Press Release

How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

How to tackle NFV AAA deployment challenges

 

12th of June 2020

 

 

 

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) helps service providers transform deployment and operational processes. The maturing of NFV means that AAA can now be deployed virtually – a game-changer that optimizes resource utilization and network operations. From our experience in deploying virtualized AAA (vAAA), we’ve noticed there are some frequently occurring challenges. The good news is, we’ve also identified how to address them.

First things first: the most important thing about NFV

Conventional hardware infrastructure deployments mean the installation of application-specific servers or appliances on the customer’s premises. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technology introduces a well-defined cloud architecture that eliminates the bind between application and physical server by virtualizing network services.

Deploying virtualized network functions (VNFs) reduces the need to maintain vendor-specific or customized physical infrastructure. Applications can now be deployed on standardized and shared infrastructure, significantly reducing operational costs and making it faster to implement.

What objectives do NFV-based deployments meet?

Important outcomes that make NFV software-defined networking (NFV SDN) increasingly valuable include reduced complexity of networks, faster services, and lowered dependence on expensive physical storage. Further, NFV-based deployments aim to maintain a standard-based infrastructure shared by all VNF vendors, keeping OPEX and CAPEX low. Its core objectives include:

Efficiency

The NFV platform must have availability-adjusted NF SLAs that are identical to SLAs offered with dedicated services, specifying, for instance, the average delay, bandwidth, and availability of all services provided to the subscribers. To ensure SLA compliance, it needs to closely track network performance and dynamically adjust resources.

Scalability

The NFV platform should support a large number of VNFs and scale as traffic volumes and application usage increase. The ability to deliver a variety of NFs per subscriber could lead to the creation of new services, opening new ways for operators to monetize their networks.

Reliability

The NFV platform must comply with reliability requirements to offer high service availability, which is defined as end-to-end service availability including end-to-end service elements (VNF and infrastructure components).

How to overcome challenges in NFV AAA (vAAA) deployments

Let’s take a look at the top six NFV implementation challenges and the ideal solutions we’ve developed to address them.

ChallengeSolution
Configuration management

Managing file-based configurations for AAA nodes becomes complex and error-prone when each AAA node runs with its own copy of the configuration and requires syncing as nodes are dynamically added or removed.
Centralized configuration management

This helps manage the configuration changes (scripts or license files) through a web-based configuration portal, allowing changes to every AAA node in real-time. Alternatively, all configurations can be held in a centralized configuration database.
Lack of compatibility for VNF management interfaces

Many NFV infrastructure (NFVi) vendors require a custom interface for VNF management than standard-based, making them incompatible with other vendors.
Flexible VNF management

Selecting AAA vendors that offer flexible VNF management interfaces based on ETSI-compatible interfaces or custom interfaces based on NFVi instances is ideal to expedite deployment.
Vendor-specific user access management systems

Different vendors have their own access management system for their applications. This adds to operational overheads as user logins and access permissions are maintained in multiple systems.
Centralized access management


A centralized user access management system for all vendor applications eases operations, improves control over access controllers, and enhances application security.
Impact of session cache synchronization

In NFV deployment, each AAA node is dynamically added or removed based on traffic needs. This requires each node to replicate the session cache to other nodes, increasing complexity and introducing errors.
Stateless AAA

It is important to externalize application states and stores session contexts in a centralized database that can be shared across all AAA nodes. A stateless AAA ensures any node can process an ongoing user session request previously handled by another node and that simplifies dynamic scaling without having to worry about session cache synchronization.
Low variety of load balancers

For virtualized AAA deployment, load balancers are needed to distribute signaling traffic across multiple AAA nodes. In the NFVi environment, very few software-based load balancers support RADIUS/UDP messages.
In-built load balancer

Software-based load balancer VNFs are part of new-generation vAAA solutions and this helps implement RADIUS/UDP as well as HTTP traffic load-balancing.
Common network interface for all network traffic

AAA deployed with a common network interface for handling applications and database traffic leads to security concerns and also prevents resource optimization based on traffic type.
Multiple networks for different traffic

Separate network interfaces address key security challenges and optimize network resources. Each AAA node has multiple virtual network interfaces to handle different data traffic, applications, and database, making it more secure and scalable.

Conclusion

NFV reduces dependence on dedicated infrastructure. As a result, a vAAA solution enables significant customization and scalability that cuts across the operator’s entire network framework. Operators can, therefore, earn additional revenue without investing in any new hardware.

One of just a handful in the market, Alepo’s NFV- and 5G-compliant virtualized AAA (vAAA) can be deployed in any NFVi environment according to ETSI standards. Manage the entire AAA VNF life cycle with Alepo using its specific Virtual Network Function (sVNF), or integrate with a generic Virtual Network Function (gVNF) from any NFVi vendor. The carrier-grade 3GPP AAA is designed to optimize mobile, WiFi, and fixed network performance. Equipped with a proven and scalable integration framework, it optimizes scalability and resource utilization through orchestration. It can be rapidly deployed and offers quick insights into the way IP data services are accessed and consumed.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

Top 5 ways telcos can adapt to the virtual cultural shift

 

5th of May 2020

 

 

 

Telecommunications today is more essential than ever. Data and mobility have taken on a pivotal role across sectors like healthcare, education, transportation, smart cities, oil and gas, utilities, and more. Now, there is unprecedented demand on networks with cultural shifts due to the pandemic. Given the unpredictability of the future, and with many companies considering the possibility of permanently adopting remote work, the focus is directed to network contingency plans. One thing is clear: service providers with digitally advanced systems will adapt more easily to this cultural shift. And to enhance their systems, these are the top five factors they need to focus on:

Maintain high-performing and scalable networks

More people around the world are working from home due to lockdowns, and those isolating and in quarantine are spending more time on high-bandwidth streaming services such as Netflix, Youtube, and other entertainment channels, further increasing the network load. To serve this surge in demand and long-term cultural shift, telcos must invest in robust AAA infrastructure that is highly available, scalable, and stateless. Operators facing network challenges can transform AAA seamlessly and virtually, ensuring zero impact on their existing IT systems and integrations.

Automate workflows and processes

As their customers do more from home, telcos should also aim to reduce manual and in-person touchpoints. An advanced digital business support systems (BSS) stack helps automate business processes, including complex and repetitive tasks, freeing up network resources, and minimizing errors. Telcos can create, launch, deliver, and manage communications services entirely through a digital-first customer experience, keeping them ahead of the competition. Operators can introduce innovative plans, bonus policies, cashbacks, and targeted offers on-the-fly as the market evolves. Increased digitalization and personalization keeps customers engaged and loyal to the brand.

Digital transformation facilitates rapid implementation and customization as it possesses the following features:

  • Cloud-native services
  • Open APIs and standardized workflows
  • Automated provisioning, fulfillment, testing, chatbots
  • Microservice architecture

In addition, better internal processes and automated workflows mean higher productivity and efficiency in interacting with customers and vendors, while maintaining high operational excellence.

Deliver a digitally-advanced experience

It is crucial for telcos to adopt a digital-first approach to their business, not only because the majority of young consumers prefer interacting with brands through smartphones or online, but long-term cultural shifts due to the pandemic demand a rapid change to conducting business and serving customers virtually.

For example, customers prefer visual assistance to solve their problems. Vodafone has capitalized on this and uses the power of video to relieve the burden on their call centers that used to receive a staggering 5.2 million calls for technical assistance per year. They are now able to resolve customer issues remotely using AI and AR, helping their agents interpret and visually guide the customer, resulting in faster and more accurate problem resolution.

The main areas of focus for digitalization include:

  • Shift in-store customer experience to a digital channel
  • Reduce physical contact through virtual troubleshooting
  • Automate customer touchpoints to improve customer experience
  • Have IT systems that can support the cultural shift

Provide omnichannel support

With an increasing number of digital channels and a growing focus on customer experience, operators need to adopt an omnichannel strategy to keep pace with the expectations of customers. And its applications are two-fold.

For one, omnichannel engagement options extend a seamless, consistent, and unified shopping experience to customers across all touchpoints, whether they are shopping on the operator’s portal or through an online marketplace, physical stores, product catalogs, social media platforms, or chatbots.

Second, omnichannel self-care plays a significant role in the operator’s customer experience strategy, helping customers to play an active role in managing their accounts. Customers can manage their plans and services, create friends and family groups for special calling rates, and control data usage. The added transparency and increased ability to monitor accounts improves customer satisfaction and helps build trust. Automated and intelligent interactions through the web, mobile, and multiple social media channels further enhance the digital experience and empower customers with:

  • Automated digital onboarding
  • Simplified purchases
  • Automated support
  • Multiple payment modes
  • Swift complaint redressal
  • AGifting options
  • Parental controls

Move to SaaS to relieve IT

With the long-term shift to working virtually, a huge strain is put on a company’s IT infrastructure. SaaS software can relieve a huge burden on the IT infrastructure and ensure connectivity and reliability. One of the top priorities for all service providers must be shifting their infrastructure to the cloud because it lets them focus on digitization opportunities with limited investment. SaaS BSS architecture provides the telco with advanced modules, preconfigured fixed and mobile broadband plans, and 24x7 managed service operations, while a dedicated customer success manager ensures faster return on investment and reduced time-to-market. It also helps with reduced expenditure on hardware, infrastructure, maintenance, and more. The SaaS solution helps operators rapidly transform and adapt their business to modern technology trends that facilitate back-office process automation and digitize customer experience for their staff and subscribers.

Conclusion

To capitalize on cultural shifts and surging demand in data, telecom providers need to concentrate on a digital makeover, either as a complete network overhaul or a phased digital transformation. This includes not just offering better network capabilities but also implementing innovative tools and strategies to enable process automation and enhanced customer experience. Service providers must consider investing in digital technologies to build next-gen offerings and streamline business and IT operations, using SaaS software and agile methodologies to analyze and understand overall market demands, business requirements, customer data, and real-time delivery needs. It’s certain there is opportunity for companies to evolve in these challenging times.

Anand Ramani

Anand Ramani

Director R&D

A senior professional with more than 20 years of experience in the telecom BSS domain, Anand is passionate about adapting newer technologies and building digital products. He heads the company’s R&D activities for core products such as Digital BSS, WiFi, and AAA.