Many communication service providers are embarking on a network transformation journey in both architecture and operations. Legacy networks are too complicated and struggle to meet the demands of 5G and beyond. Complexity prevents speed and agility and makes networks much too expensive to operate at massive scales. The future demands simplicity.

Cisco enables our customers to transform how they operate their networks with a comprehensive automation portfolio, Cisco Crosswork. Operations are simplified to deliver services more quickly and with higher quality. Operators can anticipate needs and make quicker, smarter decisions with automated analytics. The increased responsiveness and dynamic adaptability enable the optimum experience to end-users.

Similarly, IBM has been tackling the orchestration problem of 5G networks by deploying their Cloud Pak for Network Automation product. By automating and then abstracting the complexity of the underlying radio and core network, they present a simplified, business-friendly approach to building network services, up to and including building network slices from the cloud out to the radio edge.

Together with IBM, we realized that we could build better customer solutions by leveraging our collective strengths. As a result, our teams have integrated our products to enable the orchestration and management of 5G networks together with the underlying optical and IP transport networks in a single framework and solution, driven from any cloud.

Cisco Crosswork simplifies transport slicing

This collaboration builds upon Cisco’s network infrastructure expertise to ensure accurate and dependable rendering of service intent in the network. For example, if an operator wants to offer a dedicated slice for a specific 5G service or customer, that policy needs to be provisioned in multiple domains. Communicating via a programmatic interface, Cisco Crosswork can take high-level slice intent received from IBM CP4NA and quickly translate it into device-level IP configuration. Crosswork orchestrates multiple aspects of network configuration, including quality of service (QoS) characteristics, path selection, service assurance, and segmentation requirements, to determine device configurations that reflect slice intent with the highest fidelity. This simplified integration allows the operator to focus on service design and creation. The transport details are left to Cisco Crosswork to automate.

Looking beyond the initial slice set-up, needs will change and evolve. For example, the number of customers and the number of service offerings may grow. As a result, slice lifecycle management, including slice assurance and troubleshooting, will become critical to maintaining a high-quality customer experience. To this end, Cisco allows end-users to monitor service level agreements and any impact to the associated services for service reliability.

The automation of transport slicing with Segment Routing provides an opportunity to address many of the perennial issues customers face running large IP networks. Together, the technologies address many of the unsolved complexities in current IP networks. New possibilities now allow greater control of traffic. And although Cisco believes Segment Routing is the ideal technology for slice deployment, we also recognize there are a wide variety of deployed mechanisms in production today. We can adapt to deploy slicing with whatever current approach the customer uses.

Cisco and IBM

With this joint work, service providers will be able to tie their customer’s cloud and 5G services together with a transport network slice that provides an end-to-end SLA in a simplified operating environment.

Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to sharing how this solution translates into real-world deployments. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit the IBM booth (booth #1520) at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles (October 26-28) for a physical (or virtual) demo of IBM and Cisco’s combined products working together.

Learn more about what Crosswork can do for you.


Kevin Wollenweber

SVP/GM, Cisco Networking

Data Center and Provider Connectivity