I think the phrase ‘big data, big problems’ has become somewhat overused – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, as mobile network operators are beginning to discover. The sheer amount of data that is passed through mobile networks is huge – so huge in fact that global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012 and last year’s mobile data traffic alone was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000 (more equally mind-boggling mobile data facts can be found here).
As mobile devices continue to be connected (it has been said that by the end of 2013, there will be more mobile connected devices on earth than there are people!) the risks for mobile carriers continue to grow. The problem is the amount of network space that is being taken up by ‘new media’ on mobiles, like video, is far greater than was ever needed for traditional voice data and many carriers are struggling to cope. In order to handle it, operators need to carefully monitor and manage their networks but this gets expensive and unfortunately, the network analysis tools don’t get any cheaper as network speeds increase. This has the undesirable consequence of carriers burdening the extra costs of transporting the increasing data and managing the networks that carry it, while lacking the sufficient incremental average revenue increase per user to pay for it.
So, operators are crying out for a solution that won’t result in going bankrupt from tool costs as they increase the size of their existing pipes from 10Gb and 40Gb to 100Gb to handle the amount of data passing through them. Carriers are looking for ways to realistically keep their business costs in line with what their subscribers are willing to pay for a service, and to provide users with the quality, uptime and reliability they expect. To do so, they must understand the nature of the traffic flowing through the pipes and where resources need to be placed on the network to ensure service level agreements are met.
In order for the management of these networks to be effective, monitoring tools need to be compatible so, in theory, to effectively monitor a 10GB network, you would need 10GB monitoring tools and so on. When network speeds are upgraded, but the tools aren’t to match there is a risk that some of the information will be lost – it’s like wearing glasses with a -1 prescription when you need a -10, you’re not going to be able to see everything you need to. However, you’ll also notice I said ‘in theory’ and this is because there is a way around it that can help solve this big data, big problem.
Carriers need to implement a solution that combines volume, port density and scale in order to connect the right analytical tools to the appropriate large pipes. As well as this, the data needs to be conditioned through advanced filtering and data packet manipulation so that the amount of data arriving at each tool is reduced and ensures it is formatted exactly for the tool’s consumption. This means that each tool is able to process more data without it having to dissect the incoming information, leaving it to get on with the important task of data analysis.
Only through an innovative approach to network visibility can big data be successfully monitored, enabling operators to maintain current business models, and, more importantly, existing expense structure, while running the big data services of tomorrow.