Image courtesy of Pexels: Troy Squillaci
In this series of articles, we will explore the convergence happening between the IT and Telecom industries, which is referred to as “Telco Softwarisation”.
This is the third and last article of the series with title “DevOps and Telco Softwarisation”. I have previously talked about DevOps fundamentals and how DevOps can be used in practice with an example of a simple CI/CD pipeline.
Initially, I would like to give a short introduction to “Future Networks” and why the current focus of the Networking industry (including Telecommunications) is on improving the software and hardware technologies while transitioning towards 5G and 6G networks.
Future networks go beyond 5G
Future Networks refer to the continuous improvement of networking towards the field effectiveness in data heavy use cases, with requirements for real time exchange between regional, global and even extra-terrestrial distances (!). The main advantages of 5G networks are:
The ‘Art of Software’ has been already very useful in this challenging quest. Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Edge Computing are among the most prevalent technologies used during the evolution of current networks, services and application platforms, particularly in the networking industry.
Software art is a work of art where the creation of software, or concepts from software, play an important role; for example software applications which were created by artists and which were intended as artworks. As an artistic discipline software art has attained growing attention since the late 1990s.
Several challenges across multiple industries can be solved when using solutions, techniques, tools and practices from other industries. Multi-disciplined initiatives have proved successful with impressive results. For example Automated Guided Vehicles is the result of efficient Networking, Software development, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Similarly, the aim for the Networks is becoming autonomous, self-healed and self-optimised by leveraging software, data and artificial intelligence.
On the business side, future networks enable a new market place for network apps and services allowing for rapid customer service introduction including more personalised services which eventually lead to customer satisfaction (QoE).
The internet protocol as we know it today is being deprecated and migrated to a new network that restructures how packets of information are handled. Outcomes from the aforementioned transformations result to improved communication services that will be offered by companies to end users and customers.
Following the introduction on the Future Networks, it’s now the time to acknowledge and describe at a high level the technological concepts used in the process of softwarising the networks. The concepts mentioned below are borrowed or originated from the IT industry. They have been proved as efficient in multiple occasions/projects and therefore it would be helpful to give a short description for each one:
A very inspirational article from Bassem Aly was the reason I wanted to cover this topic too, hence I created the “DevOps and Telco” softwarisation series. Bassem’s article talks about CI/CD and how it help to ship high quality and better telco service while reducing the time taken to rollout a new service i.e. Time To Market (TTM).
The obvious answer is ‘Architecting a good DevOps CI/CD strategy in Telco!’.
However, there are many factors to consider for implementing a CI/CD strategy for a Telco project. The following bullet points are the result of a brainstorm session with my colleagues in my current project. My findings in comparison with Assem’s article are as follows:
CI/CD is a pipeline with several stages according to the project needs. Each stage contains one or more jobs that might be executed or not depending on the service requirements.
Gitlab CI/CD Telco pipeline stages and jobs
.gitlab.yml is responsible for creating the pipeline. This file will be read by the Gitlab and generate the above structure.
stages: - build - analyze - unit-test - build-docker - package - deploy - e2e-test build: stage: build image: script: - make build artifacts: paths: sca-golint: stage: analyze image: script: - sca golint -set_exit_status sast-gosec: stage: analyze image: script: - sca gosec variables: helm-lint: stage: analyze image: name: entrypoint: [""] script: - helm lint serrvice unit_test: stage: unit-test image: script: - make test-cicd dockerize: stage: build-docker image: script: dockerize-e2e: stage: build-docker image: script: helm: stage: package image: name: entrypoint: [""] before_script: - /ci-tools/dlhelper dl -t helm script: - semver print - helm template service - helm package service --app-version=$(semver docker) --version=$(semver helm) deploy: stage: deploy image: name: entrypoint: [""] before_script: script: - helm upgrade --install service e2e-test: stage: e2e-test image: before_script: script: - make setup-tools - make build - make test-e2e when: manual
The pipeline above is consisted of seven stages:
Test coverage should follow the
Last and certainly not least, the technologies used for the pipeline are quite broad and they are shown in the picture below. On premise Gitlab and Gitlab CI are used for repository management and Continuous Delivery.
Go, Python, Java are the three programming languages to implement the several microservices. Bash is also used for scripting and Docker for containerising the services. Robot framework has been a useful test automation framework that makes QA people’s lives. Several development environments are built using AWX, Ansible, Terraform, Kubernetes and more.
As mentioned above, Helm is a packaging mechanism that gives a good level of flexibility when deploying to the Kubernetes clusters. All artefacts i.e. test reports, helm charts are stored in an on-premise Artifactory repository.
CI/CD pipeline technologies from repository management to deployment in the environmentConclusion
In this series I have demonstrated the usefulness of DevOps practices in complex software projects. Starting with the DevOps foundations, we’ve explored the different aspects and highlights. Moving on, we have seen how a simple CI/CD pipeline looks like and what it looks like to deploy automatically.
Finally, after looking at the “ Future Networks”, we’ve discussed the need for re-using technologies and even mentalities from different industries, hence the plan for multi-disciplinary action between the Networking and IT industries.
Please let me know in the comments or email me directly, if you enjoyed reading this article and you would like me to write on any other relevant topics.
Also, please don’t forget to clap/give feedback. It means a lot to me :)
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