Industry Blog

What should operators consider when deploying NFV – a vUDR for Subscriber Data Management?

NFV has moved from hype to reality and operators are moving fast to build their NFV infrastructure. The NFV approach that most operators are taking is to build out an ETSI MANO (The European Telecommunication Standards Institute Management and Organization) compliant NFV architecture. Their current focus is to get the underlying servers, networking and storage working with OpenStack and its tools. This is no small feat given the lack of maturity in NFV standards, infrastructure, tools, operational processes and trained resources.

As far as what is being deployed on NFV, some operators are taking the typical operations-led approach. They first move the applications that need additional capacity or new applications to NFV. While other operators are taking a more long-term approach – they see NFV as an opportunity to re-architect their data network the right way. This latter group of operators see the strategic and operational value in centralizing Subscriber Data Management (SDM) systems and want to put in a vUDR (User Data Repository) as one of the first ‘subscriber-aware’ applications in NFV.

Rapidly launch and scale new NFV applications
NFV comes with big promises and one of the key drivers for NFV is to allow operators to rapidly launch and scale new applications. Today, if an operator wants to launch a new application, it can be rather complex. It requires a lot of preparation and planning as the data center space has to be allocated, specialized servers, networking and storage have to be acquired. It has to be architected for five-nines of availability plus integrated with other network elements. Given the costs involved in this process, every project is scrutinized by finance departments and this cautious approach leaves very little room for innovation.

In an NFV world, every application is a piece of software that can run on virtualized servers, storage and networks. Keeping the hardware separate from software gives a new level of flexibility. NFV infrastructure is built as a utility and when it is time to launch new applications you do not have to worry about such things as finding racks or integrating servers or even the storage. All of this is already provided by NFV and it is just a matter of allocating the right resources.

Additionally, integration becomes easier as networks are virtualized and pre-integrated. This works fine as long as the application is simple and not subscriber-aware. If the application is subscriber- aware then it needs to integrate with provisioning systems. For a typical operator this can be a nine to twelve month long process that can cost up to a million dollars per integration.

Therefore for subscriber-aware applications, the agility of NFV is lost. But it can be changed if the operator has a vUDR built in as part of their NFV infrastructure. This is the reason some of the more forward-looking operators are placing a virtual UDR (or Subscriber Data Management as a Service) as one of the first subscriber-aware applications in the NFV cloud. There are clear benefits to this approach. Once the vUDR is in place then all subscriber-related information is readily available to applications that want to use it. A one-to-one provisioning integration is not needed for each new application that is launched on NFV and operators can start enjoying ‘agility’ for subscriber-aware applications too.

Subscriber Data Management (SDM) is a mission critical application. Before any voice connection can be established, any data service accessed, or any message sent, internal systems need to authenticate a subscriber and their device to authorize their request. For a communications network, SDM is the life-giving oxygen – services simply cannot be offered without authenticating the subscriber. Openwave Mobility vUDR SDM solution has been validated within Mirantis OpenStack environment and deploying it as the first NFV application helps operators maximize the Agility benefit promised by NFV.

Openwave Mobility vUDR is validated within the Mirantis Openstack
Openwave Mobility vUDR is the industry’s first NFV-enabled Subscriber Data Management solution and has been deployed by several tier one operators globally to manage subscriber profile data across voice and data networks. Openwave Mobility’s cloud-based vUDR goes above and beyond traditional UDR systems.  In-built federation and replication means that network applications can read and write data from any data center or data silo.  And while the NFV infrastructure is typically built using commodity servers which provide 99.9% availability at best, by using proprietary software processes, vUDR is able to deliver 99.999% (five-nines) availability on commodity virtual machines.  vUDR is nevertheless lightweight and agile, and it has enabled our customers to on-board new applications in just two weeks, compared to the average subscriber data provisioning integration that can take nine months.

Openwave Mobility’s vUDR, has been validated within the Mirantis OpenStack environment. It provides the crucial SDM element for NFV clouds so that operators who deploy it can truly realize the agility that NFV promises.