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Packet inspection/traffic management

Allot Builds Gateway to SDN

At the behest of a large European mobile operator, deep packet inspection (DPI) specialist Allot has developed a new service gateway designed to help operators deliver new services as they transition to software-defined networking.

The new product, called Allot Service Gateway Tera, will initially be offered as a hardware platform, but Allot Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALLT) plans to offer a virtual version later this year for operators with NFV strategies, according to Andrei Elefant, Allot's VP of product management and marketing. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

Allot developed the product to meet the requirements of a $4 million deal with one of Europe's leading mobile operators, which the company isn't identifying, but says it has already received additional orders worldwide. (See Allot Boasts New European Order and Allot Boasts $5M Order From EMEA Operator.)

The Service Gateway doesn't necessarily provide new applications for operators, but Elefant says it provisions services significantly faster than previous offers and it can scale up for as large a deployment as needed. It was built to manage 15 million active subscribers and works with the vendor's ClearSee Analytics platform to help operators better understand their customers and create tailored services. (See Allot Goes Deep in Big-Data Analytics Game.)

The platform includes Allot's Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) toolbox of real-time traffic management, video optimization, policy enforcement, application-based charging, network analytics, and security services. Significantly, it enables "service chaining," connecting multiple virtualized network functions in sequence in a logical rather than physical setup. (See 5 Opportunities for NFV in the 4G Core Network.)

In current networks, service chaining is enabled by the control plane via a policy interface. In a software-defined network, Elefant explains, the data and control planes will be separate and an orchestration function will provide instructions to the data plane layer about what to do with certain types of traffic and which network functions are required.

Right now, the tie to SDN and NFV sounds like more of a long-term plan, but Elefant says the migration path is in place. In all of his discussions with operators, he says he encounters two groups of people: those operating networks, such as the network operations, engineers, and planning folks; and those looking into the future, the innovators and marketing teams. "The first team wants to keep it working with mostly physical environments," he says. "The other side of the house has to work differently, and change how they operate," which includes figuring out how to introduce SDN and NFV. (See NFV, SDN Changing Operators' Policy Picks.)

Both groups need a migration strategy to get from the current, traditional network topology to the more virtualized world, and that's where Allot believes its new gateway can play a role. It supports the data and control plane functions, has Diameter for policy and charging, and delivers analytics, whether it's a standalone physical platform or a virtualized element. Providing that option will help operators develop their SDN and NFV migration plans.

"It's really built around fast service deployment," Elefant says. "It provides migration to tomorrow's networks. Operators want to reduce initiatives from a year to several months. Vendors and operators are working together and many of these discussions are ahead of standards. It's very good for the industry."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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