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
Cloud enablement partnerships between traditional communications service providers and cloud specialists are set to proliferate in the coming years.
Communications service providers are looking to play an integral role in the M2M (machine-to-machine) value chain, but it's not easy.
Many US utility companies today are caught in a crisis of identity, progression and even purpose.
Energy efficiency has long been vital to service providers because of its large and growing effect on their operating costs and earnings.
Enterprises increasingly realize that in order to run their businesses economically they need to fundamentally change ways in which they operate their businesses in the connected IP world.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
Liberty Global Sees Business Goldmine

12|18|14   |     |   (0) comments


Steen Sorensen, VP of business services for Liberty Global, explains where the giant international MSO sees growth potential.
LRTV Documentaries
EE: The Road to 5G

12|16|14   |   16:02   |   (1) comment


Andy Sutton, the principal network architect at UK mobile operator EE, explains how his company is using Wembley stadium as a wireless test bed and how that's helping EE to plan the evolution to 5G.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Highlights of Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014

12|16|14   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei hosted its inaugural NFV Open Cloud Forum during the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Forum brought together technology thought leaders, senior executives and telecom professionals from global carriers, industry associations, as well as other partner companies in the ecosystem, to exchange views on and collectively explore how ...
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing Operators' Digital Vision

12|16|14   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Leveraging technology is fundamental to digital transformation but understanding customers and serving them really well is at the heart of digital businesses. TM Forum lists the following as the strategic pillars of the digital business: business agility and rapid innovation, operational agility and effectiveness, IT and data centricity, plus customer centricity. ...
LRTV Documentaries
US Cellular Injects Analytics Into LTE

12|16|14   |   2:57   |   (1) comment


US Cellular's Mario Vela explains how the operator uses analytics for network planning and what comes next as the carrier looks to eke more value out of its metrics.
LRTV Interviews
How Cox Biz Plans to Keep Growing

12|15|14   |     |   (1) comment


Steve Rowley, SVP of Cox Business, details how the third-biggest US MSO intends to boost its revenues to $2 billion and beyond over the rest of the decade
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Bill Zhang, Director of SoftCOM Product Management, Huawei

12|15|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Bill Zhang elaborated on Huawei's open philosophy in NFV solution development and network architecture design at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Event Highlights: Huawei at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014

12|15|14   |   3:43   |   (0) comments


Huawei joined the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow Congress as one of the key sponsors and contributors. At the event, Huawei reinforced the openness and flexibility of its network infrastructure strategies, and provided updates on its SDN and NVF innovations. Through participations at the exhibitions, forums and speeches, Huawei encouraged the industry to "think bigger and ...
LRTV Interviews
How Cable Biz Services Hit $10B Mark

12|12|14   |     |   (1) comment


Cable operators reached $10 billion in annual business services revenues by delving deeper into their vertical markets and expanding beyond the smallest firms.
LRTV Documentaries
Mediacom Aims to Test Connected Tractors

12|11|14   |   05:07   |   (3) comments


Cable business service provider is taking its services to the 'agribusiness' sector in partnership with farm equipment specialist John Deere and is getting involved in Gigabit Cities developments.
LRTV Interviews
TWC Business Looks Beyond $3B

12|10|14   |     |   (0) comments


TWC Business Services chief Phil Meeks explains how his unit has reached $3 billion in annual revenues and what its plans are for next year.
LRTV Documentaries
AT&T's New Security Strategy

12|10|14   |   02:36   |   (1) comment


AT&T's Chief Security Officer Ed Amoroso explains how his company is wrapping virtual security layers around micro network domains.
Upcoming Live Events
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Hot Topics
Vodafone to Ride T-Mobile Back Into US
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/12/2014
1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 12/17/2014
T-Mobile, BlackBerry Flirt With Reuniting
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 12/17/2014
Gardner's Departure a Cautionary Tale
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 12/12/2014
Cisco Makes Big Analytics Push
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 12/11/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Upcoming Webinars
Webinar Archive