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How to Approach Software Licensing in a Fully Virtualized 5G Environment

May 18, 2018

5G will usher in a new era of virtualization. And while that will open the door for some great new opportunities, it will also create challenges.

“There’s nothing in 3GPP standards mandating that today’s 4G network should be largely centralized and manually provisioned as most still are,” Gemalto (News - Alert) notes. “It’s just that the key enablers of distribution – Network Function Virtualization (NFV) with an automated and orchestrated NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and Multi access Edge Computing (MEC) – are only now starting to roll out at scale. Automation, orchestration of a more distributed network remains optional for 4G but it’s critical for 5G.”

Four key challenges for the telecom operator’s 5G networks, according to Gemalto, include the transition to NFV; resource sharing between the telecom operator and the enterprise; distribution of network, storage, and compute functions to the network edge; and zero-touch automation.

The arrival of NFV, and VNFs running on VMs, can increase the risk. For example, it can allow malware to pass unchecked from one VM or VNF to another if things are not secured. And the arrival of containers and microservices only adds to that complexity and potential risk.

As for resource sharing, that may involve a telecom operator’s VNFs and the enterprise’s data and analytics software sharing the same hardware. So isolation is required.

Distribution of resources at the edge is important in 5G too, especially for ultra-low latency applications. And that creates new cost and security challenges.

Zero-touch automation, meanwhile, can automatically trigger events to lower provisioning and maintain costs. But it can also be used to automate the dirty work of bad actors and quickly propagate bad things like malware.

The answer to these challenges, Gemalto says, is to create a fabric of trust in network slicing. In this scenario, any slice needs to be fully autonomous, even if it shares the same physical infrastructure. Enterprises need the ability to do separate authentication for each slice. Each slice and VNF should have the ability to be isolated, and enterprise and telecom resources need to be isolated from one another. Plus, there should be localized storage per slice at the network edge.

“Another of the key requirements for the 5G ecosystem to flourish is a software licensing regime that provides network operators with the flexibility they need to take full advantage of virtualization with automation and orchestration,” Gemalto says.

It adds that vendors also need one, advanced license management system to meet customer requirements, monetize their products as effectively as possible, and protect their software from intentional or unintentional abuse.

To read more, download this free white paper.

Edited by Maurice Nagle