Feb 21, 2009

Barcelona – thoughts in Layer 5

This week I been in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
A lot of words were written about the show, by people with much more knowledge and better writing skills.
I will try to give another view of the show – not from the shiny handsets point of view, but from the Diameter view of things.
I think that from the network side there are three main trends/activities that are happening and have close symbiotic relationship with Diameter
The first one is Convergence, I know it’s been around since the millennium, but it’s really happening, maybe not because of the service transparency and new services, as much as the fact that it can save OPEX and CAPEX and create new revenues by opening new markets. Convergence requires a lot of Diameter, but also presents a huge challenge in the Diameter level – how to connect wireline and mobile infrastructure that use different Diameter standards, or how to connect mobile Diameter based equipment to ISP equipment that is still using RADIUS.

The second trend is LTE, it’s enough to see some of the press releases from Verizon, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent to understand that the industry is aligning behind the technology, and in 2010 we are expected to see the first roll outs.
LTE represent a all new set of Diameter interfaces, with brand new networks that are using (by the standard) more than 45 Diameter interfaces, Diameter is everywhere and actually not limited to the core anymore, it is moving out to the edges, up to the last mile – those Diameter interfaces are not out there yet – so what will NEP’s do – I guess as always – build their own semi standard interfaces – and will continue to sweat on interoperability and lock the operators

The last trend is the Cloud – some heavyweights such as IBM, are pushing it, and they see it taking over the telecom world.
Financially it makes sense, mainly with MVNO’s and small operators but also with the Tier-1’s that don’t want to spend billions on OPEX and CAPEX.
I think one of the main issues that I can see from that level is that there are going to be huge interoperability issues, and the datacenters will need to have Diameter Gateways in the entrance to the cloud to make sure the information can be spread inside the cloud with no vendor and standard lock-in.

There are a few more things that changed this year, such as UMA – one of the big trends of the last few years almost disappeared, and it seems that Mobile WiMax might be going in the same route, unless something drastic will change, most of the people I met weren’t’ optimistic on its future.

That it, next time I will try to dig in Diameter and LTE, what is new, and some of the challenges.

Feb 10, 2009

Diameter and the Internet

Diameter and the Internet

Diameter as the primary control and AAA protocol in the telecom arena, is something most of you will shift a bit in your chair but will agree is around the corner.
What about Diameter as the primary AAA protocol in the Internet ? well this is something that might require a bit more imagination (and wider chair).
(OK now take a deep breath) I personally believe there is no other alternative and this is not so far away.

The Internet and the telecom environment are moving closer – FMC, Convergence, unified subscriber databases, mobile operators becoming ISP’s, death of the telecom walled garden and NGN are some of the reasons. Convergence and FMC don’t end up in the flyers and marketing brochures, it goes down beneath the hood, to the wires – to the signaling – to Diameter.

New services – The Internet is shifting, new services are being introduced by ISP’s – few examples are gambling, multimedia, VoIP, QoS, Ads – those require a bit more than the current RADIUS AAA signaling of user name and password used today. ISP’s want it all, they want advanced pre/post billing, insured QoS for SIP and VoIP services, content based billing and so on.

Standard bodies – last but not least, did you know that Diameter was initially defined for the Internet by IEEE ? so this is a good start – Diameter is not seen by the IEEE Internet gurus as another “strange telco feature” that the strange guys in 3GPP and TISPAN want them to adopt . Also there is a lot of ongoing work in IEEE and other standard bodies in this direction(such as the Diameter SIP Application)

Those are some of the reasons why I believe Diameter is on a solid path to become the leading AAA and Control protocol in the Internet arena.
Now if I managed to convince you, the next question is When ?

Feb 8, 2009

Diameter reality check

Diameter was adopted by 11 standard bodies as the main protocol for their NGN networks.
There is no other emerging protocol today or on the horizon that can become an alternative.
And Diameter is defiantly happening, as someone who live the Diameter market I can tell you, Diameter is booming.
So it seems the road ahead to world dominance is clear, well not so fast, there are a few bumps on the road that might block the path or at least slow the speed.

I believe that the main reason hampering Diameter adoption is interoperability, there are a few layers of interoperability here:

Legacy to NGN – Full Bottom up NGN deployments are rare we can count them on one hand, especially in today’s climate - operators want to get new multimedia services at least costs as possible. This means operators are launching hybrid semi NGN networks and using existing network functionality. However the two network parts the legacy and the NGN “speak” different protocols Diameter versus RADIUS/LDAP…. which don’t communicate.

Cross technologies – If I had a penny for every time I heard about Convergence and FMC, I wasn’t sitting on the couch and writing this blog, this is one of the industry’s hottest trends (and surprisingly it is really happening) The standard bodies have all lined up behind Diameter but (to make it interesting) they adopted Diameter differently (as usual politics and slightly different view of the world). Now you can imagine this is not helping an operator going FMC and want to connect the mobile Diameter interfaces based on 3GPP to the wireline Diameter interfaces based on ETSI TISPAN.

Vendor-lock in – I promise you this wasn’t written in the 70’s, problems has a strange habit of repapering. In Diameter which was designed to be very flexible and is still half cooked, this is a huge issue. For example there are RFP’s today in the market to connect the NSN Diameter Rf to Ericsson Diameter RF.

Still forming standards - Diameter interfaces are still fresh and changing all the time, more than this it seems Diameter is conquering more and more ground (do you remember COPS in 3GPP release 6 that was kicked out in release 7 ? or have you seen how Diameter spreading in LTE Control Plane – maybe it should be called Diameter plane) – the vast numbers of versions and releases, is certainly not helping adoption.

After this pessimistic blog, a few words of hope- I think those are serious issues on the road to Diameter wide spread adoption, they might slow the adoption, but my personal view is that there is nothing to block the way for Diameter adoption as the main protocol for telecom signaling and control

Next time Diameter and the Internet

Feb 7, 2009

Welcome to Diameter Blog

Welcome to the Traffix Diameter Blog.
In this space we will discuss some of Diameter trends and issues.
We will share with you information about Diameter adoption, in different standards and technologies.
The adoption of Diameter in the mobile and wireline domains, in the telecom and the Internet arenas.
Diameter alternatives, the pros and cons of Diameter over existing legacy protocols.
What roll Diameter is taking in coming technologies like LTE and Mobile WiMax.
We will also present some of the technical and market issues affecting Diameter adoption.
The Traffix team will share with you our view of those issues and many more.
Your feedback is welcome and I’m looking forward to interesting and open discussion.