Lifecycle management is a well-known process in the IT- and cloud industry. Generally, what occurs in all lifecycle management systems is operation and maintenance. Within lifecycle management, great importance is attached to running and maintaining installations. What we notice is that specifically within a telecom operator, lifecycle management is extra important.
One of the reasons for this is because we see that within telecom companies some of the workloads are relatively stateful. Therefore, it can be difficult to conduct maintenance and thus lifecycle management. Also, within lifecycle management, sometimes less attention is paid consciously or unconsciously to the maintenance and running of software. And if attention is paid to it, it often concerns making backups or cleaning up old data. But by making a stateful application redundant (think of user and data plane in 4g or 5g applications) you can enable the option to switch of the application and restart it again after the maintenance tasks.
However, whether the operating software you are running is Windows or Linux or general applications such as SQL Server, .NET or Java Runtime, structured and good maintenance is crucial in keeping many processes running. Sometimes little attention is paid to standard applications for SCADA and MES and firmware for SIS, HMI, PLCs, switches and firewalls. While it is precisely there that many known vulnerabilities occur, which can easily be exploited by malware.
As with mechanical maintenance, software maintenance also has different levels of maturity. For example, there is the reactive maintenance and the occasional maintenance when there is a need. There is a well-known saying that goes with the ‘’need’’ maintenance which goes: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. Then there is also controlled maintenance, in which maintenance activities are carried out periodically and in a process-oriented manner. Finally, there is proactive maintenance. This form of maintenance takes a close look at whether and when maintenance or updates are required. Conscious choices are made from this perspective. This kind of maintenance is also what we recommend at Fairbanks and provide with our managed services model.
Moreover, within the area of maintenance there is also patching. Patching is done to fix bugs and remove security vulnerabilities. In a large telecom NFV environment, this sometimes can be quite complex. In such cases you likely want to touch the environment as little as possible. For instance, ideally in the form of conscious maintenance you keep an eye on what bugs and security vulnerabilities need to be fixed and install the solutions for the bugs as soon as it becomes available. However, that is not convenient in such a large environment, as you will constantly be working on it.
For instance, take into consideration that a ‘patch round’ has a lot of impact. In cases of large environments, Fairbanks does not do small patches unless there is a huge critical security issue because of the impact it can cause. Also, in general, we do not install individual patches, that is really done in bulk where we apply installing the latest firmware levels, installing the latest operating system and installing the latest version of the cloud OS together.
In the end, the ultimate goal of a telecom organization is for the NFV applications to become more cloud native, with the result that maintenance and lifecycle management can be done in a simpler way and more efficiently. You can achieve this by making stateful applications redundant (think of user and data plane in 4g or 5g applications) and enabling the option to switch of the application and restart it again automatically after the maintenance tasks.
At Fairbanks we help organizations to conduct lifecycle management as efficiently as possible for stateful applications and to make these applications cloud native. We also can take these maintenance tasks completely out of your hands.
How do you schedule lifecycle management? And what are your challenges here?