In my previous blog post, I discussed why mobile and broadband communications service providers (CSPs) will move toward “cloudification”—and the first two steps down that road: network functions virtualization (NFV) and Virtualized Resilience Layer. In this post, I’ll examine the advanced steps that could transform the telco space in even more fundamental ways.
Step 3: Contextual Network Analysis
In the course of serving subscribers, CSPs accumulate a lot of data about their subscribers. This includes information about their devices, their usage patterns, service plans, geographic locations, contacts, purchase histories, and more. In addition to this “internal” data are subscriber insights available from social media and other online sources. Contextual Network Analysis is all about combining all this data to create massive repositories of information, then analyzing this Big Data to leverage even more value from the CSP’s network.
This added value could be in the form of highly personalized opt-in ads or offers, or service recommendations—all delivered within the context of each subscriber’s individual patterns. This capability could also open the door to third-party partnerships to deliver value-added services that generate new revenue streams while keeping subscribers stuck to the CSP like glue.
This kind of data analysis is already practiced in other business sectors. What’s new and exciting is the idea of integrating network-derived intelligence to give CSPs a powerful, new arrow in their quiver.
Step 4: Thinking Networks
What’s the endgame of this march to cloudification? I believe the final step will be taking telco networks to an even higher level of automated intelligence. Such a “thinking network” will have a high degree of software-defined intelligence across all of the CSP’s central offices. The result is a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the entire network and the CSP’s subscribers. This intelligent network will process all this information in real time, adapting dynamically to changing activity. The thinking network is a learning network, analyzing a variety of network activity data to predict what’s needed, precisely where and when it’s needed.
The result is an optimized subscriber experience where the network gets to “know” what subscribers want. Crucially, by allocating network resources in a “just in time” manner, the thinking network also optimizes utilization of bandwidth, maximizing operational efficiency and service provider profitability.
Meeting the Availability Standard
This is all pretty exciting stuff for CSPs plotting their strategy for future profitability. But there are technical hurdles that must be overcome. First and foremost is the need to ensure extreme availability. In the telco world, “five nines” availability is the standard. Rapid recovery from faults isn’t enough; subscriber applications must be able to maintain their state, no matter what. That means they must be able to “remember” the preceding events in a given sequence of user interactions and pick up immediately where they left off in the event of a fault. Failing to maintain stateful availability results in dropped calls and interrupted access to services. And that leads to subscriber churn and lost revenue.
The good news is that achieving stateful availability in low-cost cloud environments is now possible. A new generation of software-defined availability (SDA) technologies capture the state of the primary system at regular intervals and apply it to a secondary standby host. In the event of a primary host fault, the secondary can pick up execution starting from the most recent statepoint without losing any data. All completely transparent to the subscriber.
The key to this breakthrough is taking availability out of the application layer, enabling any application to receive its required availability level in the cloud, with application transparency. Stratus is leading the way in making this a reality in cloudified telco networks.
The road to telco cloudification represents an exciting opportunity for forward-looking CSPs. And Stratus is working to pave the way to the cloud for forward-looking telcos ready to seize the first-mover advantage.