Service providers are changing operational models in an effort to drive service innovation without letting costs run wild. This is a very complex challenge that cannot be solved by network virtualization alone.
Service providers that want to generate revenue growth and obtain greater margins must shift from static connectivity-centric business models to strategies that enable on-demand, value-added applications, innovative content and connectivity simultaneously.
Most of value-added services (VAS) today are hardware-centric, as they depend on purpose-built hardware both at customer and service provider premises. Additionally, service providers are limited to only a few suppliers, which makes time-to-market for new services suffer and forces service features to be confined to specific vendor capabilities. As a result, customers typically separate their purchases, buying Internet access from service providers and value-added services from over-the-top (OTT) providers.
Enter: A Comprehensive Orchestration Solution
In order to introduce new services faster and embrace new business models successfully, service providers need an orchestration solution that can:
Deploying a comprehensive orchestration solution will allow service providers to improve customer loyalty, attract new customers and level the playing field with OTT providers. In addition to an orchestration platform, service providers are also pursuing virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) or virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) solutions that can drive new revenue opportunities in both business and residential markets.
Improving Service Management with Virtualized Solutions
Virtualized mobile core solutions help operators scale dynamically as traffic patterns change and provide mobile private network services that connect users quickly and easily. A vEPC solution can also give mobile operators the opportunity to offer extended security offerings, such as URL filtering, malware protection, distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and other services as virtual network functions (VNFs) in the service provider’s data center. Communications service providers (CSPs) can either develop security applications internally or choose best-of-breed applications from various security vendors.
By using a vEPC, operators give enterprise customers the ability to order and configure additional services via self-service portals. Once the services are ordered, enterprise customers can use sophisticated security features almost immediately, as the provisioning process is fully automated. Service providers can also offer a trial period, allowing enterprise customers to test offerings and decide if they are ready to pay for additional security features. This benefits service providers because it means they do not have to waste time and money developing solutions that will not ultimately be picked up by end-users.
Virtualized CPE solutions on the other hand allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to improve home LAN visibility and minimize the dependency on CPE functionality while introducing new services. With the ability to differentiate home LAN devices, ISPs can provide a wide range of personalized value-added services such as parental control, virtual firewall and virtual digital living network alliance (DLNA) servers deployed as VNFs at the service provider’s data center.
In the case of parental control, for example, customers can register their home devices—identified by MAC addresses—and specify which of those devices should be subject to limitations via a self-service portal. Content that is not permitted according to parental control policies will be blocked. Customers can also use parental control in a mobile context by specifying whether a child’s device should be subject to parental control outside of their home network.
The Key to Enabling Orchestration
Orchestration for vCPE or vEPC requires the integration and deployment of three essential elements: a self-service portal, orchestration software and an SDN control solution for service chaining.
A self-service portal provides customers with an intuitive interface for ordering value-added services and managing individual service attributes and preferences. An SDN solution enables operators to insert value-added services on the fly so customer traffic is routed through VAS applications as soon as customers order those services via the self-service portal. Orchestration software processes customer orders, defines applicable provisioning scenarios, sets up and configures corresponding VAS applications and provides SDN-based value-added service chaining.
System integration is the final element to ensuring all pieces—existing BSS/OSS, self-service portals, orchestration software, SDN controllers, SDN-capable network equipment and VAS applications—are tied together in a cohesive solution.
CSPs can benefit significantly from the deployment of an orchestration solution. A successful and efficient deployment requires a unique combination of networking, OSS and orchestration expertise, as well as large-scale systems integration and professional services to navigate the complexities of architectural change. Vendors that can provide the full range of these capabilities are ideally positioned to help CSPs see beyond the high-level CapEx and OpEx savings and monetize virtual networks by introducing a wide range of revenue-generating value-added services.
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