When I first joined Procera, I was talking to one of our lead engineers that works on the integration of our software onto various hardware platforms. He made a comment then that has stuck with me for a long time: “If we could just run our software without hardware, life would be great!” Although that is not actually happening, virtualization removes hardware dependencies from the picture, making life easier for customers (and vendors if they choose to take advantage of NFV).
Procera is a BIG believer in NFV technology for several reasons, most of which revolve around the ability of operators to take advantage of our technology in ways that can improve the Internet experience for their subscribers. We believe that the network of the future requires Internet Intelligence, and NFV is an enabler for operators to have the ability to deploy our technology more widely in their networks. Although that sounds like “deploy us everywhere!” it is more about enabling the next generation of software defined networks by making them more application and content-aware (which we can do with our PacketLogic products or our NAVL embedded engine). To quote NBC’s popular public service campaign of years ago “The more you know…”.
Why is this important?
Consumers are becoming more dependent on the “cloud”, whether it is used for personal or business reasons, and are using it across many devices. Operators need to ensure that they can provide quality Internet services regardless of how a customer accesses their content. Without proactively monitoring the quality of their networks (which is not simply measuring bandwidth or MOS scores for voice/video) and how they deliver content across all traffic types, operators risk missing out on meeting the expectations of customers. For example, if video streaming is working fine, but VOIP or video conferencing is jittery, the network may only be losing a few packets, but it is losing the packets that directly affect customer perception and value, which directly leads to churn. If operators cannot offer service plans or models based on the consumer value perception, then they will be locked into pricing wars and non-differentiated services that will not result in a high level of satisfaction.
So from Procera’s perspective, NFV is one of the steps in the path to achieving a higher quality of service from broadband. Combined with the continued spread of Internet Intelligence in products across the entire Internet spectrum, and the future implementation of Software Defined Networks leveraging this Internet Intelligence, network operators have an opportunity to exceed expectations by becoming agile enough to ensure that they can leverage the latest trends for the connected consumer. As the “Internet of Things” becomes increasingly real through wearables, connected cars, and even Internet Refrigerators, the volume of traffic will continue to rise, and the amount of “background” noise on the Internet will continue to rise.
Some example use cases of NFV in this environment speak powerfully to the tools that can be created by combining NFV with Internet Intelligence:
- Real-Time Visibility: An operator that can deploy a virtual probe to quickly conduct forensics analysis on what application, content, or subscriber is causing network issues. For example – what if someone hacks a wearable and causes them to spam or flood the internet? Being able to determine this and mitigate this attack in real time without any additional hardware will be invaluable to customers and the operator.
- Instant Capacity Increases: A mobile operator that could deploy additional Intelligence or charging capacity for an “event” – like the World Cup, the Olympics, or even the launch of a new series like Arrested Development or House of Cards simply by activating a virtual appliance for the duration of the anticipated traffic spike using hardware already deployed in the network. This avoids stranded bandwidth after the event, as the virtual platform or licenses can be redeployed to other locations in the network once the spike has gone away.
- Targeted Service Launches: Want to launch a service for a very small constituency, say for example Dr Who fans one the day of the new Doctor announcement, or early adopters of the fitness wearables like the Jawbone Up where you zero rate certain types of traffic as a reward for being fans of a specific technology or show? It is impossible to do this today to offer this to too small of a constituency, but with NFV the ROI is far easier to achieve with a virtual platform.
Procera is “all-in” on the concept of NFV. We look forward to working with our customers to take our vision to reality.