Network operators face a number of challenges, particularly as voice and
data networks converge. As networks expand in scope, they become
increasingly complex and extremely complicated to manage. The complexity is
a result of a number of factors, including:
- Emerging technologies, such as Internet protocol (IP) transport;
- Integration of multiple IP and Signaling System 7 (SS7) protocols in a
- The rapidly changing and unstable nature of IP-based signaling; and
- The continuous introduction of new telephony services and
Because of the many changes, network operators are challenged to reliably
monitor networks that bring together disparate protocols and technologies,
such as IP and SS7.
Especially with the current economic environment, operators are carefully
scrutinizing technology solutions, such as monitoring systems, before
purchasing. They want to make sure that their selections are reliable and
flexible and will carry them securely into the future. They practically have
to predict which planned technologies will actually take hold and how soon.
For example, many thought GPRS (general packet radio services) and IP
telephony technologies would be further advanced than they currently are.
CURRENT SOLUTIONS LACKING
Network monitoring has typically been an afterthought for operators ï¿½
arising after the network equipment has been installed and issues emerge.
Operators routinely have required a monitoring system to troubleshoot
problems and deployed probes to physically tap the network links to acquire
information. The probed approach to monitoring is error prone and lacks
redundancy. It also involves a number of expenses, including labor costs for
moves and rearrangements and the hardware, software, and mainframe expenses
associated with the physical tapping of the links for information.
As traditional monitoring systems increasingly are employed to host
business applications, such as those for billing, billing verification,
quality of service, and/or fraud detection, reliability of the probed
architecture comes into question. Traditional monitoring systems were not
generally designed as highly reliable, highly available platforms to support
applications. However, operators are relying more often on these types of
data collection centers for hosting business applications. The problem is
magnified in converged networks where applications, such as those for
billing, billing verification, and fraud detection, are just beginning to be
created and deployed.
Operators of converged networks require equipment that not only monitors
the entire network but also captures data regardless of the transport and
consolidates the data into a single view. Such a solution enables personnel
and downstream applications to operate seamlessly regardless of the
Other problems surface when the operator does not have a monitoring
system for the IP links or has two monitoring systems in operation. In these
cases, the operator does not have a consolidated view of the calls crossing
the network. For example, when troubleshooting a problem, a customer is not
able to perform a call trace that captures the entire call. Instead, an SS7
monitoring system shows the portions of the call transported via SS7, and
another system captures the messages transported over IP. Telecom service
providers also are challenged by the many different protocols at work in
their networks. Invalid interworking between protocols and interworking
failures between service providers are at the root of network problems.
Further, as operators deal with the demand to do more with fewer
resources, they are searching for products that provide multiple functions
with smaller footprints. The fewer vendors, products, and interfaces they
have to manage, the better. Competition has increased as operators fight to
maintain their subscriber bases by providing sophisticated and high-quality
services. As consumers become more savvy with technology and its
capabilities, network operations personnel need reliable, easy-to-use tools
to help them troubleshoot problems and resolve issues fast.
To minimize the impact of new architectures and services and to manage
network expansion, operators need an advanced business intelligence platform
to supply reliable, real-time data to business applications. These
applications provide for revenue generation such as billing as well as
revenue assurance such as quality of service. Operators also need a
monitoring application to provide network-wide data consolidation.
A new premise supposes that an integrated and probeless architecture can
be used to capture data in IP and other networks for use in monitoring and
business applications. In the ï¿½newï¿½ architecture, probes are eliminated
and functions are integrated onto other network platforms. By physically
removing the probes and retaining the monitoring platform, the functions
remain intact ï¿½ with many added benefits.
With the integrated solution, operators are able to monitor, maintain,
and ensure the reliability of innovative telecommunications products and
services implemented across converged networks. They can correct
network-wide problems from a single location and monitor and trace calls end
to end. They also can supply data for a variety of business applications.
The new premise removes all cabling and auxiliary equipment for timing,
muxing, and so forth, which typically are associated with a probe-based
architecture. Physical tapping on an external link is no longer necessary
with the enhancements of the existing network platforms to provide the
message capture function and pass off the data for processing.
Also in the probeless scenario, the carrier-grade platform used for
network control is the same equipment that provides the data for the
monitoring system, making the critical data needed for business intelligence
applications more readily available.
With an integrated system, the ability to monitor the entire network is
possible even at the initial network deployment. Data is passed internally
from the network equipment to the monitoring system, thus removing the need
to externally tap onto the links.
Operators are beginning to look at the network as an improved mechanism
for collecting detail records. Detail records may be created from various
types of data, including call detail records, transaction detail records,
and IP detail records. Currently, data is retrieved from actual switches, a
process with a number of flaws. First, detail records cannot be retrieved in
real time. Additionally, there is no centralized collection point. An
interface onto each switch must be created to retrieve the generated detail
records. Furthermore, because the detail records are switch-based, they can
only provide data based on the switchï¿½s function. Modifying the detail
record data requires the software on the switch to also be modified, which
is a time-consuming process.
For these reasons, operators have been changing their focus to the use of
monitoring systems as a means of accessing detail records. The detail
records are then used to feed business intelligence applications such as
fraud detection, billing, billing verification, and quality of service. The
associated revenue tied to the applications renders the typical
single-threaded monitoring platform no longer acceptable. Instead,
availability of data becomes critical. Probe-based monitoring introduces a
number of failure points into the detail record collection. With an
integrated system, the reliability of the overall system drastically
increases. Because the network equipment is responsible for handing off the
data, the same carrier-grade platforms that route traffic can be trusted to
perform the copy function as well. In many cases, this type of equipment is
field proven and well trusted by the operators.
The capability to monitor a network without the use of probes provides a
number of benefits to operators. As operators continue to look for ways to
do more with less, the ability for network equipment to hand off data for
use in a monitoring system becomes a major advantage. By reducing the need
for external probes, less equipment is required to support a monitoring
system. Employing an integrated product to handle the configuration of the
network from a single location conserves resources. Finally, by increasing
the reliability of the monitoring system, the operator is able to save money
by accessing data in real time and by removing the manual process of
collecting data from each individual switch.
Ravi Ravishankar is director, Advanced Technology Planning, at Tekelec.
His focus is on defining signaling solutions and products for the
next-generation packet telephony and 3G wireless networks. Tekelec is a
leading developer of telecommunications signaling infrastructure,
softswitches, testing and diagnostic solutions, and service applications.
Please visit their Web site at www.tekelec.com.
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