Vendors are scrambling to help network operators figure out smarter ways to manage and optimize their networks, drawing data from various sources in order to make informed business decisions on infrastructure and services and exploring the promise of software defined networks.
A barrage of announcements from various companies in the mobile ecoystem offer their views on how operators can work to achieve a clearer view of network operations, while taking advantage of cloud computing technology to virtualize network elements and improve quality of experience while reducing infrastructure costs.
Juniper Networks is talking up its vision of software defined networking as a four-step roadmap, with new software and services to support provisioning, virtualized services and mobile infrastructure – addressing two out of its four-step roadmap to SDN. Juniper’s vision includes a first step of centralizing network management, analytics and configuration functions, enabled by its Junos Space Services Activation Director. The second step is to extract networking and security services from the underlying hardware by creating service virtual machines. To support that piece, Juniper’s mobile control gateway is running as a virtualized function on its JunosV App Engine, and providing control and signalling to 2G, 3G and LTE RANs.
The virtual mobile control gateway was developed in partnership with Hitachi.
Juniper noted that ACG Research has found that customers may be able to cut operating expenses by up to 65% and reduce total cost of ownership by more than 50%, along with large improvements in deployment time and cost.
Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of Ericsson, said that major trends for 2013 include, among others, a drive to transform networks, processes and OSS/BSS systems, with more pricing models and expansion into digital services for new revenue sources. The company is demonstrating its products in those areas this week, and also announced a partnership with SAP to support cloud-based machine-to-machine products to market for enterprise, with those solutions being offered via mobile operators.
Tekelec told RCR Wireless News that diameter signalling is the key to evolving networks that ultimately provide a more complete and integrated digital lifestyle for end-users.
Tekelec CTO Doug Suriano described a three-part anatomy of what it calls the “new diameter network,” including policy servers acting as a network brains, providing rules and logic for business models and revenue streams based on real-time information; diameter signalling routers that route signalling messages among the policy servers, gateways, charging systems and subscriber databases; and subscriber profile repositories that store data on usage, behavior and other user information for personalization purposes. Ultimately, in Tekelec’s vision, the diamater network evolves to a fully virtualized cloud computing platform, allowing operators to extend their business beyond access services. Tekelec then sees operators entering a “MobileSocial” phase leveraging network and subscriber data to change the way they interact with OTT app and content providers, culminating in a network that can be flexibly adjusted as events and content are added from a variety of sources, optimized for digital lifestyle services.
But the SDNs to support such a network vision are still in their early days of exploration.
“Software defined networks are just being defined,” said Suriano. “So if anybody says they have it figured out, I don’t believe them.”
However, he added, “getting started on the right path is really important.”
Along the same lines, F5 Networks is introducing the latest software release of its Traffix Signalling Controller that it optimized for SDN and network virtualization, with diameter and control plane solutions that can run in virtualized environments and integrate with network orchestration systems to support operators migrating to an LTE, all-IP infrastructure.
Seven Networks recently expanded its Open Channel product family for visibility into mobile traffic, optimization and management. Now Open Channel also includes policy enforcement to manage traffic and enable service plan creation; seamless mobility as devices move between 3G, “4G” and Wi-Fi networks; and Wi-Fi quality of experience to optimize Wi-Fi offloading from an end-user’s perspective.
The new solutions builds on Seven’s signal optimization product, which is designed to reduce network traffic by caching app network requests, and only allowing Android applications to signal the network when new updates are available. Seven announced at Mobile World Congress that Toronto-based wireless carrier Public Mobile has chosen Seven’s Open Channel Signaling Optimization software to manage its network signalling traffic in hopes of cutting costs.
Seven also recently acquired SNRLabs, a Texas startup that focuses on wireless network offload and quality of experience for Wi-Fi. Both companies use the same software architecture, and Seven expects SNRLabs to be rapidly integrated with its current offerings. All SNRLabs employees have accepted jobs with Seven, and SNRLabs’ co-founders are taking senior engineering positions with Seven.
Russ Bott, Seven president and CEO, said that the acquisition allows Seven to “address carrier needs across the broader wireless ecosystem. The approach taken by SNRLabs to develop its software – extending control to the client while utilizing a centralized management server – is exactly the same as Seven’s own software architecture.”
Other vendors are seeking to help operators virtualize services. Mobile messaging company Acision launched a new global service portfolio, and said that it recently deployed the first software-only MMS infrastructure in a live, unnamed network, in order to help the customer cut costs, reduce hardware investment, deployment time and use of rack space while maintaining quality of experience.
Meanwhile, customer experience assurance company Trendium is demonstrating its solution for LTE mobile broadband networks, which consists of a cloud-based applications and analytics portal called ViewPORT and a set of LTE-specific Network Access Agents for data collection from any network interface or element. Trendium says its product gives operators “unprecedented ability to identify, isolate, and resolve the network and service performance issues that have the biggest impact on the real customer experience” in less time and at less cost.
Amdocs has also launched a range of cloud offerings, including products, cloud enablement, and managed services. According to the company, its cloud-based products are focused on helping operators generate new revenue quickly in areas such as MVNOs, M2M and mobile payments. The cloud enablement features include business support systems for high-growth segments and are supposed to allow flexible service creation, new opportunities for monetization and combining communications services with cloud-based apps and services.
The company also is offering private cloud services for operators to leverage in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs, including a virtualized environment for its latest CES 9 release that Amdocs says eliminates the need to buy, build and manage infrastructure.
“Service providers have very quickly come to realize that cloud-based services can be a long-term growth engine in the fact of declining revenues,” said Rebecca Prudhomme, vice president for product and solutions marketing at Amdocs, adding that the cloud offers opportunities for lower costs, new service delivery, and new revenues. “But they’re also finding that the cloud is more complicated than it looks from the outside.”