This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
The introduction of the cloud and SaaS (News - Alert)-based services is not only changing the models for how service providers and software companies sell their wares – and how customers buy them – it’s also altering requirements in the testing, billing and operational support system realms.
While the cloud enables network operators to more efficiently use and move their server resources, they cannot test in those scenarios unless they have a virtual instance of the test tool, says Ankur Chadda, senior product marketing manager with Spirent.
Traditionally, test tools have relied on a physical port and two endpoints to do the job, he says, but in a cloud scenario the endpoint is virtual and there’s a software-based port. That’s why Spirent offers a solution called Spirent TestCenter Virtual, which can be used to test data center and virtualized server performance, and such services as Web mail, ftp and SIP-based services.
Chunghwa Telecom, one of Asia's largest network operators, is among the companies using this Spirent solution. The telco has announced plans to launch four cloud computing centers aimed at developing and testing a wide range of services. And it’s employing Spirent TestCenter Virtual for benchmarking data center and virtual server performance.
"Service providers remain concerned about the uncertainty of the cloud environment and its impact on subscribers' quality of experience as they enter this market segment," says Gene Zhang, vice president of Asia at Spirent Communications (News - Alert), "By leveraging Spirent's holistic cloud CHTTL computing test solution, Chunghwa Telecom will ensure its cloud platform is
delivering the business benefits of elastic computing without degrading the user experience."
Dan Klimke, marketing manager for network analysis at Fluke, a company that provides tools that help network professionals deploy, monitor, analyze and troubleshoot enterprise networks, says that when network problems arise, it’s not uncommon for there to be finger pointing between enterprise customers and their service providers. Now, with the cloud and the SaaS movement, that finger pointing is also happening on the application performance front. That means that it’s even more essential that enterprise network staff have a firm handle on their own network performance and that they have a set of performance metrics to share with their service providers, he says. That way, if and when a service provider tries to deflect blame for a performance shortcoming on the network, the business is armed with the data to show the network health on the corporate network.
To help network administrators at enterprises collect and analyze such data, Fluke last month introduced a new software release for its EtherScope product, a portable analyzer for Ethernet networks. New with this release are the ProVision suite of tests and a network health audit capability.
ProVision allows enterprise and/or service provider technicians to monitor performance of the cloud remotely, looking at such parameters as jitter, latency, loss and throughout. The health audit feature, meanwhile, automates testing for technicians – whose understanding of networks is typically broad but may not be deep – so they can easily see where and when specific parameter thresholds have been exceeded, explains Eric Anderson, product manager EtherScope. It does that by providing an interface that displays the attributes and labels them as good, fair or poor.
Bob Machin, principal analyst of strategic marketing at Comptel, says he expects to see a big upswing in the supply of cloud services to enterprises and SMEs in 2011.
“OSS and BSS are critical to the success of cloud for telco,” he adds. “The services are markedly different from communication services, but the functional requirements are very similar – to manage assets and resources, to handle customer orders, to assure quality of service, to charge and settle with partners and so on.
“We believe it is likely that telcos will dedicate new business units to cloud services – this is effectively a diversification into IT outsourcing, and a different kind of business – and it will make sense for the supporting systems to be similarly dedicated,” he says.
He says telco success in this market depends on their ability to exploit their USP – command of the networks and in particular, the lines of communication from servers to customers. “The use of catalog approaches, which can combine communication and IT elements, is likely to be critical here,” he adds.
John McCawley, CEO of Verecloud, notes that the TeleManagement Forum (News - Alert) has expanded on its eTom work with a set of standards that help operationalize telecom. OSSJ and IPDRs are two examples of this TMF work, and have been widely adopted by service providers and vendors. But these things fall down when you get into non-traditional telecom services, he says. As a result, it’s necessary to catalog and inventory services like SaaS offers so networks have the data necessary to provision, do service assurance and charge for these new offers.
A while back, the TMForum did a Catalyst project involving cataloging and inventory services for new things like SaaS. That effort involved BT, Qwest (News - Alert) and a handful of other companies. But McCawley says the industry hasn’t seen enough activity in the standardization space, and mentions that Verecloud is working to get deployments on this front on the ground.
He says Verecloud is working on a proof of concept with a tier 1 service provider that’s doing a large LTE deployment. This company is looking for help in expanding its service portfolio beyond existing mobile services, and it wants to offer mobile cloud/mobile SaaS services similar to those seen today with iPhone (News - Alert). McCawley says the company tapped Verecloud to help because its solution is, in effect, “an app store for the cloud”. The solution defines where applications exist and how they interoperate with the back office solutions at the service providers.
Edited by Tammy Wolf