Aman Brar, VP of Global Solutions & Global Alliances at Openwave Mobility explains the launch of the 5G Cloud Data Management Playbook 2019. The book is exclusively for mobile operators and can be downloaded here.
The impending rollout of 5G is disrupting many aspects of the telecoms infrastructure, not least the ways in which data is managed. The requirements of NFV, fundamental to 5G, for example, mean that operators are rapidly having to move to cloud-based stateless applications, while facing hugely increased expectations from their customers in terms of service delivery. At the same time, OTT players and new entrants to the market are capitalising on 5G’s promise of high speed and ultra-low latency to expand their service offerings, and are preparing to harvest all the data they can access in order to improve the customer experience and generate additional revenue.
5G is about to redraw the telecoms map, and successfully navigating this unchartered new territory will require operators to radically shift their mind-set. Moving from bare metal to cloud and embracing the concept of stateless servers, finding new and more efficient ways of managing and processing data, and enabling rapid access to data by authorised applications: these are just three of many reasons for operators to change the way they think about data management.
Indeed, the advent of 5G has seen an evolution from managing just subscriber data to managing a whole variety of data, including information on policy, session, application and configuration. And while some this data may be stateful, increased virtualisation means much of it will be stateless. All of it, however, must be made available in real time to authorised applications, which may or may not reside in the cloud.
Given the huge complexity of these and other new data management requirements, a ‘common’ data approach is therefore recommended, in which the introduction of a unified, distributed cloud-based data layer will prove beneficial across a range of operators’ concerns, including network automation and efficiency, latency and mobile edge computing, and monetisation and secure data sharing.
Automation and efficiency
Complexity can be inefficient. Monolithic applications, for example, such as those used by third and fourth network generations to store subscriptions and subscriber state, must be horizontally partitioned for scalability, and users must be assigned a pool of servers or an application server instance, a collection of SQL server databases run by a solitary SQL server service. What’s more, control plane calls must be directed to the correct server, subscriber-aware load balancing must be implemented, and decisions made as to which network element instances will serve which subscribers. The subsequent addition or removal of subscribers can then cause network elements to become imbalanced, resulting in the need for complex subscriber balancing operations.
The situation is far more efficient, however, in a network in which subscription data and subscriber state are externalised and stored in a unified data layer. As network applications become stateless, it is possible for any network application instance to service any given subscriber simply by pulling the subscription and subscriber from the data layer. As a result, the network can be fully automated.
On the edge
Use cases that depend on 5G’s ultra-low latency capabilities, such as connected drones or surveillance technology, will require application servers to be deployed close to the network edge in order to get responses with minimum lag, and some may need access to subscription data in order to enrich the quality of experience.
By replicating only that data which is needed at the edge, a data layer which supports multi-tier deployment scenarios will facilitate this requirement even more quickly and efficiently. This data layer can allow operators can enrich other applications too, by providing a mechanism for copying new subscriber context parameters from the edge to the core.
Often siloed within various different network applications, the extraction and consolidation of data can be difficult and, if not done in real time, can prove costly as the value of the data depreciates. However, by providing a platform on which subscriber, session, application and policy data can be consolidated in near real-time and shared appropriately, a unified data layer is able to solve this problem, effectively managing access to all types of an operator’s data by authorised third parties.
What’s more, with regulations such as the recently introduced GDPR increasing the focus on subscriber privacy, a data layer can also provide operators with a fully compliant framework for managing personal identifiable information that is secure, regulated and transparent, allowing subscribers to see what information is shared with OTTs.
Migration and transformation
5G represents a seismic shift in the telecoms landscape, and one that will present operators with both challenges and opportunities as they migrate their networks to the next generation, and transform from bare metal to a software-based core. Traditional ways of managing data will not be sufficient in meeting the demands of 5G and the expectations of subscribers, and a new approach is now necessary. The introduction of a distributed, cloud-based common data layer will allow operators to better automate network processes, improve efficiencies, monetise subscriber data and, ultimately, capitalise on the advantages that 5G offers.