It’s this: Operators are discovering that they need to build a network that can control the user experience, rather than just supply a big, fat bit-pipe. This is especially true with the new real-time applications like VOIP, IPTV, and online gaming, which take telcos into couch-potato land, an alarming country inhabited by sad types with lightning-fast reflexes on the TV remote and attention spans of gnats. No one has ever zapped a telco service before, so how are they going to cope?
A key part of the answer to this and similar user-experience issues looks increasingly like the Broadband Policy Server. This nifty device is a wodge of middleware that coordinates network resources to meet the legitimate demands of users. In principle, it allows network providers to orchestrate their network resources efficiently to give fine-grained control over services and the user’s service experience – particularly in such areas as QOS.
Once they have such control, network providers will find it much easier to become application (and content) providers, and to develop new forms of differentiation based on applications, services, and quality. They can use this control to build services and user experiences that are different from those of the competition (say, more personalized and better targeted at individual needs and usage patterns) – and escape from just competing around speed and price, as they do currently.
Two thirds of the respondents to a recent Light Reading online poll in the Webinar on which this report is based agreed that policy would be important in broadband networks for a wide range of tasks, including end-to-end QOS and bandwidth management, end-to-end security and resource protection, and subscriber and service admission control.
But policy servers are very new, and standards are still emerging. "Policy" is a term increasingly bandied about in the industry, but often without much precision. So what is policy, and why does it need a server? Where does a policy server fit into a network, and what can it do for triple-play services, one of the hottest issues for telcos today? What does it need to be able to do? How does policy management differ from policy enforcement? This report aims to give a quick introduction to these and other issues surrounding an important component of next-generation networks.
Here’s a hyperlinked contents list:
- Broadband Trends & Dynamics
Applications, not bandwidth, are becoming the differentiators
- Policy & Policy Servers
Standards are coming
- Policy & Broadband Triple-Play Services
Policy meets "multidimensional scaleability"
- Positioning the Broadband Policy Server
Right in the middle
- Managing Triple-Play Services End-to-End
Flexibility is important
- Specifying the Policy Server
Critical issues for a critical service component
This report was previewed in a Webinar, Broadband Policy Servers: Enabling Triple Play, moderated by Kevin Mitchell, then Principal Analyst at Infonetics Research Inc. , and sponsored by Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC), and Camiant Inc. It may be viewed free of charge in our Webinar archives by clicking here.
— Tim Hills is a freelance telecommunications writer and journalist. He's a regular author of Light Reading reports.