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Before establishing BaseN in 2001, I was tackling some serious challenges in managing the largest network in Europe. Having acquired 14 operators into the same family, we had more than 80 thousand routers and other active components, which were to be brought under unified management, technically and administratively.
Like in the military, real time situational awareness is essential when providing end-to-end connectivity to customers. Already in the year 2000, large enterprise customers pushed more and more of their critical processes to systems relying on always-on connectivity.
As most telecom operators had split their network management into smaller domains, the monolithic systems of the time were somewhat adequate for best-effort services. Even today, most mobile operators rely on this kind of ‘circle’ structure. Best-effort service became the norm, and many networks even degraded in quality over the years.
Now BaseN Platform was designed from the start to be linearly scalable, fault tolerant and inherently distributed, just like its role model, the Finnish integrated air defence system. Our founding team had extensive telecom experience, so it was natural that the first application on top of the Platform was a robust, distributed fault and performance management system.
While the initial service on top of our Platform was for the Internet and its underlying infrastructure, the IoT shares and exacerbates most of the challenges in reliability and operational excellence. For effective situational awareness, each component of the oveall infrastructure must provide constant telemetry and devices need to be continuously updated and configured, for expansion and security. It’s just element lifecycle management, but now with millions of devices.
Some network equipment vendors have recently tried to push their existing network management systems for IoT, but as these systems were originally side products what comes to network element sales, they are not technically or financially very competitive when the amount of elements is vastly larger.
Already in 2004 we introduced a concept that network management is as essential as the network itself, and thus should be considered as an intergral, evolving part of it – perhaps even running as a distributed service within the network elements themselves. It took more than 10 years, and – in 5G networks – we’re finally seeing Network Function Virtualization (NFV) with Edge Computing confirming our vision.