Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Convergence of Network Intelligence and Business Intelligence

Believe it or not, I am not the only one to blog on the topic of Network Intelligence (NI). Several analysts at Yankee Group have posted entries on this topic: see http://blogs.yankeegroup.com/category/network-intelligence. As a matter of fact, Yankee have been pioneering the concept of Network Intelligence in the telco space and I have had some good discussions with them. They just published an interesting report entitled “The Convergence of Network Intelligence and Business Intelligence”, with Jon Paisner as the main author, and co-authors David Vorhaus and Sheryl Kingstone. The document describes the similarities and synergies between Network Intelligence and Business Intelligence; I highly recommend it to all those interested in Network Intelligence technology as an enabler of smart pipe solutions. It also confirms the key role played by Network Intelligence-gathering technologies such as deep packet inspection and its various evolutions for protection, optimizing and monetizing network information.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Breaking the high speed barrier

I have recently had several interesting discussions with solution vendors who are faced with the serious challenge of making their systems work at multi-Gbps line rates. To break this “high-speed barrier”, they can either 1) spend considerable time and resources redeveloping their products to work at higher speeds, or 2) optimize their solutions with the help of Network Intelligence.

The challenge is especially acute for vendors in the mobile data environment, where bandwidth is growing at an exponential rate. Vendors who sell (for example) mobile service quality monitoring need to continue offering the same level of functionality at speeds in excess of 1 Gbps. However, it is not as easy to do well at high speeds what they used to do well at lower speeds… Of course, some vendors may be tempted to reduce functionality in order to handle the increased bandwidth, but this is not an option : it is clearly not an acceptable solution for mobile operators and their clients.

So how can Network Intelligence accelerate existing mobile solutions?

As we all know, mobile data traffic is literally exploding, due to the combination of new iPhone-type handsets, new broadband infrastructure (3G, HSDPA, HSUPA) and attractive pricing schemes. At the same time, video streaming, P2P, and social networking applications consume a large percentage of this traffic, pushing bandwidth at the core of mobile networks to multi-Gbps. This creates a need to generate useful data at workable bandwidths, and only retain essential information (e.g. IP metadata or IPDRs) for lower priority services (P2P, etc.).

Example 1: TroubleShooting

In order for customer service to respond to customer complaints, mobile operators often need to check service quality for certain subscribers. In this case, a Qosmos probe can filter selected IMSIs and forward only relevant traffic to an existing troubleshooting solution, at manageable speeds. No change is necessary to the existing solution.

Example 2: Subscriber Knowledge

Mobile operators carry massive amounts of data traffic from services outside their walled-gardens. This traffic can represent more than 90% of total traffic (see this Webcast for a concrete example). To optimize networks and service offerings, MNOs require better network intelligence to answer questions like: what mobile devices are being used (PC/handheld)? Which applications drive data growth? What are user the behavior patterns? All these questions can be answered with Qosmos Network Intelligence technology.

Example 3: Lawful Intercept

Beyond mobile solutions, similar challenges exist in the area of Lawful Intercept, where many intercept probes have not been designed to handle very high bandwidth. Here again, Network Intelligence technology saves the day by processing the high-bandwidth raw traffic and carrying out optimized dispatching of information to an existing lawful intercept system that can continue to process efficiently.

In summary, Network Intelligence technology can be used to enable existing solutions to continue performing efficiently even at very high speeds! Even though total bandwidth exceeds several Gbps, the traffic selected for forwarding can be handled easily by existing applications. The benefit for solution vendors: by adding a layer of Network Intelligence, they can avoid costly development and continue to sell existing solutions even as bandwidth grows exponentially!

I should also point out that our approach is different from “load balancing” provided by some suppliers, since Network Intelligence implements smart traffic filtering based on deeply embedded criteria (e.g. IMSI, MIME type, email sender, etc.), and can generate CDRs even for discarded traffic.

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