Industry Blog

Transitioning to SDM – Why Agility is Key

Matt Halligan is Chief Technology Officer for Openwave Mobility

Mobile operators have been utilizing multiple silos to store their networks’ subscriber data for years. That’s starting to lose its curb appeal. Why? That’s because in today’s fast-paced, ultra-competitive marketplace agility is more important than ever; the ability to be first among competitors, and to rapidly change direction, multiple times, is crucial.  Now with the introduction of new service offerings such as VoWiFi, IoT and M2M, carriers need to have faster than ever access to their data in order to monetize it. That’s not going to happen as long as operators have multiple Subscriber Data Management (SDM) solutions in different locations using disparate technologies.

New technology must be implemented to keep data storage and network operators functioning at the most efficient level possible while also cutting down on churn. But how do operators solve the problem of unifying numerous existing silos with scattered data in order to have a single, integrated view of all data? We believe a hybrid approach employing data consolidation, data federation and data mediation would give network providers a clear view of all that spread-out data while also giving them the agility needed to access this data and add new services quickly.

Data consolidation – the longer term solution

Consolidating data into a single repository offers three clear advantages. The first benefit of a unified repository is reduced operational costs. Maintaining multiple repositories that use different technologies in various locations can cost a pretty penny. The second reason, which is packed with the most potential, is agility. New mobile technology is being created every day, worldwide. The ability to quickly launch a new, innovative service when others don’t have the ability to do so could easily allow one operator to leap frog the rest to the front of the pack. Thirdly, consolidation allows operators to capture a better understanding of subscribers’ behavior. With a single repository, operators can utilize analytics to learn the value of different services and leverage that insight in order to monetize more efficiently. However, complete consolidation is disruptive and can involve risk, hence this is often regarded as the long term solution.

Data federation – access, understand and transform

The data federation (sometimes referred to as data virtualization) entity is the workhorse of an SDM strategy. It should be able to perform many essential duties that complement the capabilities of the data consolidation solution and access different types of database servers and files with various formats – seamlessly. In addition, it needs to be able to integrate information from all different types of sources and have the ability to analyze that data.

The federation solution should also allow applications and tools direct access to subscriber data via various APIs and languages. The operator would not need to alter the data repositories in any way to implement federation. This minimizes downtime, reduces risk and gives operators the assurance needed to launch new services. Leveraging existing information in the repositories and then enhancing that with additional data also supplies operators with the essential agility needed.

Data mediation – enabling transition

Network operators tend to shy away from transitioning to a single consolidated repository because they fear that they will disrupt the performance and reliability of the existing front end applications, such as Home Location Register (HLR), Home Subscriber Server (HSS) and Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF). These applications are essential to the functionality of the network. In the hybrid approach, interoperability is a requirement for these front end applications in order to ensure a functional unified subscriber repository. A network that supports a multi-vendor capable front end will also help to increase agility, which will be necessary to adapt to new and emerging technologies.

Data mediation enables the operator to transition to a unified repository by forcing the separation of the application from the repository. The greatest advantage that data mediation offers is the ability to utilize the duplication of data in the repositories to load balance the requests across various repositories and provide real-time applications with prioritized access to low latency repositories. Data mediation allows the operator to keep the silos for as long as is required to provide extra capacity.

And through all of this – the pressing need for a single view

The need for an integrated single view of subscriber data without disruption to the existing silos or the systems that depend on them remains paramount. It drives a need for a hybrid approach that can optimize subscriber data management. As network agility becomes more and more important, so too will be the importance of agile, unconventional thinking so that new solutions can be created to keep the world connected. Successful SDM solutions will give the operators the insight they need to provide the best user experience while also being able to efficiently maximize the monetization of new services.

Read the article on VanillaPlus.