Light Reading

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
To thrive in the Internet age, operators must transform themselves from 'communications service providers' into 'digital service providers.'
Survey says telcos see increased network flexibility and service agility as the primary benefits of the New IP.
In part 3 in a series of blogs on 'Accelerating NFV Implementation,' Caroline Chappell considers how the NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) stack needs to work with OSS functions to operationalize NFV.
Mobile operators feel an urgency to virtualize the EPC, and are exploring a variety of ways to move forward, on an ambitious timeframe.
Despite all the work that has already been put into defining and developing use cases, many service providers think more attention needs to be paid to the economics of SDN and NFV.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (7) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones