DPI Goes Undercover

DPI has taken off in the market, but appliance vendors are finding that they need to step it up

October 14, 2011

3 Min Read
DPI Goes Undercover

Deep packet inspection (DPI) has become established as a key component of modern telecom networks; it is used widely to help service providers manage traffic and protect network resources. In most cases the systems deployed have been standalone appliances dedicated to the task, and those systems have been developed by specialists, often using in-house technologies and expertise.

However, the DPI market is undergoing a change. An ecosystem of vendors that are providing DPI building-block technologies has emerged. It is now possible for an OEM vendor to procure off-the-shelf chipsets, software libraries, software development kits (SDKs), applications, processors, line cards, boards and blades to support the development of applications and solutions leveraging DPI. This has already led to several OEM vendors entering the market for the first time – and they have been winning contracts. Chipset developments in particular are set to have a major impact on the market as the capabilities of DPI chips have improved rapidly and are opening up the possibility of integrating DPI technology into many more places within networks.

That integration is taking place already: DPI can now be found in routers and gateways, in testing equipment, and even in base stations.

Router vendors have introduced increasingly sophisticated on-router DPI systems offering dedicated cards or blades, as well as multi-service blades with dedicated DPI chipsets. Meanwhile, chipset vendors are striving to win more business in this market, working on chips pre-equipped with the ability to do DPI, virus and intrusion management, as well as routing.

Mobile gateways are also offered with card or blade upgrades to support traffic management, filtering and analysis at key points of presence (PoPs) on the interface between mobile operators' core networks and the Internet.

DPI is being taken closer to access networks to aid the management of traffic much closer to customers. This is especially true in mobile networks, where the launch of Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks offers the opportunity to deploy infrastructure with DPI embedded at the outset, rather than added as an afterthought.

Integrated DPI sales are expected to be worth more than $100 million worldwide, and will grow strongly for the foreseeable future.

Increased integration of DPI into wider technology is not a death knell for specialist vendors of DPI solutions. There will continue to be a need for standalone technologies for various reasons, not least operators' own internal organizational lines of responsibility. However, as it becomes more readily integrated into and usable by management systems and policy solutions, vendors of specialist appliances will come under pressure to increase the utility of their solutions beyond traffic management tasks. They will also find it harder to differentiate on the basis of hardware, and will have to focus on strong software applications and integration capabilities to stay ahead of the pack.

The latest Heavy Reading Insider, "DPI Appliance Vendors Face an Off-the-Shelf Challenge," takes a detailed look at the players developing DPI building block technologies, from chipset vendors through application and signature library providers, to suppliers of application SDKs and probes. It reviews their latest products and services, discusses where their technology is starting to be embedded, and what the implications are for all vendors of DPI solutions – including specialist vendors and the major network equipment providers (NEPs).

— Simon Sherrington, Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider

DPI Appliance Vendors Face an Off-the-Shelf Challenge, a 29-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.

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