Next-Generation NOC: The Autonomous Network Control Center

This blog introduces the idea of an autonomous network control center, a next-generation NOC and much more. This will be a lens through which I intend to research in 2024 “What will people do when a network operates autonomously?”

The concept of autonomous networks, as defined by the excellent work of the TM Forum members, is now well-established. An autonomous network would have the three “selfs” and provide zero-touch, zero-wait, zero-trouble (the three zeros”). It is a bottom-up vision with the lower layers of the network (the domains) acting as autonomously as possible and with cross-domain layers happening on top. Control loops at the resource, service, business, and customer levels will instantiate these end-to-end processes, but what will the people do?

  • In the network operations center (NOC) the technicians currently watch the equipment alarms and performance degradations (whether existing or predictive), prioritize the issues, and coordinate the groups to fix any problems. In the future, most of this work will be performed by the AIs.
  • In the service operations center (SOC) the technicians watch the performance of the services, determine if there is a problem, and coordinate with the NOC to fix the problems. In the future, most of this work will also be done by the AIs.
  • In the security operations center (SOC or SEC) the technicians watch for anomalous behavior to determine if there is an attack underway and work to mitigate against it. They also ensure that the security patches are up to date. In the future, this work will be done by the AIs.

So, what will people do? Certainly, they will still be needed when all else fails and someone must log into the equipment and fix something or a novel problem arises that the AIs have not seen and cannot handle. And they will do the physical labor (until robotics gets much better).

But, beyond that, what will they do?

I am tackling this issue next year in a big way. I am going to assume that the network is mostly autonomous and ask, “What will the next generation of NOC/SOC/SEC look like?”

Clearly, it will include the current NOC, SOC, and SEC functions of monitoring the access, transport, and core networks (both physical and virtual), plus some others:

  • Monitor and control the virtual infrastructure that underpins the virtualized network elements, the OSSs and BSSs, and the AIs, which are now all a part of the network.
  • The OSSs and BSSs: How are they operating?
  • Energy usage.
  • Ecosystem services, including value-added services, managed services, NaaS, services resold by partners, and partners’ services resold by the CSP.
  • The security posture of the network and services.
  • AI wrangling: Are the AIs doing their jobs well? Are they acting within their defined areas (ring-fenced)? Do they need retraining?
  • Balancing the previous. When there are several AIs, each trying to optimize their own area, we need to somehow balance their actions.
  • Setting policies, perhaps via intent-based interfaces.
  • Running simulations, determining if the next set of policies will accomplish what they want.
  • I am sure more.

Buckle up. It’s going to be an interesting ride in 2024!

Contact Mark Mortensen for more information.


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