Everybody’s gearing up for the eventual launch of 5G networks later this year. Communication service providers (CSPs) claim that 5G will feature less latency, more data throughput, and more connectivity. 5G networks will also help the development of Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities. Gartner, Inc. predicts that by 2020, 66% of organizations plan to integrate 5G networks by 2020.
One of 5G’s touted features is support for network slicing. Network slicing allows for multiple virtual networks built on a shared physical infrastructure. According to CSPs, this makes it easier to provide specific network requirements based on every user’s needs. For example, part of the network could be divided to provide ultra-low latency but support little throughput. Network slicing may provide benefits to users of 5G, but it will also change the way businesses will monitor their networks. As we prepare for the widespread launch of 5G, network performance monitors (NPMs) needs to adapt to the inevitable increase in network slices.
5G network slices are, by design, separate from each other even though they share a same point of origin. This is what will allow CSPs to ensure each slice performs their duties without interfering with each other. In theory, this allows for more independent management and resource usage on each slice. This would create more efficient networks when used in combination with NPMs.
However, partitioning a network into multiple slices also means NPMs might be spread too thin. 5G networks may be faster and able to transfer more data, but that means more work for the NPMs to deal with. If NPMs don’t grow to accommodate every single slice on a network, they won’t be able to adequately monitor the performance of every connected device.
More slices, more devices
Designing network slices for specific purposes will allow for a wider variety of applications of 5G networks. It’s only logical to assume that there will be many more users and devices connecting to 5G networks. As work cultures expands IoT compatibility and shift to be more BYOD-friendly, network slicing seems like a no-brainer solution.
However, NPMs will definitely feel the strain of having more network slices and more connected devices to monitor. Increasing the number of devices also increases the number of potentially dangerous or draining devices connecting to your network. While 5G networks will allow for more traffic across different slices, it’s up to the business’s NPM to monitor everything that’s going on. NPMs need to adjust to the number of devices 5G networks will support in order to avoid overloading.
SD-WANs and security concerns
With more mobile endpoints on 5G network slices, NPMs must also buff up their security features. Since network slices are isolated, security breaches that affect a specific slice won’t necessarily spread to the rest of the network. But if NPMs can’t effectively detect and contain the breach because they’re too busy monitoring every slice, then 5G networks may create more security problems than they solve.
SD-WANs, which are becoming more popular with businesses, have their own potential issues as well. SD-WANs require much more data than typical WANs, and CSPs boast that 5G networks can easily handle that amount of data. While this allows for more network slices, it also creates a need for updates to NPM security. The majority of SD-WAN vendors use SSL or IpSec encryption, but network slicing means NPMs must track encrypted data across several areas of a network.
5G networks will no doubt provide a number of benefits to businesses, and network slicing can increase network efficiency if implemented properly. But NPMs need to grow enough to handle the sheer power that 5G networks promise to bring. Time will tell if these concerns will be addressed as 5G begins its widespread launch over the course of the year.
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