimization for probes, which will deem useful with any increase in network traffic.

As IT environments grow increasingly complex, service providers will need ad-hoc data access to the larger, heterogeneous network in order to provide an optimal user experience. After all the pace of network change is equaled by the pace of change in IT and data domains. Oracle Communications Network Analytics Data Director provides the flexibility to integrate into today’s solution while accelerating and simplifying the delivery of tomorrow’s services. Coupled with the broader Oracle Analytics Portfolio Data Director can support providers as they continue to glean valuable insights from their network and apply it to broader business transformation plans.