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Bringing Visualization to Virtualization: How Operators can Claim Back Ground from OTT

By: Bruce Kelley

The telecoms industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years, with mobile service providers’ voice and messaging revenues being eroded as OTT players come to dominate the landscape. According to a recent study, operator-billed mobile voice revenues are set to fall by almost half over the next five years, from $354 billion to $197 billion, as a result of the widespread adoption of OTT messaging and VoIP services.

As a result, more competitive mobile service providers have moved to unlimited data plans, forcing larger, more established operators to change and offer unlimited packages and data-driven business models in an effort to keep up.

Unlike born-in-the-cloud OTT players, such as Skype and WhatsApp, however, operators have historically lacked the infrastructure and processes they need to survive in this new digital environment. If they are to remain competitive, they must completely disrupt their networks. Shifting functions to the cloud is now the only way for operators to achieve the agility they need to keep pace with OTT service providers and to create the cost savings they need for future investments in their networks.

Operators are therefore increasingly turning to virtualization, migrating their IP networks from purpose-built to virtualized, software-based platforms. Many are adopting network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) as a means of boosting efficiencies, launching services faster, and supporting a wider range of applications. Implementing these technologies will enable traditionally complex, rigid and inflexible networks to evolve into something significantly more dynamic in which existing services can be changed ‘on the fly.’ By offering operators this greater degree of flexibility, these new virtualized architectures enable them to effectively scale up and down in order to meet rapidly changing capacity requirements which, with 5G pending and the IoT rapidly taking off, will become increasingly important as data demands continue to grow.

These new virtualized networks are increasingly complex, however, and their relative immaturity is currently serving as a barrier to full-scale NFV adoption, presenting operators with a wide range of new challenges.

The need for visibility

Operators are faced with having to keep track of everything that’s happening on their newly virtualized network once they have deployed new virtual network functions, such IMS and VoLTE, and new infrastructure, such as cloud-RAN and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), needed to support 5G and IoT requirements. It is essential for operators to have visibility into this increasingly complex environment—into both public and private cloud and all points in between—if they are to identify and resolve past, present and future problems. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t see.

When you consider the wide range of mission-critical services that now rely on the delivery of seamless connectivity, there has never been a more important need for visibility into every aspect of an operator’s network, from the cloud to the core and the physical to the virtual. Even a single moment of downtime could have serious consequences, especially when you consider what could happen if an autonomous vehicle, a power plant sensor, or a remote heart monitor lost its connection to the network.



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