Mobile networks: what needs for dynamic provisioning and orchestration

The foundations of Ethernet and the IP protocol are simple and elegant, but things have gradually become complicated over the years with the arrival of new features such as ACLs, VLANs …. These issues are particularly apparent in mobile network datacenters, where operators must exploit control plane functions such as PCRFs ( Policy and Charging Rules Function) or User Data Repositories (UDRs), as well as user applications that require complex processing at the remote control level. 7 like video traffic.

The need for orchestration and dynamic provisioning

The orchestration of intelligent services is based on the main principles of SDN and in particular the fact that switches, routers and applications can be programmed from a central component, called controller, which controls in particular real-time routing decisions flow.

For example, consider a control plan feature such as UDR to illustrate the challenges faced by mobile operators. Openwave Mobility deployed a UDR to a customer that manages more than 100 million subscribers. The UDR is accessed in real time by dozens of applications such as the short message service center (SMSC ) and the multimedia messaging service center (MMSC) to read and write subscriber attributes. This is one of the most critical control plane elements in the network. And while this application has been stable over the last 10 years, there are two areas where it could greatly benefit from the introduction of SDN and NFV functions.

The first area is the shortening of provisioning times. Today the UDR is provisioned and sized according to the peak loads. It is not uncommon to configure hardware and associated software nearly a year in advance to deal with these peaks. It is a complex and time consuming process. And imagine the multiplier effect induced by the fact that each application in the network has its own load balancer, its own solution of high availability, configuration, monitoring and reporting, etc …

In other words, financial managers often tremble at the financial repercussions of these long provisioning times. Especially since it is not uncommon for operators to over-provision their environment by a factor of 60% or even 100% for certain domains, to ensure that there will be no breakdown at a given date. December 25 or New Year – which would not only result in customer dissatisfaction, but also a public relations nightmare.

The second potential challenge for SDNs and NFVs is the separation between business logic and associated subscriber data management. In many applications such as PCRF @ or home subscriber service (HSS) management, user data and application logic are typically intertwined within proprietary interfaces. This results in duplication in silos isolated from user data, with what it means in terms of storage inefficiency, potential errors, and especially complexity in the implementation of new applications.

How SDNs and NFVs tackle the challenges of mobile networks

SDNs and NFVs can help solve mobile operators’ problems in two ways: The first is the dynamic orchestration of resources and the second the dynamic orchestration of services. The first one, which relies on NFV, requires a uniform virtualized stack on which all the functions of the virtualized operator will be deployed. In a way, it’s about building a private cloud dedicated to exploiting the functions and services needed to run a mobile operator.

This means that applications like UDR must not only have the ability to function as virtual machines, but also the ability to be extended by adding additional VMs to meet one-off elasticity requirements, while maintaining the high availability attributes. Thus, operators will not only reduce their provisioning time to a few minutes or hours, instead of several months.

The intelligent orchestration of services, on the other hand, is based on the principles of the League of Nations. Switches, routers, and applications at level 7 can be programmed from a central component, the SDN, which can make real-time flow routing decisions. It is important to note that what is known as intelligent service orchestration applies to the management of user policies and the flow of services according to user profiles at the flow level. The goal is to provide a differentiated level of service based on the clients and the nature of the services they consume.

In summary, dynamic resource orchestration coupled with intelligent service orchestration is expected to reduce the long lead times required today for provisioning new services while reducing the cost of implementing new applications. It should also provide the ability to deliver services tailored to each client’s identity and profile (what Americans call subscriber-aware services).

The adoption of SDN and NFV should not be done in a day. The reality is that most operators will deploy this new phased approach, focusing in particular on the OSS / BSS layer

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