5G telephony, the 5th Generation of mobile networks, represents a definitive advance in the world of telecommunications with speeds in the range of Gigabytes and, what´s most important, it reduces latency to milliseconds.
In everyday language, what is latency about and why is it key? It is about the delay in communication, the waiting time that occurs from when the message is issued until it is received. We all experience it on a day to day basis, with the massive use of mobile communications. For example; when during a news program the correspondent takes a few seconds to answer the question that is asked. Those seconds are latency.
This latency becomes an inhibitor for the use of mobile networks in services such as telemedicine or remote control. Clearly, we cannot consider remote controlling a moving vehicle if the reception of an order takes a few seconds.
TECHNICAL CHARATERISTICS OF 5G
Having analyzed the main factors that make 5G telephony a revolution, from the point of view of the service it will provide to day-to-day activities, we will look at the technological elements that allow this revolution.
As a reference for the technical analysis, the following figure shows the Network Architecture, according to the 5G NORMA published by CORDIS (COmmunity Research and Development Information Services, the repository of the European Commission for the dissemination of information of research projects funded by the EU)
In order to make it comprehensible to the majority, we will focus, on the following key factors:
- 5G networks, unlike previous Standards which are based on Hardware and associated proprietary Software, are built as virtual networks that are managed by Software. Within this architecture it is important to differentiate four basic components of the architecture, on which the configuration and deployment of the Service is articulated:
- A service management and coordination component, called Network Function Virtualization Orchestator and represented in the architecture with the initials NFVO. Is a Software component.
- A series of components that support the functionalities of each service offered, called Virtual Network Function and represented in the architecture with the initialsVNF. These are software components.
- A series of components that ensure the integration of the functionalities of each service with the network infrastructure, called Virtual Infrastructure Manager and are represented in the architecture with the initials VIM. These are software components.
- The use of APIs appears as key to the integration between these components, one could conclude that APIs are the heart of 5G.
- They allow the implementation of customized service networks, through the so-called network segments.
- It is configured as an agile and flexible network.
ASSOCIATED CHALLENGES AND SOLUTION SCENARIOS.
From the analysis carried out so far, it can be deduced that this technological advance, in addition to the opportunities it generates, presents important challenges associated with the following concepts:
- El Software is the basis for the design, development, integration and deployment of services on the network, as well as for all management activities.
- The intensive use of APIs for the operability and integration between the different components.
- The characteristics of agility and flexibility are of great importance in the deployment and integration of services.
As we have commented in previous communications issued by SIPSA, and is widely accepted, the key to ensuring quality in Software development lies in testing, and in its systematic and gradual application to the different phases of the software development life cycle.
Additionally, and to achieve agility and flexibility in the testing processes, the appropriate strategy requires the automation of the tests and their integration with DevOps-type processes.
Analyzing in more detail the characteristics of the 5G architecture, as well as the recommendations of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the testing processes should be oriented towards:
- Defining the VNFand its operating environment, as SUT (System Under Test). This will be a dynamic testing environment, based upon virtualized and multi-vendor environments.
- The tests must be grouped into the following types:
- Functional verification tests. It groups all the tests for the scenario of integration of a service (VNF) with its corresponding layers of management and control (NFVO), access to the infrastructure (VIM), and the verification of its correct operation.
- Interoperability tests. It contemplates the tests of interaction between Services, that is, the running of a VNF in concurrence with other VNFs, considering the corresponding NFVO and VIM involved.
- Compliance tests. Set of tests that ensure the degree of compliance of the Service with the defined standards and protocols
- Performance tests. Ensure that the Service is delivered with the pre defined agreed service levels.
- From the defined test scenarios it follows that we are facing an intensive API test environment that defines the integration between the different components.
- The use of test environments based on modeling of processes (Model Based Test), presents an ideal solution as we are dealing with a complex architecture, it enables us to guide the tests towards the verification of the result and avoid the design of cases that can result tedious.
TAST AS A SOLUTION TO CONSIDER FOR 5G DEPLOYMENT TESTS.
TAST (Test Automation System Tool), is a complete and integrated Test Automation Framework characterized by:
- Based on process modeling for the definition of test cases. TAST uses UML sequence diagrams as an easy and intuitive tool for designing test cases.
- Test cases are designed independently from the system to be tested (SUT), and are associated with each one of them through the use of Adapters, which makes TAST a multiplatform Framework. There are Adapters for Web, APIs, Mobile Services, Files, External Scripts, Databases, …
- It enables the automation of a wide variety of tests , such as Functional, Integration, Regression, Load, Acceptance.
- Features for planning and execution of test cases unattended..
- Integration facilities with other services, existing integrations already available with LDAP, ALM, Jira, Jenkins. Specifically, the integration with Jenkins allows planning and automation of the deployment processes to production based on the results of the tests, and the implementation of DevOps strategies.
These characteristics make TAST an ideal candidate to respond to the testing challenges associated with the deployment of 5G
Additionally SIPSA provides a Test Automation Factory (TAF Service), which in coordination with our clientes QA teams, allows the configuration of remote teams to design and execute tests based on TAST.