& cplSiteName &

Policy Control: Preparing for a Virtual Makeover?

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
5/10/2013
50%
50%

Our updated forecast for the network operator policy control and DPI market is out, and the very strong growth we reported previously continues apace. We measured the market in 2012 at US$1.24 billion, slightly ahead of our previous projection, as many vendors enjoyed a buoyant second half; that seems to be continuing into the first half of this year, as well, boding well for 2013.

On the face of it, the market is now approaching saturation: Already in mid-2012, our survey work with operators showed that almost 70 percent had deployed a policy server of some kind, and it's now likely at least 80 percent. So why are we expecting the market to more than double to $2.85 billion by 2017? Primarily because we're anticipating that operators will deploy more and more sophisticated solutions, handling more and more use cases, putting policy at the heart of their strategic thinking.

This trend is already driving a round of replacements of first-generation gear, as well as enhancements to deployed products to add new applications and connect more network and BSS gear into the policy architecture. In emerging markets, some policy servers are now handling dozens of use cases as operators fight to differentiate and improve the yield from spectrum and bandwidth.

In other words, the already high penetration of policy servers we uncovered conceals the wider truth that many initial deployments are relatively rudimentary, and often still in the deployment phase. It's revealing that one vendor in our Tracker research interviews told us that it had signed nearly 50 contracts over the past four years, but only 60 percent are carrying commercial traffic. Deployment cycles can be painful, with some operators saying that it's taken two years to get from order to traffic.

The bottlenecks center on difficulties interoperating with other network and IT elements, inflexible policy creation tools, and concerns about scaling, and that's led most vendors to try to improve their offers in all these areas, with measurable improvements in product sets in some cases. But it's also helping to stoke interest in virtualization of policy control, as well as SDN; in interviews with operators, we've found that there is strong interest in starting virtualization initiatives in the control layer, and most of the policy vendors we've spoken to now are responding, and have active programs to add virtualized versions. Many policy servers already use COTS hardware and x86 processors, and some vendors already offer virtualization of their own applications on those platforms.

There are, of course, plenty of open issues here. One of the biggest is the relationship between the ONF's de facto standard for SDN control, and the 3GPP's PCRF Policy Controller. This is an issue we discuss in a paper to be published next week by Sandvine Inc., and while the two standards are in some ways well matched, there are plenty of technical challenges to be resolved.

But though immature, these initiatives have great promise, carriers suggest. At the recent Policy Control event in Berlin, Alex Harmand, head of service platforms at Telefónica SA's Spanish unit, describing his company as "strong believers" in cloud and SDN, said they could help improve interoperability across the IT/network and OCS/PCRF barrier. More broadly, SDN could help improve the whole process and engineering environment, he said. But the relationship between policy and SDN remains to be defined.

The promise, then, is that virtualization could help telcos to bridge the still-wide gap between networks and IT -- a gap that is contributing to the difficulties that many have had in deploying conventional policy solutions. Yet technology fixes alone are no panacea; fundamental changes in the internal organization of network operators will be required if the promise is to be fulfilled.

I'll be at Management World in Nice next week, looking for answers to some of those questions, and look forward to reporting back on progress in a future column.

— Graham Finnie, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Three UK needed a more scalable technology and it needed to distribute it more widely across the country, so it turned to a combination of Nokia, MYCOM OSI and Astellia.
(Sponsored.) Even in non-line-of-sight conditions, fixed wireless access can provide reliable high-speed broadband, as tests have now shown.
Gluttony. Lust. And five others. What's not to like?
The most recent Thought Leadership Council survey finds that business/operations support system (B/OSS) transformation will be an important focus for service providers in the coming years.
Cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) systems are gaining traction in the market, and may surpass dedicated short range communications (DSRC) systems in traffic safety applications across the world.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
February 26-28, 2018, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
SmartNICs aren't just about achieving scale. They also have a major impact in reducing CAPEX and OPEX requirements.
Hot Topics
Project AirGig Goes Down to Georgia
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/13/2017
Here's Pai in Your Eye
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 12/11/2017
Verizon's New Fios TV Is No More
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 12/12/2017
Ericsson & Samsung to Supply Verizon With Fixed 5G Gear
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/11/2017
Cloudy With a Chance of Automation: Telecom in 2018
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/12/2017
Animals with Phones
Don't Fall Asleep on the Job! Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed