Helping Mobile Operators Flatten The World

 

The world is flat, as Thomas Friedman puts it, and telecommunication technology is one of the forces flattening the world. The global adoption of 4G LTE is a good example of such flattening technology. It will deliver unprecedented levels of globally mobile bandwidth to consumers and new sources of revenues for mobile operators. However, there are some universal challenges as well for mobile operators. One such challenge is visibility into the new  IP-based network. Fortunately, there are solutions to the visibility challenge. In fact, Anue Systems,  a leader in network visibility solutions and now a part of Ixia, Inc., announced this week that it has expanded its family of carrier-grade network monitoring switches with the Anue Net Tool Optimizer® (NTO) 5293. It helps mobile carriers gain end-to-end visibility into their 4G LTE network.

While the world’s industrial powers are not the same, we have increasingly more in common globally and we are increasingly globally connected. In a previous blog , my colleague, Carla Swenson, mentioned how she thought Melbourne, Australia resembled Austin Texas. I was recently in Beijing, China for Cisco Plus and to my eyes Beijing is very much like any modern city anywhere in the world. However, this commonality is more than in city architecture. It is also in how we communicate and stay connected. Telecommunication technology is an important force enabling ubiquitous connectivity. For example, when I was in Beijing I purchased a SIM card at a magazine stand for my GSM phone. With my local phone number I was able to stay in touch with work and home, even though I was thousands of miles away from both. Telecommunication enables us to exchange ideas and stay connected regardless of physical distances.

Anue Systems attended Cisco Plus in Beijing

Figure 1 Beijing, China

The 4G LTE is the next generation of telecommunication technology to increase the level of connectivity. The uptake of LTE is a global phenomenon. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) calls LTE “the fastest developing mobile system technology ever.” To us consumers, this means broadband in the palm of our hands wherever we may be in the world. To mobile carriers, this means a cost-effective data network and new opportunities to generate revenue.

You cannot run a network if you cannot see what is going on!

Figure 2 “You cannot run a network if you cannot see what is going on”

However, the 4G LTE benefits do not come without challenges for mobile operators. One of the challenges with the new IP-based network is gaining visibility into the network. Mobile operators understand that you cannot deliver on the LTE bandwidth and quality of service promises if you cannot see what is going on in the packet core. They also understand that the best practice is to use network monitoring tools to gain end-to-end visibility into the network. But, doing so is complex to the point of being impractical. The complexity is in that there are a large number of interfaces to monitor in the LTE core (EPC .) It is impractical to attach multiple monitoring tools to each interface. Fortunately, there is a solution to this visibility problem. The network monitoring switch technology enables mobile carriers to aggregate and optimize access to the evolved packet core interfaces for monitoring.

5293 Net Tool Optimizer

Figure 3 5293 Net Tool Optimizer

This week Anue Systems introduced the NTO 5293, which is the industry’s first carrier-grade, high-density, high-bandwidth network monitoring switch, was introduced. The Anue NTO 5293 enables mobile carriers to efficiently attach multiple network monitoring tools to a large number of 40G, 10G, and 1G interfaces. It joins the Anue NTO 5273, which has been helping mobile carriers around the world gain visibility into their 2G, 3G and 4G LTE networks. The Anue NTO 5293 will help mobile carriers gain the end-to-end visibility they need to deliver on the LTE promise; world flattening broadband in the palm of your hands.

 

Is Big Data a Big Deal for Monitoring?

 

It depends on where you’re coming from.  If it’s from a network monitoring and management tool perspective, dang skippy it is; if you have network monitoring switches, your life is going to be easier.

Face it,  as a planet of uber consumers, we love our data.  When it comes to data access, we ravenously gobble up every spare megabit of bandwidth and gigabyte of storage out there. What smart  phone user has not felt sort of “lost”  when they’ve travelled outside their coverage area and needed to turn off their data plan and location services? I’m used to getting answers to any questions I have – NOW!. With 3G technology, new 4G/LTE becoming available, easy-access Wi-Fi hotspots, local networks and my mobile broadband card, I can surf, search and post just about anything, any time, and anywhere from my smart phone or laptop. And you can bet I keep two or more copies of photos or documents that I don’t want to lose, in different sizes and formats of course, for web publishing, email or high quality printing. And I’m not a business customer or even a power user!

Learn why Forrester Research highlighted the network monitoring switch as 1 of 3 core technologies every data center needs!

Companies who have busted their budget getting an IT architecture in place frequently try to cut costs anywhere they can, and all too frequently, expenses trimmed are the monitoring components of the network infrastructure. As a network management weenie from way back, I’ve always claimed “I get no respect.” It seems that few care about network management until the network goes down. Then you should see how interesting SNMP, syslog, protocol analyzers and performance management tools become. Suddenly they are very hot!

Symbolic of your data going up in flames if you can’t troubleshoot fast enough for real-time analytics use cases (stock trading, retail web site, etc.).

And this is where it gets interesting depending on where you sit.  The nascent, emerging and legacy monitoring tools manufacturers who have to come up with insightful analytics harvesting meaningful information out of a mountain of moving, changing data are probably pretty stressed.  But it’s not as bad for the network traffic cops.  To them, “big data” really isn’t anything new, it still has switches, routers, servers, databases, pictures and video –just a ton more of it to monitor!  And that’s the real the tricky part; how do you harvest all that “stuff”?

Optimize Your Network Visibility with the Anue Systems NTO

How does an enterprise, over-burdened service provider or even a successful SMB deal with this conundrum? And what about those weary warriors manning the spaghetti factories called data centers armed with Wireshark and iReasoning on their laptops or praying their routing, application, server upgrade, etc. change goes successfully in their 2-5AM outage window when no mere mortal is particularly “sharp” at that hour? How many days are spent praying that you capture enough data off a SPAN port in a protocol trace to track down the bad guys trying to steal your big data or analyzing why errant server sessions aren’t cooperating in your piece of cloud like they should be? Big Data is a tough enough proposition even when life is good; when things go bad, it can go very bad. (e.g., Amazon’s EBS outage 4/21/11) All those sexy Big Data analytics aren’t worth much if you’re storming the northeast sector of your cloud, now are they?

Anue Systems NTO is a key ingredient for any data center operation

At some point, everyone has to pick and choose the juicy bits on what to keep and what to throw away because it’s nearly impossible to harvest everything the way we used to; that’s where a network monitoring switch comes into play. As the plumbers of the data highways, IT departments must prioritize, filter and synthesize information to analyze it in one way or another be it data analytics or security and capacity planning.

Network monitoring switches make this job significantly easier by pre-cabling all those monitoring points from SPANs and TAPs to them instead of directly to the monitoring tools. Your tools are also connected to the network monitoring switch and then all that wonderful info can be shared, filtered, sliced, diced, de-duplicated and directed from one-to-many inbound feeds to one-to-many tools. All with a drag-and-drop control panel that can be automated if you want to sleep in instead of troubleshoot the latest MOP change overnight. Depending on quantity of connections and potential amounts of data in/out (capacity of total ingress traffic vs. total actual processing capacity of your egress monitoring tools), you can filter out huge amounts of unnecessary overhead traffic and/or aggregate tool ports into load balanced groups to keep up with your monitoring requirements. Filters can be changed on-the-fly, thereby avoiding “time-sucking” change board procedures and problem resolution to begin immediately without waiting for permission. This can get you many more months, or even years, of extra performance out of that huge monitoring CAPEX expenditure you laid out only yesterday, i.e. investment protection and another tool in your arsenal.

Bottom line: focusing on your business objectives will tell you what choices to make on how much data is critical to collect and keep, and what you can afford to ignore or look at later.

Telecom NEBS Certification

 

For this blog I interviewed Shardendu Pandey, Anue’s Hardware Engineering Manager. He manages all of the NEBS certification activities for Anue. Shardendu has been with Anue since 2004, and has worked on hardware design and compliance of Ethernet-based products, which includes the NTO product family.

NEBS Level 3 has strict specifications for fire suppression, thermal margin testing, vibration resistance (earthquakes), airflow patterns, acoustic limits, failover and partial operational requirements (such as chassis fan failures), RF emissions and tolerances, among others.

This is Shardendu Pandey - Anue SystemsThis is Shardendu holding the binder that contains the NEBS test reports for the Anue 5273 NTO. For comparison, the small binder on top represents the non NEBS compliance reports. This puts into perspective the amount of effort and testing required for a product to be certified as NEBS Level 3 – the highest NEBS certification.

Shardendu explains that NEBS (Network Equipment Building Systems) is a self imposed requirement defined by the US telecom industry and isn’t a legal requirement like the safety standard for IT equipment, UL60950. However, it is a common set of safety, spatial and environmental design guidelines applied to telecommunications equipment in the United States. The standards covering NEBS are maintained by Telcordia and include, but are not limited to, GR1089-CORE and GR63-CORE.

Anue Systems NTO 5273 and AFM are Level 3: NEBS test report binders

Having run through the gamut of NEBS testing, Shardendu strongly believes, “no one passes NEBS Level 3 certification by chance. It requires a lot of upfront effort and planning to jump over the NEBS barrier. If you take four decades of performance and reliability issues seen in an extremely demanding central office environment and brew it into a requirements document – you have NEBS!!!  On the flip side, once you are certified, you are a part of the elite NEBS club and that is a good feeling.”

From the perspective of the telecom carriers, reliability is one of the keys to excellent customer service. The intent of NEBS is to provide crisp reliability requirements that make it easier for vendors to design compatible equipment for RBOC central offices. This reduces costs as multiple vendors can now make equipment certified to NEBS and introduce new equipment into the network easier. However, the reality is the cost and complexity of this testing prevents many vendors from venturing into NEBS certification.

While the NEBS certification is most familiar to those in the US telecom industry, the fact that products meet the strict requirements of the certification can be significant to telecom providers anywhere in the world.

NEBS Level 3 certified equipment meets stringent specifications, which is reassuring as telecom providers worldwide are rolling out Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks.

In order to help our customers with their LTE migration, the Anue 5273 was NEBS Level 3 certified in mid-2011, and the Advanced Feature Module (AFM) was NEBS Level 3 certified in late-2011. Shardendu and his team worked with the third party MET Labs to achieve the certification. MET is a pioneer in NEBS testing, and is one of the world’s leading NEBS certification laboratories.  You can read more about MET Labs and NEBS here.

Anue Systems NTO Product Family is proud to feature a NEBS Level 3 for the datacenter: network monitoring switch Anue Systems NTO Product Family is proud to feature a NEBS Level 3 for the datacenter: network monitoring switchi