Brad Boston President and CEO of NetNumber talks to Sue Rudd, Director Service Provider Analysis at Strategy Analytics

Over the past few months, noted analyst Sue Rudd, Director of Service Provider Analysis, Strategy Analytics, has shared her perspective with our readers on the dramatic increase in network traffic and the resulting signaling explosion – see “Interworking escalates Signaling traffic geometrically – New Signaling Architecture is needed“.  She”s also advised carriers to simplify before virtualizing their signaling networks -see “Why Virtualized Chaos is still Chaos – Operators need to Simplify before they Virtualize Signaling Networks“.

Brad Boston, NetNumber President and CEO, recently invited Sue to his office to further discuss her recommendations and how NetNumber uniquely can help operators prepare for the coming world of NFV and SDN.

BB: Sue, you’ve written about the challenges carriers face in supporting real-time service orchestration without escalating the “signaling storm.” What is service orchestration?
SR:  In the new network architecture Service Orchestration is the function that directs the centralized Software Defined Network (SDN) Controller to program Network Function Virtualization (NFV) compliant switches, routers and applications platforms etc. with intelligent decisions that control the actual session or “flow” routing of services in real time.

BB:  Can you describe for our readers the key requirements of this new architectural approach?
SR:  Service Orchestration sounds conceptually simple but in practice the SDN control plane – and the associated signaling transactions – must deal with multiple interfaces and complex real time interactions. This means orchestrating real time state based service flows for:

  • “Service Chaining” and “on-boarding” of decomposed Virtualised Network Functions (VNFs) that are assembled in real time to create live network services
  • Guaranteed end-to-end service flows across multi-transport, multi-vendor multi-application domains and platforms
  • Optimized service capabilities across different service domains such as. Policy, OSS, Value Added Services, HSS Authentication and across performance domains that vary from nanoseconds and milliseconds to seconds and minutes
  • Seamless Interoperation across multiple vendors’ orchestration platforms and even multiple SDN controllers
  • Interoperation with legacy systems both virtualized and traditional.

BB:  Very much like NetNumber’s TITAN platform. As operators evaluate centralized signaling and routing control (CSRC) platforms, what do you recommend they consider?
SR: To achieve higher performance we need platforms like TITAN that can be both physically distributed, while remaining logically centralized. It is also essential to handle address mapping and Interworking with legacy signaling, real time routing and database access directly on a platform which scales to carrier throughput levels, minimizes signaling transactions and delivers real time stateful service orchestration.

BB: You’ve made the recommendation operators must change their purchasing strategies beyond buying “appliances”.
SR:  NFV decomposes service functions into Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) that can be allocated to virtual machine resources anywhere in the network. But operators are still budgeting and issuing RFPs for traditional network elements or “appliances” as you suggest. Even for signaling many service providers’ current infrastructure budget procurement is set around acquiring specific appliances, e.g. DIAMETER Signaling Controllers (DSC) or DIAMETER Routing Agents (DRA), or even upgraded Signaling Transfer Points (STP’s) rather than rethinking how to optimize signaling routing functions for the new NFV world. Adding a requirement to RFPs that traditional platforms be able to be virtualized will not be sufficient to capture the savings potential of the new architecture.

BB:  As carriers consider how to spend limited budgets in 2015, what kinds of operational and business benefits could operators expect to see from a CSRC platform?
SR:  Operator margins and budgets are indeed under severe pressure in the coming year, despite the continuing dramatic growth in traffic. NFV will primarily simplify and reduce the network operations expenses (OPEX) as networks scale faster and achieve higher rates of platform utilization, but the real upside for operators is to enable new services more rapidly with “service chaining” and eventually “User Defined Networking” that lets customers request and “spin up” a new instance of a service “on demand”. New services and rapid self-provisioning enabled by SDN and service orchestration could be the key to increased revenue per user and lower churn for operators. Both will directly improve an operator’s “bottom line”

BB:  Aren’t some of these benefits inherent in NFV and SDN solutions today? Isn’t NFV and SDN enough?
SR:  In the excitement over the new architecture NFV platforms and SDN Controllers for different domains are proliferating like popcorn. Even common use of Openstack and Open Source do not guarantee interoperability. If we are not careful to create the right control plane, VNF management and signaling architecture that can operate across multiple vendors and service domains we might potentially create a more complex and less scalable network than we have today.

We hope you found Sue’s comments insightful. To read more, register here to receive a complimentary copy of Sue’s latest white paper on “Redefining the Signaling Landscape to Deliver Service Agility“.  And share your perspective below.

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