The Role of Network Transformation in Achieving Digital Sovereignty

Author: Ahmed Abdelaziz, Assistant Professor, PhD and ONF Ambassador A-Team Member

In today’s world, there are three different networks that integrate to enable digital transformation and facilitate business processes that will positively impact the user experience:

  • A wireless access network, usually managed and controlled by service providers and operators in the country.
  • Cloud computing network, a public network that needs the Internet to access its service.
  • Finally, corporate and enterprise networks, which rely on the wireless access network to connect to the cloud network. A wireless access network plays an important role by facilitating connectivity services that enable enterprise networks to benefit from cloud computing services.

These three networks use old traditional technologies, and therefore are facing mounting challenges in terms of performance, load distribution, and data traffic management.  They do not provide sufficient flexibility and compatibility between different network devices because their nature is fixed functions rather than dynamic; configuration is manual, making them more prone to errors; they do not support service automation; and they do not allow for flexible innovation and development. To achieve the required flexibility in network services and taking full advantage of cloud services while maintaining performance, reliability and quality, a wireless access network needs a radical change in its infrastructure. This change must be supported by programming and automation through virtual network technology to reduce operating costs and capital cost. Therefore, it can be said that the current wireless access network has failed to meet the requirements of achieving the desired digital transformation. The problem is that organizations’ drive towards digital transformation is accompanied by a need to significantly improve the performance, monitoring and security of their network, while at the same time, they must also maintain reasonable cost. For example, critical applications need sufficient capacity to transmit data in the network with low latency and seamless mobility. These needs vary from application to application, as each application has its own security requirements and performance characteristics, requiring companies to transform their network to support the new requirements. Despite significant development and new solutions from network device manufacturers, they have been unable to make fundamental changes to improve the network infrastructure because they are closed and do not allow network service innovation and development to outside developers. In addition, they are expensive, creating the need for an open, resilient, secure and simple infrastructure with a low cost and easy in management.

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF)  has emerged in America in the past decade, leading a new era of innovation in networking, facilitating the concept of open source systems that support programming through programmatic networking technology, based on open source technologies, enabling the building of new programmable network devices. This new technology effectively restructures wireless access networks, which is reflected in the performance of cloud computing and enterprise networks. In doing so, ONF paved the way. Network infrastructure is one of the most important tools on the road towards full network transformation and strengthening the principle of digital sovereignty. AWS defined network transformation as “the complete redesign of networks, including: cloud, wide area networks (WANs), branches, data centers, remote user networks, and network security infrastructure. “Open networking opens the door to new possibilities to reduce costs by 50% in total cost of ownership through open platforms and automation, a 30% increase in workforce productivity improvements to improve operations, and an 82% reduction in manual processes with cloud data tools. Open networking will put companies on the path to digital transformation at a faster pace.

Is networking accelerating digital transformation?
Enterprise networks and businesses still use traditional network devices, such as routers, switches, and security devices such as a firewall. These devices have been available for decades, yet we try to apply them towards complete digital transformation!

Experts have confirmed that legacy networking devices and equipment are completely unsuitable to support fifth-generation applications. Therefore, to meet the needs of new applications, there is a digital transformation underway. Taking into account the needs of applications for network resources, network transformation has become an urgent and very important necessity in the digital transformation processes. Network transformation enables companies to reach their full potential by maximizing network performance and efficiency while reducing operational costs and better meeting the needs of each user. Improving network performance is one of the most significant investments that can impact a business through a wide range of effective methods. Business  Research’s Networking Market Research Study provided estimated statistics on the market size of the global network transformation investment, covering the networking industry, stocks, competitors, detailed network switching market segments, market trends and opportunities. The report noted that the size of the global network conversion market is expected to grow from $25.53 billion in 2021 to $38.96 billion in 2022, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 52.61%. The global network transformation market is expected to reach $228.77 billion in 2026, at a CAGR of 55.67%.

ONF’s Aether Project – A New Shift Towards Digital Transformation for Enterprises
Experts have confirmed that the digital disruption that most business sectors are currently witnessing will be the driver in achieving radical changes in economies, cities, societies and the business landscape. Will today’s network technology be able to shift to the Industry 4.0 era? The era will open the door to new applications and services that use AI-based data analytics, machine learning, and real-time process automation. The introduction of these new networking technologies can transform the way employees work and customers interact with your organization. You’ll need to evolve your organization as part of your digital transformation strategy and may need to bring in external partners and experts to train your team and increase your organization’s capacity.

Enterprise digital transformation strategies have been awaiting the full implementation of 5G networks, and the important question arises: Will the managed 5G application of Internet service providers in countries open the way to reach the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and enable the implementation of low-latency applications (almost real-time) while taking advantage of public cloud services? This is what experiments have not yet confirmed. The need for innovation in the way networks work has therefore remained urgent and necessary. Over the past decade, the Open Networks Foundation (ONF) has emerged to work on innovative network research and building of open source software, fostering and democratizing the creation of a new and streamlined network framework known as SDN – software-defined programmable networks – a communications network architecture that provides significant improvements in network performance, making it more dynamic, manageable, cost-effective and adaptable. Over the past two years, ONF has unveiled its latest project, Aether, the first open-source platform to support private 4G/5G networks as a managed view via an edge cloud, enabling enterprises and researchers to implement low-latency applications (near real-time), and accelerate the digital transformation that is being implemented in the licensed, unlicensed and lightly licensed spectrum (CBRS) available in many countries today.

Aether meets the technical requirements that enable the use of Industry 4.0 applications on the network, by providing:

  • Reduced latency for cloud computing services, by applying edge computing.
  • Application category definitions and resource allocation in an interactive and flexible manner.
  • Resource allocation for each application (network slicing).
  • Use of spectrum for licensed, unlicensed and lightly licensed bands (CBRS).
  • Monitor and optimize power, adjust transmission power and automatic idle time quiet.
  • Control communication between enterprise networks and public networks.
  • Provide great network security with quality of service (QoS) and edge computing.
  • Full support for network service automation.

Link to original article originally published on in Arabic on November 23, 2022