What Is Network Slicing?
Network slicing is a type of functionality that enables multiple independent networks to exist on the same physical network, using different “slices” of the same spectrum band. This allows organizations to accommodate different application requirements for security, reliability, and performance on the same network.
Network slicing leverages Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and automation to quickly segment the network and its resources to support specific applications, devices, domains, and groups. Network slicing is a cost-effective way for enterprises to meet Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and ensure each application continuously receives the resources it needs.
Why Network Slicing Matters
In the cellular world, network slicing allows businesses to control traffic resources on a more granular level. Each slice of traffic can have its own resource requirements, Quality of Service (QoS), security configurations, and latency requirements. For example, the characteristics of a network slice supporting high-definition streaming video would be different from the slice used to monitor an Internet of Things (IoT) lighting system.
In non-sliced networks, devices have access to more resources than they actually need. For instance, an employee cell phone wouldn’t need 100 Mbps to send a simple message over an app. Network slicing preserves resources by understanding the context and use case for each application and appropriately assigning the correct amount of resources.
Thanks to new core network technology like NFV, networking slicing is easier to accomplish over 5G networks. Enterprises, mobile network operators, and managed service providers all stand to benefit through the use of network slicing.
How Network Slicing Works
Network slicing uses virtualization technology to create multiple networks or slices on top of a single shared network. Each slice contains its own unique latency, throughput, security, and bandwidth characteristics.
Software-Defined Networking allows this segmentation to happen by separating the network control plane from the packet-handling data plane. The control plane creates virtual networks by defining packet handling rules on the data plane.
Simply put, you can think of this as a more comprehensive version of a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) for 5G networks. This same virtualization applies to Radio Access Networks (RANs) known as Software-Defined RANs (SD-RANs).
Network slicing across an SD-RAN allows network operators to physically separate traffic on different radio networks, allocate pooled resources, and combine the resources of multiple networks if needed.
These options allow both service providers and private enterprises to improve spectrum efficiency and resource utilization far beyond what previous cellular generations were capable of.
Network Slicing vs. MicroSlicing
Traditional network slicing was designed for mobile network operators to segment resources across large massive radio networks. This technology is incredibly useful for businesses, but has remained out of reach for enterprises due to its complexity and lack of customizable controls.
Now with MicroSlicing technology, organizations can best leverage the spectrum resources available to them in order to assign the level of performance and reliability needed for a specific application. MicroSlicing combines the freedom and mobility of wireless networks with highly granular QoS settings tailored for enterprise performance and reliability.
By building on top of existing standards, MicroSlicing goes beyond traditional network slicing by allowing businesses to control their resources per application or device across both the WAN and core network.
MicroSlicing integrates into existing IT infrastructure and security policies, making it easy to push out newly defined SLAs from your private cellular network to your existing network. This means organizations don’t have to start from scratch when developing application flows and new policies.
Through policy automation, MicroSlicing is applied to new devices automatically and assigns flows based on the type of device, group, or application that is detected. For example, MicroSlicing could detect a newly installed surveillance camera and automatically assign it to the existing video surveillance slice.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are used to measure the performance of each slice and understand app behavior over time. This KPI-level observability allows for AI to measure app performance benchmarks across other networks and suggest changes across the slice to improve performance. This cycle of continuous improvement allows business to fine-tune their slices to achieve their desired baseline performance.
MicroSlicing Use Cases
While the tech behind MicroSlicing can be tough to wrap your head around, its benefits are crystal clear. Let’s explore how enterprises are leveraging MicroSlicing to improve their performance, reliability, and uptime.
Manufacturing plants have numerous devices across large assembly lines that all require different levels of resources to work seamlessly. MicroSlicing helps prevent downtime and supports the specific latency requirements needed to support robotics, IoT sensors, video surveillance, and product tracking.
Powered by private 5G, each application can operate on its own dedicated slice and ensure it remains in operation, even when the network is congested. For example, manufacturers can create slices that demand low latency and minimal jitter for robotics, while allowing for ample bandwidth across slices dedicated to streaming high-quality surveillance footage.
In healthcare, MicroSlicing ensures patient sensors and life-saving equipment always have the network resources they need. Ultra low-latency slices can continuously monitor the stats of critical patients and feed that data into both a live dashboard and their secure medical record.
Hospital managers can use the same technology to track crash carts, dialysis machines, and inventory in real time without taking bandwidth away from other applications. With more medical equipment supporting 5G, MicroSlicing empowers healthcare workers by filtering the network resources they already pay for.
In schools and college campuses, administrators are tasked with providing reliable service for both students and staff. While traditional VLANs just separate traffic, MicroSlicing automates policy management at the scale needed to support thousands of managed and unmanaged devices. MicroSlicing can manage the bandwidth needs for staff, students, lecture halls, and shared spaces while prioritizing the applications needed to keep students safe and informed.
In some cases, campuses resemble a smart city with IoT sensors providing insights to maintenance departments and student applications. With slices that reflect the context of the application or group, administrators can better serve the campus without sacrificing service in the process.
The Celona Solution
Celona enables network administrators with fine-grained control of bandwidth and latency quality-of-service for groups of Celona 5G-enabled user devices on a per-application basis. In this example, the administrator has configured a Best Effort quality of service for Zoom clients to ensure those users are allocated the radio network resources required for acceptable Zoom communications.
Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide private mobile services as a seamless turnkey solution. Devices can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive MicroSlicing ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met.
Celona uses edgeless enterprise architecture and cloud-based artificial intelligence to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.
If you’re building your network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our private LTE network planner to see what your network would look like on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), or test-drive the Celona Solution Architecture for yourself through our free trial.