The changing face of the data center

Tom Nolle/CIMI Corp.
20 Jun 2011

Like all enterprises, network operators have long deployed and operated large data centers to manage their businesses. Yet the big difference between enterprises and network operators of any type is that operators also use their data center architecture and infrastructure to provide services, and those services then shape infrastructure investment.

Driving the changes in traditional telecom data center architecture is the need for network operators to concentrate on their primary services priorities—content delivery, mobile services and cloud services. Existing teleco data center models tend to be based on two totally independent architectures and support two largely independent sets of applications.

· The "traditional IT" part of the telecom operator's commitment runs OSS/BSS applications. OSS/BSS systems started out as tools to track manual provisioning processes and account for the large number of network assets. As networks transitioned to smart devices with management interfaces, OSS/BSS processes were integrated with network operations centers (NOCs) to control the network. They were also integrated with customer service and order entry portals to support the creation of service orders and changes. Data centers that support these functions look a lot like enterprise data centers.

· As voice services evolved from switch-hosted to computer-hosted, service features like voicemail were implemented on service delivery platforms (SDPs) that were more elements of the network than of the data center. For some service providers, SDPs have proliferated out of control, resulting in poor utilization and operations cost overruns.

Telecom data center architecture model to evolve in three phases

Because competition from over-the-top (OTT) companies will keep services prices low and revenue margins thin, telecom data center architecture problems can't be allowed to hinder the growth of any of the three new service priority areas.

Neither the OSS/BSS model nor the SDP model are viewed as the optimal targets for data center evolution. Mobile, content and cloud service priorities are already being offered by OTT competitors, and a standard infrastructure is already deployed. The OTT data center model is based largely on cloud computing, blade servers and high levels of data center network integration of elements (a fabric that connects all servers and storage with the Internet). While telecom operators might be free to change this, most see no reason to tinker with a model that's achieved wide success in the Internet service space.

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