Vendors Tackle Mobile Data Management
First, Compuware Corp. (Nasdaq: CPWR) announced its entry into the telecom service assurance market with the launch of Vantage for Mobile, a new network probe that enables "real-time monitoring of IP sessions," using the experience it has built up developing data-monitoring systems for 23,000 enterprise customers, from which it generates revenues of more than $1 billion a year. (See Compuware Unveils Mobile OSS.)
"We're responding to real carrier needs -- they need real-time insights into their customers' experience," Ian Clark, Compuware's global director of Telecoms Strategy, tells Light Reading.
Clark says his team has performed validations with 22 operators globally, all of which have been lacking the visibility they need into data service performance. "They have many tools and probes to manage the network, but they don't have the insight they need into their customers' experience," says product manager Jerry Witkowicz. "They lack visibility."
The Compuware team says its packet inspection capabilities can provide analysis of individual IP sessions -- "a unified view" -- as well as provide trend data that can show the performance of certain services.
And the company has had some early success, it seems. Although specific markets can't be identified, Clark says the new product is being used by Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s Orange, Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), T-Mobile International AG , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). The Compuware man also regards Tektronix Inc. as his main competitor.
NetScout extends its offer
Compuware soon had company, as NetScout announced an addition to its nGenius mobile service assurance probe called Subscriber Intelligence, which, just like the Compuware product, has been designed to provide end-to-end analysis of individual mobile IP sessions. With the addition, the company says it can now provide a per-session view of any subscriber's experience of the voice, video, and data services they are using. (See NetScout Offers Subscriber Intelligence.)
That detailed view is provided by simultaneous analysis of control plane and user plane traffic, with the resulting data combined to provide real-time and historical subscriber experience metrics and service usage analysis. "Carriers can only look at bits and pieces at the moment," but not the unified overall view that the new product enables, says NetScout's VP of marketing, Steve Shalita.
NetScout says its trump card here is its foothold in the telecom market and its experience in working with mobile operators. The vendor says it has more than 120 service provider customers (mobile, fixed, and cable) in 39 countries, including all of the U.S.'s Tier 1 operators and Canada's Bell Mobility Inc. , which says it will add the new Subscriber Intelligence module to its nGenius deployment.
According to NetScout, two operators have purchased the new module, a further five trials have been completed, and another four trials are already lined up.
Shalita adds that NetScout believes its enterprise data background -- about 80 percent of its revenue, circa $280 million, comes from enterprise verticals, while about 20 percent comes from its communications service provider customers -- gives it an advantage over telecom industry rivals such as Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Tekelec , and Tektronix because "they are circuit-switched companies that are trying to migrate into the IP world, but they're struggling to adapt. You need expertise in IP and scalability" to provide truly useful mobile data analytics, and "we have that."
Hot sector, but lots of work still to do
The niche that Compuware and NetScout are targeting is "a hot area that's attracting a lot of attention," says Patrick Kelly, telecom software research director at Analysys Mason .
"It's surged during the past year," adds Kelly, who believes the mobile data probes market is worth about $50 million a year currently and growing fast. "Until recently, commercial systems weren't even available," he adds, noting that NetScout was, a few years back, "the new entrant that carved out a nice bit of business for itself."
But he notes that neither company is doing anything too revolutionary: Basically, they have probes that monitor the upstream and downstream traffic that flows in and out of a GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node), the mobile data gateway that sits between the operator's network and the Internet.
The analyst says NetScout was probably the first to recognize the market's potential, and has been building a position with mobile operators from which it can grow. Kelly says the firm has experience in IP monitoring in Layers 4 to 7, and by mapping traffic analysis to quality of service parameters, is doing something different from the deep packet inspection (DPI) specialists such as Sandvine Inc. , Allot Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALLT), and Procera Networks , which are marking packets and enforcing usage policies.
Compuware, meanwhile, acquired a probe company and, from its IT service assurance base, spotted an opportunity in the telecom market, notes the analyst.
Kelly believes that Compuware, being new to the mobile market, "has a lot to learn, and needs to form an ecosystem of partners" so that its system can hook into other software tools and infrastructure elements. "It'll take time for them to understand the market and for them to build the expertise -- NetScout found the same thing," adds Kelly, though he notes that Compuware has a solid grounding as a large, product-based software company.
Kelly is also dubious about any claims that these probes will deliver full end-to-end, real-time, per session customer experience analysis without a great deal more work. "There are plenty of other parts of an operator's network that need to be exposed" for these tools to work to their full potential, and there's no guarantee that all the data they need will be available, says Kelly. "A lot still needs to be done in terms of interfacing with other software packages," adds the analyst.
And the mobile traffic-monitoring market isn't without big hitters that could upset NetScout and CompuWare's plans.
While Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) and Anritsu Corp. have a legacy toehold in the market, it's Tektronix that i s the chief incumbent will pose the strongest competition, believes Kelly.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading