Virtual networks, real challenges: Maintaining a consistent subscriber experience: Page 2 of 3

April 13, 2016 //By Said Saadeh, NETSCOUT
Operators have long faced the challenge of reducing operating costs while increasing the speed of service delivery, especially in the modern IP-based mobile environment. Today, operators are looking at an alternative approach – revolutionising the mobile network through Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV).

This challenge is partly driven by today’s industry landscape. The increasingly competitive mobile environment demands total service uptime, meaning that every NFV mobile experience must be of the highest quality – rapid, responsive, and without disruption. With this in mind, there’s no avoiding the fact an operator’s ability to maintain a consistent subscriber experience during the shift from a physical to virtualised network design will make or break the success of NFV initiatives. Real-time tracking and monitoring of network resources, therefore, is even more important in a virtualised environment, helping to flag network issues and allow operators to resolve problems as they emerge, long before the end user even becomes aware of them.

 

Service assurance: in plain view

For operators, this may feel like a temporary step backwards. In the physical network environment they have streamlined hardware performance over the past decade with great success. Through ‘on-the-fly’ analysis of network data, operators can identify root causes of issues immediately and rapidly restore service levels. Such analytical approaches are fundamentally important to understanding network and application performance, and are vital to assuring the quality and continuity of services delivered over virtualised networks.

Operators are already accustomed to having full visibility of activity across their legacy and all-IP networks, yet the same cannot be said for new virtualised assets. There’s also a greater degree of complexity that must be managed in the case of NFV-enabled networks. This is because many of the virtualised functions that make up a virtualised network are absolutely critical to service quality, including authentication services, routing and switching functionality, and domain name services. If operators cannot view the performance of these elements in real-time, it is highly likely that the end user experience will suffer.

Working with the right service assurance provider will become a necessity as a result. Not only to retain the end-to-end visibility operators have come to expect, but to help them unlock the valuable commercial driver that NFV represents without damaging their bottom line in the process. By doing so, operators will also be able to pre-empt service issues or network degradation by constantly monitoring and adapting network performance in real-time, thereby extending the role of service assurance beyond troubleshooting and issue prevention into an end-to-end resource management capability.

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