As much of the network that can be automated must be automated

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Neil McRae, Managing Director & Chief Architect, BT

Neil McRae says automation is not only desirable but inevitable given the increasing complexity of new networks. He says that these days even the simplest network problems can take many hours to resolve because network configurations are so huge and intricate that human beings need help to get through a massive maze of network complexities.

BT became aware of the problem some years ago and duly realised that many network functions can be automated. Thus for the past four years the telco has been focusing on automation from the automatic creation of new services all the way through to the automatic management of network failures. Neil McRae believes that within five years, as networks continue to grow and 5G becomes a network norm, it will be an accepted fact of life that as much of the network that can be automated, must be automated and will be automated.

Neil McRae also points out that security is another area where automation can play a prime role. He says it must be embedded in the heart of the new network from its very inception, and not bolted on as an afterthought. The only way to do that is to build in policies and automation from the design stage upwards and rigorously apply them.

He also addresses the pros and cons of Open Source in network transformation. BT has used Open Source for over a decade now and many of the vendor deployments that BT uses also leverage Open Source. However, it is not without its challenges including difficulties in determining the correct direction in which to take an Open Source solution, determining who ultimately owns the IPR and deciding what actually is in Open Source and what isn't. He says that these and other problems have been frustrating to BT.

He adds that although BT's engagement with the users of Open Source has improved markedly in recent years, the challenge for Open Source ecosystem is always to consider the customer and those who actually use the platform - an attitude that has not always prevailed in the past. He also says that one of the main reasons BT looked to Open Source in the first place is because the immense scale of other IT initiatives and systems that simply "got beyond us" and BT saw Open Source as a way out of the complexity. That said, Open Source is one tool amidst a range of implements that can be used to solve problems and BT has no religious belief in one solution over another other than the fact that it will work to solve particular problems in particular circumstances.

Filmed at DSP Leaders Forum 2019

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