Everyone knows that both the bandwidth and scope of mobile applications continue to grow and evolve. It’s all around. Just take a quick look around you to see how many people use their iPhone or other smartphones to browse the Internet, use mobile applications and collaborate – on a daily basis. I personally experienced it a couple of weeks ago when I was travelling to India to deliver business seminars, where I had a video-conference with my wife and daughters using Skype on my iPhone over the hotel’s free Wi-Fi network (and yes, surprisingly… it actually worked just fine!).
Similarly, the increased usage of smart devices, feature phones, mobile dongles – together with the growing popularity of video streaming and social networking – accelerate mobile user demand, creating a mobile data tsunami.
The Mobile Data Tsunami Implications
So how are these new requirements addressed on the mobile carrier end? Basically there are three key areas in the mobile data arena that take place:
- Mobile core network – To support higher network capacity, mobile networks evolved from current 3G networks into 4G, Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. This implies that the core transport is migrating with the implementation of Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network architecture; and the communications control migrates to IMS/VoLTE (Voice over LTE) architecture. In addition, new alternatives for offloading high-volume objects from the mobile core, such as SIPTO (Selective IP Traffic Offloading), are promoted by advanced 3GPP releases. This implies that network infrastructure elements (such as MME, HSS, etc.) set much more stringent requirements in terms of scalability, availability, resiliency and security.
- Mobile edge – The widespread availability of smart phones, tablet PCs and browser-based any-to-any ‘always-on’ connectivity models drive a tight binding between Internet-based services and mobile applications. Internet content delivery models such as ASP, Over-the-Top (OTT), white labeling and new forms of Content Delivery Networks (CDN) shape the way Web 2.0, video and streaming are transcoded and adapted to mobile end-devices. In addition, new automated functions for policy charging and rules management (PCRF) are increasingly being implemented to tighten and bridge the network infrastructure and mobile services gap.
- Mobile data center – Traditional OSS/BSS functions are increasingly accessed in real-time and play a critical role in service delivery where server functions are being centralized, i.e. moving from the network edge to the data center. In all of these areas, data center trends – particularly virtualization and emerging cloud computing alternatives – become important factors in the development and delivery of mobile applications and services. Particularly, this means that core IT applications increasingly conform to delivery architectures that implement virtualization technologies and various approaches to private, public, hybrid and peered clouds.
How can cloud transformation help?
Even as network evolution delivers higher capacity with new technologies like HSPA+ and LTE, mobile access resources will always be scarce; hence, building networks that maintain high QoE for all subscribers is prohibitively expensive. Most importantly, service providers – like any other business – continuously seeks to increase their profitability by being innovative (read: generate more revenues via more VAS) and operating more cost-effectively to reduce TCO. And this is exactly where cloud translation can drive these business initiatives.
Cloud transformation essentially means converting the Gi, EPC and critical network & operations services (AAA, DNS, etc.) into a private cloud structure, so that mobile carriers can benefit from the inherent advantages of using shared resource pools. In other words, by moving high-touch networks services – such as DNS, Diameter, RADIUS, DHCP, LDAP and even IMS – to be provided from the cloud, mobile carriers can reduce operational overhead and address evolving scalability and capacity requirements way more easily. These benefits are identical to the ones received by moving your CRM – or any other business application – to the cloud, as it saves many operational tasks such as server infrastructure maintenance, administration, scaling, upgrading, etc. – simply because you don’t own the servers/application (the cloud provider does!) – you only use them.
But the evolution doesn’t stop there. The next phase will be employing a virtual service delivery mesh/grid across the network PoP’s where each node is capable of running multiple virtual service delivery instances, enabling carriers to benefit from a flexible solution which can scale via the control plane to share and dynamically allocate resource pools (i.e. AAA server computing resources) based on pro-active SLA monitoring.
The final word
As we’ve seen, the scope of cloud computing is not only about dynamically allocating more resources for enterprise applications; it definitely extends beyond it. In fact, in the near future we’ll surely see new cloud-based services offered by mobile carriers – thanks to cloud transformation.
Until next time,