Directing Network Traffic with Telco Policies
Imagine a crowded New York street. There are pedestrians shuffling along on the sidewalks, Ubers—yes, Lyfts and yellow cabs, too—jostling ahead, bicyclists weaving through gaps, and pizza delivery guys cursing the 30-minute-or-free guarantee.
Suddenly, a wailing ambulance approaches. Instantly, the traffic slows and moves to the sides, opening up a pathway. And, the ambulance zooms on.
This magic happens only because there’s an established policy in place—an ambulance has the right of way. If some of the traffic didn’t know the right of way rule, they wouldn’t be able to make the decision to slow and swerve in time. That would confuse the rest, block the ambulance, and possibly bring traffic to a standstill.
That’s pretty much how telco traffic also operates. Network policy is a collection of rules (like right of way) that govern the behaviors of network devices. Policies use predefined rules and real-time network data to allocate finite resources such as bandwidth. This determines how traffic flows through the network. Like traffic lights, telco network policies are also used to restrict access when the network has a limited capacity and we don’t want to break it.
5G operators—like 4G operators—serve both individual subscribers and enterprises alike. But, 5G is more complicated because the promise of 5G—and everyone’s expectations from it—is superfast ultra-reliable millisecond-latency that delivers a broadband-like mobile service. As operators take advantage of this to develop new services and IoT use cases, and as network slicing becomes prevalent, telco policies will need to evolve in response to 5G demands and subscriber expectations.
Digital Transformation Mandates a Data Platform
Given the large capacity that a 5G network possesses, network slicing provides a way to split the network end to end for specific use cases (like sidewalks for pedestrians) and the capacity requirements of these use cases. But, capacity is only one facet of what needs to be provisioned. Quality of service (QoS) assurance and latency guarantees need to be provided and provisioned for. And, these vary on a use case-by-use case basis. That’s why modern telcos need dynamic policy control where the rules and conditions change as time progresses or application needs adapt and evolve to the situation at hand.
The most critical factor in making these policy decisions is the need for extremely low latency. So, we are faced with the conundrum that these systems need to make complex decisions but in an ultra-low-latency manner. The decision-making needs to account for all of these aspects:
- Data: account balance data, rating data, SLA data, network data
- Business logic: rating-based QoS, network data-based QoS management, Slice-based policies, etc.
- Machine learning on network data
Typically, 4G and older-generation systems treat each of these elements as a separate technology. Data used to be accessed from a data store and then processed within the policy control function. This is a very expensive process from a variety of angles:
- Latency: it takes quite a bit of time to transport the data over the network
- Network: Moving data over the network instead of processing in-situ i.e. the database artificially caps the number of policy invocations that can take place for a given infrastructure
- Infrastructure: As a consequence, ensuring scalability without compromising on latency means adding a lot more infrastructure—great for the software and hardware vendors; not so great for the telco operators
Digital networks like 5G demand a fluid relationship between the network function tier and the data tier. Modern policy systems depend on a data platform that shares the responsibility of business logic with the network function while allowing the modification of business rules on the go. By keeping data and data-driven decisions close together, operators can achieve predictable scalability while maintaining extremely low latency.
Only a modern telco data platform can support real-time data processing and decision-making within the 10-millisecond window that 5G latency (and modern telco policies) demand.
A Modern Data Platform for Modern Telcos
Digital transformation heralds a new age of real-time, event- and data-driven intelligence that requires handling complex decisions leading to automated operational optimization at the speed, scale, and precision that 5G demands.
Operators need a blazing-fast data platform that can address the entire data lifecycle in one quick, seamless motion. This allows real-time decisioning to prioritize high-performance applications while also effectively and efficiently managing network traffic. Stripping away excess stack layers and leveraging a unified platform that supports advanced AI-powered tools and distributed computing is the path forward.
VoltDB allows major telcos and communications service providers to use real-time data to run their digital and 5G businesses. Real-time analysis of streaming data allows for instant control to manage networks and applications, leading to more opportunities to engage with new customers and drive revenue through 5G monetization. We are proven and tested in the telco space for BSS, and our database has the optimal architecture for BSS in the age of 5G.
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