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The Five Nines Makeover

Ray Le Maistre

NICE, France -- TM Forum Live! 2015 -- "Five nines reliability is dead as a concept at the node level" is the kind of statement that can capture the attention of most telco-heads, but it's also one that demands a little elaboration.

So when Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) CTO Ulf Ewaldsson threw this into a presentation here in Nice, we wanted to know more.

His point is that building individual network elements to certain standards and having them certified as "five nines" (99.999%) telco-grade reliable isn't enough any more. Instead, that level of reliability needs to exist across an entire network and it's up to the industry to deliver those capabilities and that mentality: "It's all about end-to-end performance now," he noted.

Why? Because network infrastructure environments are changing and with the introduction of programmable networking capabilities and virtual functions, and the advent of networks and services that will put even greater demands on latency, the whole approach to delivering reliability needs a rethink. That's something major operators are grappling with right now. (See Verizon: Telecom Needs to Solve SDN Problem.)

In addition, the industry appears to be waking up to the importance of end-user experience, expectation and perception. Having a set of boxes that are incredibly resilient counts for little if critical or popular (or any?) applications are not performing to users' satisfaction. (See Mobile Subscriber Experience.)

"We need to rethink five nines… from a customer experience perspective," said Ewaldsson.

Customer experience: easy to talk about, a lot harder to deliver.

Want to know more about network security? This will be just one of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!

Ewaldsson identified a couple of areas that need a lot of work if end-to-end five-nines reliability is ever to become a reality.

The first is network security: The challenge of enabling secure connections and applications in an increasingly virtualized networking environment is "one of the biggest barriers… but also one of the biggest opportunities." Service providers can build new revenue streams if security can be guaranteed.

Another major challenge is roaming: An end-to-end experience will require the ability to seamlessly roam between various network environments.

If you agree with Ewaldsson that the concept of five nines needs to be revamped, then obviously these challenges are only the beginning. But I suspect not everyone will agree. Is five nines more or less relevant than ever before? Is it a term with relevance to the new or next generation of network operators? Share your thoughts on the message board below.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
6/3/2015 | 8:30:22 PM
Re: Nein nein nein nein nein
Of course, you realize that is where 5 9s came from.  The service availability was derived down into specific specifications.


User Rank: Light Beer
6/3/2015 | 5:15:09 PM
Re: Nein nein nein nein nein
Indeed, the Service, availability and quality of a Service, should be used as true objective metrics. And that requires comprehensive OAM tool set, including agreed upon performance measurement methods.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/3/2015 | 12:38:27 PM
Nein nein nein nein nein
Five nines of reliability isn't just insufficient -- it's sometimes overkill (or often). What's important is that the whole service is reliable, not individual elements. Google and Facebook teach us that individual elements can fail often so long as the service remains up. And sometimes the service is better if the individual elements are just reliable enough -- not carrier grade.

And some services don't need to be highly reliable.

The quest for carrier-grade reliability on every element stifles innovation.
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