NGMN seeks to bridge mobile network ‘air gap’ with new white paper
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Credit: Greg Plominski/Pixabay

The NGMN Alliance has published a white paper that address one of the barriers to the rapid deployment of new software updates on a mobile network – the ‘air gap’.

Today’s mobile networks are becoming more software-centric and cloud-based, with greater use of network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN). At the same time as they pave the way towards a more agile approach to service delivery and enabling greater network automation, mobile network operators’ teams are shifting from a traditional approach to a DevOps approach (which works to reduce the time it takes to deploy new software).

One barrier to this approach, as identified in a white paper from the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance – Continuous Delivery in Telecommunication Network Environmentsis the ‘air gap’: the strict separation between live networks (production environments), test environments and development environments, which is required for security reasons. The air gap makes it harder to move software from one environment to another.

The white paper sets out a concept that addresses this problem, allowing network boundaries to be bridged while meeting strict security requirements. It was designed with close collaboration between security experts and their counterparts in the fields of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery automation. The concept takes advantage of cloud infrastructures and cloudified applications, but it is not limited to them and the authors claim that it also works well with classic data centres providing virtual machines or even physical network elements.

The concept also draws from findings gained in recent projects, including DevOps practices from Deutsche Telekom (DT) and SK Telecom (SKT) including feedback from more than 25 NGMN MNOs.

The NGMN welcomes feedback on the White Paper and is considering whether to initiate a project to further develop the concept with industry stakeholders.

“This project has reinforced the importance of industry collaboration to expand and evolve telecommunications networks with a view to providing continuous deployment,” said Peter Meissner, CEO of NGMN. “Collaboration is key not just for NGMN but for the whole industry. To address the ‘air gap’ as well as other complex issues that operators face, stakeholders must combine skills, knowledge and resources to maintain advancements in the mobile ecosystem.”

NGMN will be hosting its eighth Industry Conference & Exhibition, on 21-23 April 2020 in Paris, France.

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