The coming era of network visibility

John C. Tanner

There are plenty of sexy stories about how big data is changing the way operators look at customers. But it’s also changing the way they look at their networks.

As big data analytics becomes an increasingly important component of the telecoms landscape, we’re starting to hear terms like “network visibility” - which, in oversimplified terms, is network monitoring on steroids. It’s the ability to see not just every nook and cranny of the network, but what customers are doing on it, and then responding to it.

And once you have that capability in place ... well, use your imagination.

The difference between traditional network monitoring and network visibility is the difference between circuit-switched networks and IP networks, says Scott Register, senior director of product management at Ixia.

“With circuit-switched networks, you monitored things like call set-up speed, call quality, things like that. Now we’ve evolved to packet-based solutions, which changes the way you think about what you’re monitoring, the end points and what you pay attention to,” he explains.

Register adds that telcos are also undergoing a fundamental shift from monitoring network infrastructure to monitoring the actual data traffic, but their performance KPIs were still based mainly on the performance capabilities of the infrastructure components.

“Now with network visibility, we’re more concerned with things like network experience,” he says. “So I have however many users on my network - what are they doing, and what is their QoE? Are they using email, or watching movies, and how are those apps performing?”

“Even for call quality, you still measure things like dropped calls, but as you move into HD voice and VoLTE, the ways that you measure QoE and user experience changes significantly,” says Register. “That requires you to not only see the data, but also understand what’s going on and what it means.”     

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