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.
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How Big Data Can Improve Network and Application Intelligence with 5G
There is no doubt that data has become the new currency for service providers. However, data lakes are already becoming flooded with so much data that they can be unusable and there is no indication that this trend will slow or stop. As Alan Carlton points out in his article on Big Data and 5G, “The 5G standards community is already planning to support the collection and transmission of massive amounts of data.”
The challenge, as Carlton points out, is “Big Data, of course, refers to data sets that are so large and complex that traditional database systems cannot handle them. Big Data also encompasses the techniques for data acquisition, storage, processing, analysis, querying and visualization. Basically, the ability to digest vast amounts of unstructured data in an automated fashion to derive useful insights and to drive automated feedback actions.”
“IoT will be a key part of 5G, and how this unstructured data is used will be an important part of that story. Think, billions of sensors sending back all types of data (including video) to the network. The opportunity here is to use this data to improve the operation of the network itself, or to help the key new applications that will emerge in 5G work better,” adds Carlton.
This brings the need for Smart Data that is more intelligent, efficient, scalable, and available in near real time. Service providers need Big Data to be accessible, usable, and extensible to a variety of use cases including network orchestration and optimization, business insights, IoT device behavior, user experience, and more.
Whether it's for 5G, IoT, or existing 3G/4G networks, service providers need Smart Data in their Big Data. Smart Data leads to Smart Analytics.
~ Mike Serrano, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, NETSCOUT
ERP, IoT, and Cloud Success Depends on Service Performance
Anybody who has ever torn a ligament knows just how important connective tissue is. As it turns out, the same also applies to Digital Transformation (DX). According to a recent article from Information Management, companies are investing in big data, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and Internet of Things (IoT) technology as part of their Digital Transformation strategy. But a follow-up survey entitled, “Industrial Internet of Things and Digital Transformation” turns up something interesting: many of the respondents struggled to successfully connect these investments across their disparate IT environments. For example, when the Internet of Things Institute (IoTI) took a look at the second survey, it noted that many respondents had trouble getting industrial IoT data into transactional and analytics systems. According to IoTI, “Only 16% of the 200 manufacturing and contracting executives surveyed said they consumed IoT data in ERP systems.”
The problem is twofold. In some cases, companies bring IoT workloads in from the edge to integrate into the ERP system. In other cases, compute and processing is done at the edge and data is then aggregated in the cloud for analysis. Either way, the enterprise benefits from ERP, IoT, and cloud technology when everything works. However, poor service performance can put those benefits at risk. In a digital world where customer success comes down to seconds or a fraction of a second, pervasive visibility and insight to assure service performance can make or break the business.
The issues turned up by these surveys highlight what various IT analysts have long espoused: Enterprises are being driven to transform digitally, yet they face network and application performance challenges when moving applications like ERP to the cloud and adding IoT edge devices to the infrastructure. Shifting to a proactive approach to Digital Transformation requires pervasive visibility to first understand the way the application works before, during, and after cloud migration; and from there, to get insight across the entire IoT service delivery stack. When this happens, enterprises then reduce business risk and also have the confidence to innovate.
Armed with understanding the complexities and performance of applications in IoT and cloud environments, IT will have the confidence to facilitate change by delivering the services and security that the business expects while controlling costs. Learn more about successful cloud adoption by downloading this Cloud Migration Strategies report by ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group).
~ Ron Lifton, Sr Solutions Marketing Manager, NETSCOUT