Digital Transformation (DX) continues to sweep across all industries, driving the shift from physical to digital assets. Underpinning DX is the transition to an information-driven economy where data is the new currency and almost all aspects of business are rooted in software. Nowhere is this more applicable than in the telecommunications space, particularly when you consider the sheer amount of network and subscriber data that carrier service providers have access to.
Faced with the issue of slow business growth and ongoing disruption to core services by Over-the-Top (OTT) players and new market entrants, managing mobile data explosion and network expansion, while also providing a consistent subscriber experience, has created a disconnect between the investments mobile operators have made into 4G LTE and their subsequent decline in revenues. And despite the countless benefits DX stands to hold for mobile subscribers and network operators alike, it presents a new set of challenges that must first be overcome.
New Challenges and New Demands
Part of the problem is that physical infrastructure is already being pushed to its limits in the attempt to meet growing subscriber capacity demands, and yet updating or expanding existing architecture to 5G is a difficult and costly process. A related challenge is the sheer amount of network data that operators now need to process, manage, and otherwise deal with to cater for this growth.
Fortunately, there is a path forward in the form of the broader digital ecosystem and new commercial opportunities, but this too brings greater expectations from the network and new challenges for operators in reaching the next stage of their digital transformation journeys. To meet these expectations, and create an environment where mobile operators can embrace new business models and truly innovate to deliver new services, a new approach is needed for network design. This also stands to drive DX efforts, but only if network operators approach it correctly.
A Virtual Future
When it comes to supporting 5G; the deployment of this technology will be enabled through network functions virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN). After all, it’s already recognized that NFV/SDN holds the key to cost effective operations, increased automation, and the enhanced flexibility and agility of existing systems by creating a “safe to fail” environment where new business models can be set up and running in minutes rather than days or weeks.
Virtualization is not without its own set of challenges. While costs are reduced and capacity increased, network visibility isn’t. Network virtualization means that services and core network functions will be disaggregated across compute resources running on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. While performance increases, this will also increase the volume of data being created, which means visibility of the network will be more critical than ever.
NETSCOUT has developed new virtual instrumentation, vSCOUT and vSTREAM to provide low level visibility to virtual infrastructure and so called “micro services” leveraging the rich and extensible ASI smart data set.
Operators have always relied on network monitoring and troubleshooting tools, such as nGeniusONE, to identify issues affecting subscribers but it is even more essential within a virtualized environment, particularly if operators are looking to introduce new services. An inability to identify problems on the network and address them before the subscriber is affected can cost them dearly.
A Data-led Solution
Information and data is key to addressing this challenge, yet simply having access to big data is not enough. Business analytics that rely on a dataset that has not been normalized and correlated in the context of service delivery, operations, and business performance, is not effective. The quality of business insight is therefore contingent on having smart data. Our ASI smart data delivers well structured, contextual, available in real-time, and based on end-to-end pervasive visibility across the entire business to enable great big data analytics.
When you consider this, it’s clear that network monitoring and service assurance are the drivers for DX success, providing real-time and historic insights needed to power those decisions – not only for assuring overall service delivery to customers, but also ensuring the validity and competitiveness of that operator’s internal business operations.
As the old cliché goes: to be successful, you must have the right products at the right time. NETSCOUT is delivering those products, vSCOUT, vSTREAM and nBA.