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SDN Journal Authors: Jerry Melnick, Esmeralda Swartz, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Michelle Drolet

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The Time is ‘Now’ for Policy-Driven, Software-Defined ThinkingNetworks™

Mobile World Congress 2013 | Hall 6, Stand 6E21

Mobile operators are racing to create new revenue streams and to secure their place in the digital-lifestyle ecosystem so they can dynamically deliver personalized services and adjust network capacity according to what they learn about subscribers, applications and services. To advance that vision, Tekelec is revealing its roadmap for ThinkingNetworks™ – highly evolved and software-defined networks that will self-organize, self-optimize, and self-determine responses to unprecedented and unpredictable events, much like the human mind.

The foundation of ThinkingNetworks is an intelligent, virtualized control layer through which operators can create elastic network streams for over-the-top (OTT), cloud, machine-to-machine (M2M) and best-effort services.

“We know, for instance, that our customers want to provide policy, charging and identity as cloud-based services. They also want an environment in which they can create unlimited options for partnerships and services with OTT application providers, mobile advertisers, and M2M and cloud service providers,” said Tekelec CTO Doug Suriano.

It’s for those reasons that service providers will evolve to ThinkingNetworks through four overlapping phases:

Phase 1: the New Diameter Network (NDN). Build a highly scalable NDN that orchestrates Diameter-based communications among gateways, policy servers, charging systems, subscriber profile databases, and mobility and session management functions.

It is within the NDN that the anatomy of ThinkingNetworks takes form, through a trio of:

  • The Policy Server (PCRF), the network ‘brain’ that provides the logic and rules for new business models and revenue streams based on real-time network, subscriber, device and application awareness;
  • The Diameter Signaling Router (DSR), the ‘central nervous system,’ which constantly routes signaling messages among policy servers, charging systems, subscriber databases and gateways to monetize services; and
  • The Subscriber Profile Repository (SPR), the ‘memory’ that stores profile, state, behavioral and usage data for personalization of services.

Phase 2: CloudXG™. The NDN is executed on a fully virtualized cloud computing platform. This phase represents a fundamental shift in the way operators improve network scalability and flexibility in terms of sessions, transactions, and throughput. In CloudXG:

  • The Cloud Platform provides a common virtualization hypervisor for the NDN components;
  • The Cloud Virtualizer uses virtualization technologies to dynamically add/remove compute resources to the available hardware pool;
  • The Cloud Orchestrator provides dynamic allocation of NDN compute resources as needed and tells the Cloud Virtualizer and Cloud Flow Manager to instantiate additional Diameter resources; and
  • The Cloud Flow Manager uses Software Defined Network (SDN) technologies such as OpenFlow to dynamically manipulate traffic flows entering or leaving the cloud.

The scalable intelligence, capacity and control provided in the CloudXG phase allows operators to extend their business models beyond access services.

Phase 3: MobileSocial™. Mobile operators can leverage network and subscriber intelligence to provide valuable opt-in, mobile advertising, and other personalized offers to over-the-top application and content providers. This paves the way for them to become digital lifestyle providers. Important elements are:

  • The MobileSocial Repository (MSR), a high-throughput database based on the latest advances in Big Data technology, as well as advanced analytics to determine subscriber behaviors, norms, preferences and social connections.
  • The OTT Application Management Function which interfaces with the MSR, allowing operator-controlled or third-party services to securely retrieve subscriber intelligence via standard, open application interfaces.
  • The Mobile Policy Gateway (MPG) which extends policy directly to devices, allowing operators to manage mobile and Wi-Fi network selection based on subscriber tier, device type, application usage or network conditions. It also provides personalized application controls for a better customer experience.
  • The Traffic Detection Function characterizes media flows for selected, high-value services at a much more granular level than is available with today’s deep packet inspection (DPI) and video optimization functions. This enables superior personalization of application-based services.

Phase 4: ThinkingNetworks. The network evolution culminates with the end game of network intelligence and elasticity, optimized for digital lifestyle services. Operators can adjust networks as time, events, and content are added from a multitude of sources. Critical elements include:

  • The Network Event Listener, which ‘listens’ and reports on network events to the Policy-Directed SDN Controller. Events can include RAN congestion, degradation in data session setup times, excessive invocation of policies, Diameter message overloads and requirements for special handling of high-value data sessions.
  • The Policy-Directed SDN Controller receives reports or triggers from the Network Event Listener. It evaluates the situation and, combined with intelligence from the MSR, makes decisions using a sophisticated, rule-based policy engine. It defines new quality of service rules based on IP flow conditions and can also selectively manage high-value IP flows associated with subscriber sessions of interest using OpenFlow or other standards.

“There is a radical transformation underway for service providers, and its impact is being felt in nearly every aspect of the industry – revenue streams, business models and network evolution. Tekelec has laid out the ThinkingNetworks vision to elevate the role of mobile operators as digital lifestyle providers and as major players in the expanding mobile social ecosystem,” said Suriano.

“Software-defined networks present one of the most exciting and transformative opportunities in the history of telecoms for service providers to re-engineer how they deliver services,” said Graham Finnie, chief analyst at Heavy Reading, “But they need vendors to set out a clear roadmap for moving forward, with technologies that enable them to anticipate subscribers’ desires and place them at the center of delivering innovative and differentiated services.”

Supporting Resources

The ThinkingNetworks™ Revolution: A Call to Action for Digital Lifestyle Providers

Tekelec LTE Diameter Signaling Index: Forecast Report and Analysis 2011-2016

"Mobile Broadband Pricing and Bundling – the Voice of the Consumer” preview white paper

New Diameter Network: Managing the Signaling Storm

New Diameter Network: Over-the-Top, Clouds and Machines White Paper

The New Diameter Network White Paper

About Tekelec

Tekelec’s intelligent mobile broadband solutions enable service providers to manage and monetize mobile data in LTE, IMS and 3G networks. We are the architects of the New Diameter Network, a portfolio of session, policy and subscriber data management products that lays the foundation to evolve to software-defined ThinkingNetworks™. More than 300 service providers use our market-leading solutions to deliver cloud, machine-to-machine and personalized services to consumers and enterprises. For more information visit www.tekelec.com.

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