Use Mediation To Manage The Data Deluge
Today’s smart-phone users are texting, gaming, and purchasing their way through life, inseparable from their devices. So, service providers are spending more time trying to figure out how to manage and mediate the huge volumes of data being generated as a result.
Now, legacy IT systems are approaching their breaking point. Network congestion is rife. The costly prospect of ripping out and replacing inadequate business support solutions, while predictably unappealing in an age of budgetary constraint, may become inevitable.
Good News And Bad News
The age-old question applies to data volumes today—is the glass half empty, or is it half full? We’ve all heard the increasingly ubiquitous phrase “big data.” Should communications service providers (CSPs) see all the data suddenly at their fingertips as an opportunity to forge exciting and profitable new relationships with their end user customers? Or should they be seeing the most expensive, mind-numbing data management headache ever to cross their paths?
As the problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon, the right answer might as well be the former—if you can’t beat them, join them! Mediation platforms will move up the value chain for carriers, who can use the best ones to aggregate, process, clean, and downstream huge volumes of data cost-effectively and efficiently. This is the key to understanding and improving end-user experience, and that in turn is the key to reduced churn and increased profitability—the real goals for all.
That’s right. I said “mediation.” This often overlooked software workhorse bridges activity on the network itself with its subsequent processing by more glamorous downstream siblings like customer relationship management (CRM) and billing. In the carrier world, data is the fuel and mediation is the gasoline company that makes the service provider’s commercial engine work.
To extend the metaphor, a successful Grand Prix driver doesn’t need to understand the nuances of the engineering genius that puts him on the podium to know that he needs to find the right engine to get results. In the same way, smart service providers don’t need to be expert data crunchers to understand that mediation is the enabler of their future success. The age of mediation as key has arrived. Who’d have thought it?
Let’s be absolutely clear. CSPs today do understand this reality. “We have reduced our total cost of ownership for mediation and reduced the overall load on our business support systems,” said James Ritchie, vice president of consumer development and support at one of our customers, Telus, addressing his company’s recent platform change in that area. “With our implementation, we are able to efficiently meet our expanding mediation needs, the result of continuous growth in mobile data.”
So what does mediation need to deliver? For a start, the answer extends beyond simply the management of exponentially increasing data volumes. In addition, service providers face the challenge of managing increasingly complex networks and their business support systems/operational support systems (BSS/OSS) infrastructures.
New network elements and services, which are introduced regularly, need to be integrated into the revenue management, business intelligence, and service assurance architectures with, ideally, minimal turnaround times. The alternative, having multiple vertical integration platforms with anything less than superior price performance, will drive the operational expenditure and capital expenditure costs to unsustainable levels while negatively affecting time-to-market.
With this in mind, state-of-the-art mediation seems less something “desirable” than a non-negotiable infrastructure requirement if, as should be the case, it can seamlessly bridge components residing in any layers of a rapidly evolving IT and network architecture and also provide comprehensive functionality to ensure that any supporting systems can communicate as effectively as possible.
The same platform also provides the bedrock for effective policy and charging control, a key requirement for CSPs looking to profitably manage the explosive growth in data traffic while creating a profitable services segmentation offering and the best possible user experience. An ability to deliver this in environments characterized by high data volumes and low latency requirements for mission-critical applications is key in mediation today.
It takes more than buzzwords, and “big data” is an unavoidable buzzword right now, to achieve profitability. Policy and charging rules functions (PCRFs), analytics, and such issues may be the service provider’s flavor of the month, but they’re pipe dreams without the mediation solution required to enable their success. Ritchie’s comments underline the growing recognition that this is the case.
According to one industry report, mobile data grew 133% in 2011. Cisco predicts that by 2016, data traffic on mobile devices worldwide will reach 130 exabytes per year. A fundamental change in telco economics is inevitable. But even before that, the upturn in demand for mediation providers seems predictable as more and more service providers grasp the importance of their products in the new, data-driven world.
Today, we’re seeing an industry undergoing a sea change that is having a massive impact on data centers. Service providers have no choice but to simplify their data infrastructures and adapt to new business requirements. In fact, the data wave isn’t just hitting telecommunications. We’re finding that in many other industries including finance, utilities, and transport and logistics there is a need for a horizontal mediation layer.
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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