Light Reading
The policy control market is poised to more than double over the next five years, as operators put policy at the heart of their strategic thinking

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
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
The challenges associated with small cell deployments, the impact of virtualization, and the demand for dark fiber are just some of the topics to be debated at the upcoming Backhaul Strategies conference in New York City.
The news that Apple's new iPhone 6 will now support Voice over LTE kind of a big deal.
Network functions virtualization is the key catalyst underpinning telco data center transformation, believes Nokia Networks.
The growth of the smartphone market is creating a new testing ground for vendors that must find a way to keep ahead of the game.
As more and more applications move into the cloud, enterprises must ensure that those clouds are rigorously tested for performance.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Is your network built on 'The Old IP,' or are you part of 'The New IP' revolution?
LRTV Documentaries
A Cultural Shift for an OTT World

9|26|14   |   01:41   |   (3) comments


Telcos need to embrace a new approach to partnerships if they are to generate extra revenues quickly and give customers what they want.
LRTV Documentaries
New Skills Needed as Telecom, IT Collide

9|26|14   |   4:07   |   (1) comment


As telecom and IT collide, new technologies are emerging, new skills are needed and new opportunities for women are arising.
UBB Forum News
Do IP Networks Need An Overhaul?

9|25|14   |   02:01   |   (0) comments


As traffic levels ramp, do IP networks need new technologies and topologies?
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint Wields Its Influence in the Valley

9|25|14   |   3:09   |   (10) comments


Anne-Louise Kardas, Sprint's connection to startups in the Valley, explains how telcos can be innovative and find new opportunities with partners.
LRTV Documentaries
SDN, NFV & The Future of XO's Network

9|25|14   |   3:47   |   (0) comments


XO Communications COO Don MacNeil explains how cloud, SDN and NFV are altering its network requirements as well as changing data centers of the future.
UBB Forum News
The OTT Conundrum

9|24|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


What is holding back prosperous partnerships between telcos and the OTT players?
LRTV Documentaries
Putting Broadband to Work

9|24|14   |   01:26   |   (0) comments


High-speed broadband network rollout is key to telco strategies, but it's what happens after the network is built that counts.
Light Reedy
Light Reading's Women in Telecom Recap

9|24|14   |   0:55   |   (4) comments


Our first Women in Telecom breakfast was a huge success, and we hope you'll join us in London for the next event on November 6.
UBB Forum News
Monetizing Ultra-Broadband

9|24|14   |   01:43   |   (2) comments


Ultra-broadband networks need to be built, with fiber-to-the-premises the ultimate goal, but they need to be monetized, too.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sales Director of INIT on Plug & Play Switch Devices

9|19|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


INIT Italy uses both the Huawei S5700 and S7700 series switches for the campus LAN environment. Sales Director Andrea Curti says their company chose these Huawei devices over others because of their performance, flexible scalability and plug-and-play features.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Arabia Upgrades Vocational Training System

9|19|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has 100,000 students, 150 government-owned institutions and oversees 1000 private institutes. The CIO of TVTC explains that Huawei devices have allowed them to manage multiple datacenters using just one software program, scientifically tracking the progress of students and teachers, saving them millions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Media Solutions Are Here to Stay

9|19|14   |   4:35   |   (0) comments


The current media revolution requires rapid upgrades in technology. New formats (HD, 3D, 4K etc.) and the subsequent explosion of file sizes demand sophisticated network and storage architecture. Social media and the multiple distribution channels require a robust asset management system. Gartner analyst Venecia Liu speaks about the current technological trends in ...
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Half of the world's population will be connected to the Internet by 2017, but not just by smartphones and desktops.
Hot Topics
Facebook Pokes Around LTE Direct
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/25/2014
Sprint Wields Its Influence in the Valley
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/25/2014
US Ignite Cultivates Gigabit Apps
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 9/25/2014
Comcast Turns Off Streampix
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 9/26/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed