Service Providers (SPs) have seen technology change at a rapid pace over the past few years. To keep up, they’ve made investments – with the ultimate goal of delivering cutting-edge use cases, be it to government bodies, private organizations, or to the public at large. However, in most markets, SPs are facing challenges that are causing them to re-think their infrastructure and how they can prepare for the future.

In addition to the challenge of growing their top-line, the other key challenge SPs face today – if summed up in one sentence – would be “managing their operational expenditure (OpEx) in a bid to increase profitability”.

The reality is that without radical new services at their end and faced with the growing over-the-top services offered by the hyperscalers and other content providers, profit margins for SPs have plateaued. The cost of doing business has been rising disproportionately. Existing infrastructure, a mish-mash of technologies from different generations, costs more and more every day to run, be it in energy costs, man hours for maintenance, and so on.

On the surface, automation would solve a number of problems for SPs, allowing them to overcome many of their OpEx challenges. However, the reality is that SPs have a complex infrastructure that is difficult to harness as a whole to implement any automation solution reasonably. Until now.

Let’s learn how one of Cisco’s customers in the SP space used our Crosswork Hierarchical Controller (HCO) to bring together multi-vendor, multi-domain, and multi-layer environments to augment capabilities, free up human resources, and truly leverage the power of automation.

How SPs are learning to automate

In the pursuit of operational excellence, SPs are increasingly turning to solutions that can bring order and efficiency to the complex fabric of their network operations. Cisco’s automation technology is precisely engineered to meet their needs by optimizing network operations through intelligent automation and simplified management.

HCO provides SPs with a centralized platform that offers visibility across their entire network, regardless of the diversity of vendors, domains, and layers. This unified view is crucial for SPs to efficiently manage and orchestrate their network operations. By centralizing control, SPs can detect, diagnose, and resolve issues rapidly, often before customers are even aware there was a problem. This delivers amazing customer experiences, often winning hearts and a share of the wallet in even the toughest markets.

Thanks to this new-age solution, SPs are able to streamline the automation process across different network domains. Whether it’s core, edge, or access domains, it enables SPs to automate routine and complex tasks alike. This not only cuts down on operational costs but also ensures consistency in service delivery and dramatically reduces errors in network and service provisioning. Further, it accelerates the deployment of new services – what used to take weeks now takes just a few hours.

Because the automation platform brings the entire network together, it is also able to deploy advanced analytics and machine learning to identify patterns and predict potential network disruptions before they occur. This proactive approach to network management helps maintain service continuity and enhances the customer experience by minimizing downtime and improving network reliability.

We’ve already talked about the fact that SPs that grow see their network infrastructure become more and more complex with each new generation of technology they adopt. Automation helps them scale effectively, enabling them to bring together an increasing number of devices and complexity without a corresponding increase in OpEx. This scalability ensures that SPs can expand their services and infrastructure without worrying about exponential increases in management challenges or costs.

Finally, by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as provisioning of the network, maintenance, and so on, automation enables SPs to free up manpower to focus on more strategic initiatives that drive innovation and business growth. This shift in focus from maintenance to innovation allows SPs to capitalize on their workforce’s expertise to develop new solutions and improve customer service.

Automation is the need of the hour for SPs and delivers CapEx savings

According to a recent whitepaper, 75% of the service providers noted that network automation is a top-5 business initiative. About 73% of the panel said that reducing OpEx was their primary aim for network automation, which is in line with the need to transform network economics.

The report points out several benefits of network automation. However, an important benefit is its ability to deliver Capital Expenditure (CapEx) savings – in an environment where SPs don’t want to significantly overhaul their infrastructure all at once.

Cisco’s automation solution for SPs, speaking about HCO specifically, delivers intelligent orchestration and automation capabilities to enable more efficient use of existing hardware resources. By optimizing network traffic and reducing overprovisioning, SPs can delay or avoid the purchase of additional hardware, thus saving on CapEx.

Further, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities within HCO provide deep insights into network usage patterns. This allows for more accurate capacity planning and investment in infrastructure that matches actual demand, preventing overspending on unnecessary equipment.

Aside from these, because HCO offers multi-vendor support, SPs can avoid a vendor lock-in, giving them the flexibility to choose more cost-effective equipment and solutions that can integrate seamlessly into their existing infrastructure.

Preparing for the future with automation

As SPs strive to adapt to the rapidly advancing technological landscape, automation has emerged as an indispensable ally. By integrating HCO into their operations, SPs are not just streamlining their processes but are setting a new standard for operational excellence.

This strategic implementation of automation is pivotal for SPs to transcend the challenges of stagnant profit margins and escalating operational costs. HCO’s unified platform and advanced analytics pave the way for heightened operational efficiency, reduced expenditures, and the agility to innovate swiftly—essentials for SPs to thrive in a dynamic market and secure their competitive edge.