Remember when the iPhone launched? Remember the complaints about the device not maintaining calls well? Was it really the hardware? Or was it the service provider network, overwhelmed by not just the call volume but millions of hyper-customers experimenting with their new toy? Look – a video! Look a video and a call. Hey, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and streaming audio at the same time I’m making a call! How awesome is that?
Meanwhile, there’s an entire army of operators at a service provider’s NOC who are stalking through the data center with scissors because it’s the only way to stop the madness.
Service providers, probably better than any other, understand “services”. For longer than the enterprise has been talking about them, service providers have been implementing them. They’ve got their own set of standards and reference architectures and even language to describe them, but in a nutshell that’s what a service provider does: offers services.
The problem for service providers is that the standard “services” typically associated with telephone service – call forwarding, three-way calling, voice-mail, etc… – are increasingly being marginalized in favor of other “services” as phone calls become almost an afterthought to users of smart/mobile devices.
Consider the latest survey of Web video usage from Bytemobile: smartphone users are watching video in ever-larger quantities. In fact, “video content is already a significant percentage of smartphone data traffic, with iPhone users currently generating more of it than Android: For iPhone users on average, 42% of their total data traffic is video; the number for Android user is 32%.”
The same survey indicates that approximately 48% of total mobile network traffic is video. One wonders how much of a service providers’ traffic today is actually dedicated to making a phone call?
Mobile devices today allow users to access a variety of services, many of which consume large amounts of service provider’s bandwidth. Video, real-time updating applications, GPS and mapping – the list goes on and on. All of it generates traffic and all of must pass through a service provider’s network – and be accounted for. And while the latest viral video is chewing up bandwidth on the provider’s network, the provider must maintain its network such that call quality is above par or suffer the consequences. Oh, and don’t forget that the provider has to authorize and monitor use of those services because metering is often handled based on bandwidth usage.
Complicating the service provider’s environment is the fact that while just about all its traffic today may be IP-based at the network layer, at the transport and application layers many of the protocols become more complex. VoIP, for example, leverages SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) as well as protocols designed to provide authentication and authorization, like RADIUS and Diameter. These applications must be highly scalable, highly available, and highly performing to meet the demands of impatient users. It’s not just about the data flowing over the service providers’ wires, it’s about the users and the services they use; about hooking up the right user with the right service level agreement with the right service using the appropriate policies and metering systems.
There is likely no compute environment as complex and demanding as that of a service provider, simply because of the number of moving parts, pieces, and integrations that must occur around the clock.
THE SERVICE DELIVERY NETWORK
It isn’t enough that solutions for the service provider are able to meet the stringent requirements of such a demanding environment. Solutions for service providers must support the fast-paced scaling requirements that go along with rising traffic demands from users. Solutions for service providers must be adaptable, able to support the varying protocols and services offered by a service provider with an eye toward future services that may be offered.
That’s where the Service Delivery Network (SDN) comes into play. An SDN, much like an Application Delivery Network (ADN) for the enterprise, is a comprehensive strategic point of control providing a variety of services that allow providers to address their most pressing challenges today, but also provide a platform for growth and scale that can address challenges that are sure to come tomorrow.
An SDN comprises a set of services specifically geared toward meeting the demands of the service provider and supporting their somewhat unique set of protocols and applications. While both enterprises and service providers are in need of IPv6 support, service providers are in need of large (very large) scale support. Both service providers and enterprises require intelligent, scalable DNS, but where the enterprise requires the ability to support hundreds of queries a second the service provider must support thousands to millions of queries per second. And while both service providers and enterprises require the ability to integrate with internal authentication and authorization systems (identity management) the service provider leverages what are certainly more complex protocols that are often a part of every, single request rather than session-based. A SDN is a NEBS-compliant system of components that provides a variety of services specifically for service providers, enabling them to meet the traffic and processing demands unique to the service provider network.
A SDN also, like an ADN, affords service providers the control they need over traffic. One of the biggest issues for service providers today is “big data”; which only grows up and out, never down and in. There is an increasing amount of traffic that spans an increasing number of services, all which needs to be secured and managed – often times individually. Service providers require the means by which they can centrally control resources in an intelligent way, based on subscriber, device, location and applications. An SDN provides that point of control for the service provider, reducing the complexity associated with managing multiple types and high volumes of traffic while reducing the overall operating costs associated with rising data and service usage.
An SDN does for service providers what an ADN does for the enterprise. But it does it faster and at higher volumes and over the broader set of protocols and services required to support a service provider network.