Some Services are More Equal than Others

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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?

EVERY BYTE MUST BE METERED

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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)

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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.

Lori MacVittie

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