The evolution challenge facing modern telecoms

On how service providers are changing their business model
Andy Huckridge is director of service provider solutions at network virtualisation specialist, Gigamon.
Andy Huckridge is director of service provider solutions at network virtualisation specialist, Gigamon.


The telecoms industry today is facing a number of powerful drivers that are rapidly forcing an evolution of both business models and revenue streams.  Mobility, cloud, big data and convergence are challenging existing infrastructures in a number of ways and are all causing fundamental changes in how infrastructure is designed, built, operated, managed and monetised.  These changes, such as increased network speeds, infrastructure density, and virtualisation, have presented another problem in that visibility and control has decreased. If you can’t effectively monitor it, you can neither manage nor secure it.

The use of smartphones and tablets has grown exponentially over recent years and this market growth shows no sign of slowing.  The adoption in Europe and MEA is very diverse so creating unique issues for each. Europe has a massive legacy infrastructure of low speed fixed lines, 2G & 3G slowing the deployment of 4G and hi-speed broadband. In Africa the geographic and security issues provide a challenge in deploying comms into remote areas. In the Middle East the very fast deployment of technology and the high data roaming charges drive subscribers who travel to have multiple contracts and multiple handsets. With such a diversity of traffic on the network and the dynamic nature of users it becomes difficult for monitoring, management and security tools to properly see the traffic they need to, which can cause difficulties in diagnosing and resolving any problems.

In addition, operators are increasingly turning towards the virtualisation of both servers and network functions in order to maximise capacity.  Virtualisation can afford service providers huge cost savings as it allows them to streamline infrastructure management, while also improving space and power usage efficiency.  However, the elastic and dynamic nature of virtualisation means that diagnosing problems and analysing performance has become more complex.

These high speed environments mean that the tools for network performance monitoring, and application and security analysis, struggle with maintaining visibility.  This, combined with the fact that virtualisation, Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) will soon be integrated into, and coexisting with, the physical infrastructure, furthers the challenge for the tools, as they lack visibility into the overlays, controllers or virtual environments.

With one of the fastest growing segments in the Middle East is the security industry and many security devices require broad access to the data, to see all of a certain type of traffic, such as web traffic, to perform their specific function.   However, other categories of tools – from network performance to application performance to customer experience management need a focussed view in terms of the specific data they consume and analyse.  The inability of analytic and measurement tools to scale as traffic and bandwidth grow leads to a loss of visibility and inaccuracies in the data output.

Through the use of a visibility fabric architecture, visibility is delivered from across physical and virtual infrastructure to the centralised management, monitoring, and security tools.  Through intelligent filtering, replication and forwarding, tools only receive the data that they need to see.  This allows operators to direct data from any number of access points to any number of monitoring tools at line rate without any data loss or blind spots.  Not only does this remove cost and complexity, but also improves the value and extends the reach of tools.

To optimise the filtered traffic streams before they reach the monitoring tools will ensure the tools are able to dedicate their central processing unit (CPU) cycles on the functions they were designed for, rather than wasting it on packet preparation.  This improves the throughput (and lifetime) of tools as it allows them to see only the traffic of interest and ensures each tool is better able to address more of the big data load it is presented with. As more high speed, mobile and virtualised services are deployed across MEA the need to secure and monitor these services will grow at the same rate. The unique issues in the region will require full visibility of all the traffic flowing on the network.

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