Managing Big Data in an Era of Digital Transformation

Proprietary hardware alone is simply not capable, or economic, when it comes to supporting 5G.
After all, it is already recognized that NFV/SDN holds the key to simplified operations, increased automation, and the enhanced flexibility and agility of existing systems by creating a “quick to fail” environment where new business models can be set up and running in minutes rather than in days or weeks.

All hail virtualization then? Not exactly. While costs are reduced and capacity is increased, network visibility is compromised. Network virtualization means that services and core network functions will be disaggregated across disparate compute resources running on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. While performance will increase, so too will the volume of data being created. For that reason, the visibility of all the various siloed technologies powering the network will be more critical than ever before.

Operators have always relied on network monitoring and troubleshooting tools to identify issues affecting subscribers, but these tools will be all the more essential within a virtualized environment — particularly if operators are looking to introduce new digital services. An inability to identify problems on the network and address them before the subscriber is affected, can cost operators dearly. Poor quality of service can result in customer dissatisfaction and quickly tarnish the reputation of the service provider. 

Other pressing issues will revolve around the potential for cyber-criminal activity on networks, causing untold problems and financial damage if there is a subsequent inability to deliver on business-level SLAs for new commercial services deployed across networks. In the era of the IoT, this is especially important, since mobile operators will become the logical partners for digital services in different sectors, such as health, home automation, energy, and financial services. Success in each sector will depend on the ability of operators to deliver reliable and consistent access to their networks. Both security and the expanding responsibilities for operators are becoming all the more pronounced as IoT momentum grows and oftentimes lax security of connected devices remains.

Addressing the Problem with 'Smart Data'

The whole of these considerations brings us back to the question of how operators can efficiently drive the next stage of their digital transformation. Information and data are the very heart of the digital transformation process, serving a vital role in providing much-needed insights into service delivery, operations, and other KPIs for business performance. Pulling data from the various disparate silos — which were created during the shift to network virtualization in support of 5G — has had some value, but it is not enough to make DX a success. 

Simply having access to big data is not enough. Business analytics reliant on a data set that has not been normalized and correlated in the context of service delivery, operations, and business performance will not be effective. 

The bottom line is that the quality of business insight is entirely contingent on what’s become known as smart data. Smart data is well structured, contextual, available in real-time, and based on end-to-end pervasive visibility across the entire business. Smart data can, therefore, lead to greater data analytics capabilities.

When considering the smart-data requirement, it is clear that advanced network monitoring and service assurance will be key drivers for DX success — providing the real-time and historic insights needed to power those decisions, not only for assuring overall service delivery to customers externally, but also ensuring the validity and competitiveness of the operator’s internal business operations in the long term.

From a server in a data center to a physical base station or virtualized network function, all aspects of the next-generation mobile network need to be accessible and capable of being monitored at a granular level in order to keep track of digital service performance. Everything is interconnected in today’s network environment, and network performance and the subscriber experience need to be running at peak levels at all times. When 5G arrives and the IoT becomes ubiquitous, there will be no margin for error. These connections must be faultless and operators must be able to track all the data crossing their networks at all times.

Success depends on having the right tools in place, and using service assurance technology to unlock the smart data that is contained within the network in order to drive internal and external business success. Delivering on this will be a necessity for CSPs and their customers in the enterprise space, which brings us back to the M&A activity we have seen in recent years. We can expect more of the same as we look towards the future, with new players crossing the divide between the enterprise and mobile sectors in order to address the network visibility challenges that are commonplace between them.


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