Of course Subscriber Data Management is not new, but what is new is the fact that the Internet of Things is changing the very definition of what we call “a subscriber”. As we approach 2020 and the 50 billion connected devices that Ericsson and Cisco forecast, the range and sheer volume of subscriber data” is soaring and will overwhelm those operators who are unprepared. Just as we saw and are still witnessing a tsunami of video data, so too we are beginning a wave of subscriber data which can either overwhelm operators, or provide for new types of monetization as cars, CCTVs, and multiple office, retail and home devices take on the role of “subscriber” and begin uploading their subscriber data.
Today in almost every mobile operator this diverse data is stored in multiple stand-alone silos in a fragmented state. Fragmenting data related to subscriber profiles, billing, and device details across logical and physical architectures and locations increases power consumption and network footprint while compounding network complexity and inefficiencies. This makes management, operation, and maintenance of the infrastructure much more challenging than it should be. Subscriber Data Federation (SDF), a form of Data Virtualization, eases this complexity by helping operators create a robust connection between the data and the repositories that they sit in within having to physically merge all the data into a single, central repository.
By providing a unified view of subscriber data as well as dynamic and transactional information, mobile operators have the agility to rapidly introduce new services and establish new revenue streams by leveraging data regardless of its format or which database servers they happen to be stored on. Data federation allows applications and tools to access data from multiple repositories and storage structures, access languages and APIs. Through virtualized data architectures, mobile operators can reap the benefits of federated data while allowing all other applications to use the various data repositories directly. This way, operators can focus on what matters – improving the customer experience and increasing profitability by monetizing this subscriber information.
Mobile operators that lack data federation are limited to building applications from specific repositories – such as those within an optimal geographic range to minimize latency – and have to work within the protocols of various data structures and storage types. Typical repositories tend to have varying capabilities. For example, certain silos are allocated more resources for ultra-fast access to information for real-time applications while others are created for non-time-sensitive access and can afford some latency. If changes are made to a certain application, operators are required to make the changes in all repositories across the board that is associated with the particular application. This can clearly become a complex and resource-intensive task that not only risks the integrity of network information but also increase time-to-market for new monetization opportunities. In the ever-evolving mobile ecosystem, time is money after all, and lacking a federated approach to data integrity cuts into the bottom line.
While the network utopia of having a truly unified architecture is an eventual goal for most operators, not all organizations are ready to make the jump. Indeed disparate teams within an operator organization may have vested interested in managing their own repositories. They may not want to risk the integrity of the silo which they have grown to know and understand and which benefits them most by integrating it with another. From a technological standpoint, these separate teams may not want the full responsibilities of managing a unified data architecture because of the associated complexities. Fortunately, data federation provides a flexible interface between data silos that reads and writes data to existing systems, allowing for a consolidated view of all subscriber data, and allows mobile operators to transform their repositories to a unified architecture over time. Data federation is thus essentially a stepping stone to a single shared repository. By scaling the virtualization process of their repositories and engaging in a hybrid approach to federating data, operators can continue to support the dual strategy of consolidation (such as the case of Subscriber Data Management or SDM) and federation. By deploying data federation, those applications that need data federation get the benefits of federation, while other applications can continue to use their data repositories directly as required.
The ultimate benefit of virtualizing a data ecosystem is having a flexible interface among silos to both read and write data to existing and new systems. An integrated, holistic view and methodology for storing and accessing data without having to physically unite all silos will help mobile operators to seat their existing assets and efficiently leverage all their subscriber data effectively. This empowers them to minimize the Total Cost of Ownership for their networks while maximizing profitability without disrupting existing silos and the systems that depend on them.
This blog appeared in Broadband Traffic Management: