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SDN architectures

Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era

In my last blog, SDN Nirvana Still a Distant Dream (Part 1), I talked about OSS challenges which need to be overcome before SDN becomes a reality. In my new report, "Service Assurance in SDN & Cloud," I am discussing some of the assurance challenges which will be critical for success of interactive and short-duration cloud services and SDN.

Cloud, SDN demand real-time tracking and monitoring of network resources and demand a close alignment between fulfillment and assurance function. Real-time changes to the network need to be monitored and tracked on per application and per subscriber level. Advanced analytics will play a pivotal role in this context as beyond real-time understanding of utilization of network resources "what if" type of analysis needs to be conducted which would help operators assess the future behavior of the network based on future service trends. Service providers will have to make sure they find a service assurance solution that will help to view all layers of the cloud operation (content, network and session layers) in real time so that any issues are reported quickly to the customer and contribute to customer satisfaction.

An assurance solution that has the capability to assure real-time interactive services by analyzing network, media and service layers and automatically correlating network events to individual sessions in the network -- thereby bringing together session, media and path information into a single platform -- is what is needed right now. This correlation also breaks down the silo views that each management group or multi-vendor network has, without the use of intrusive and expensive probes. Service assurance solutions that can handle interactive real-time services effectively will be able to handle the dynamic requirements of both cloud-based services and support assurance requirements of application running on a SDN infrastructure.

Few key highlights from the report are:
  • Service assurance for SDN will need close alignment with real-time operations support system (OSS) and best practice business processes. Close alignment between assurance and real-time OSS plus alignment with ITIL concepts will be important for service assurance solutions supporting cloud services and SDN.
  • Cloud success will depend on subscriber quality of experience (QoE). Cloud service providers must know that understanding the demands and apprehensions of cloud customers, whose primary concern is about quality of the overall experience, will be key to the success of cloud services.
  • Cloud service management will depend on intelligence, tools and capabilities that allow application monitoring, workload mobility and link services to provide security and improve application performance. With the constant evolution of workloads, compliance protocols and application requirements, it is critical to maintain high service levels to uphold customer relationships.
  • Operators need granular network-facing application awareness, as well as subscriber-facing service awareness. This means real-time visibility into sessions and visibility into session paths and performance parameters. With a comprehensive view of all the sessions in the network, network operators can see those sessions that are impacted from various network events.
  • For a cloud service assurance solution to be effective, it is important that it has an end-to-end view of the entire network. Because communication impairments can occur at any point along the path through the network, monitoring at a single point in the network or at the edge of a network cannot accurately identify the source of session-quality degradation.
The report analyzes operator pain point, analyzes type of solution required and looks at features of market leading assurance vendors in this space such as InfoVista, NSN, Netsocket, NetScout, Accedian, HP and Centina Systems. Please also keep an eye out for more upcoming reports on this topic on the Heavy Reading Service Provider IT Total Access website. — Ari Banerjee, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
dapperdave 7/17/2013 | 4:31:08 PM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era Ray, your point about SPs and OSS is spot on as it relates to SDN and analytics. I think, though that SDN will usher in a new urgency to the SPs to update their OSS infrastructure to accommodate SDNs and other devices/apps in the service architecture. A web service-on the northbound side of the controller is what most SDN vendors are making available. Seems to me this is right down the architectural path that SPs want to take their OSS systems. I believe that SDN's enhanced visibility of network ops and config state will push those SPs who have not yet made the transition to web-service-based OSS down that track.
Ray Le Maistre 7/15/2013 | 12:42:15 PM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era I am already getting the feeling that the OSS vendors believe they're ready for the coming transformation that virtualization will bring -- note I said 'believe'.... seems to me there needs to be some serious analysis within the telecom software community of what a comms network OSS will constitute in 5-10 years' time.
abanerjee 7/12/2013 | 8:37:00 PM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era Advanced Analytics will surely play a critical role here. It needs to closely align with the orchestration logic which brings together network device management, application management, resource management etc to make this run as a well oiled automated systems. With SDN going mainstream in few years it will be interesting to see how OSS vendors repond and react to this challenge. Also interesting will be to see what role standard bodies will play in this eco-system development.
abanerjee 7/12/2013 | 8:31:57 PM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era More standards based platform approach which takes into account both fulfillment and assurance will be required to handle challenges introduced by Cloud and SDN. Traditional OSS vendors need to think out of the box and look for acquisition candiates.
@mbushong 7/12/2013 | 3:10:49 PM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era I would think that this is where players like Cisco will push. It gives them a chance to monetize the platform, and then monetize the professional services required to deploy the platform. If it truly does drive new revenue, customers will be able to justify the expense.

WIth all of the dependence on analytics, I would expect those companies to start to get gobbled up. If I was a Cisco competitor and I was partnered with Guavus, for example, I would be nervous. If Cisco buys them, they not only shore up their own portfolio but also deliver a blow to competition.

-Mike Bushong (@mbushong)
Plexxi
Ray Le Maistre 7/12/2013 | 7:46:46 AM
re: Service Assurance Challenges in SDN & Cloud Era "Service providers will have to make sure they find a service assurance solution that will help to view all layers of the cloud operation (content, network and session layers) in real time..."

Will they be able to find one? And if they do, will they be able to deploy it?
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