Table of Contents
This report examines how service assurance vendors are adapting to the necessary changes from physical to virtual networking in helping CSPs deliver the best customer experience that machine learning, virtualization, and analytics can buy.
As the first in a series of reports on the state of service assurance, Stratecast published an assessment of the service assurance space in April 2012 titled: It’s Always Been About the Customer—An Overview of CSP Assurance.1 The report surveyed 105 communications service providers (CSPs) about their platforms and functional requirements. The report also explored the expanding role of assurance, beyond the network and across the CSP business.
Then, as now, CSPs struggled mightily with challenges imposed by the spread of smartphones and growth of mobile data. In response, they implemented advanced tools for monitoring and assuring networks. But what they need now are systems to assure the customer experience. They learned to determine root-cause issues faster than ever, only to realize they need to be predictive and compete with new classes of providers with more retail-centric business models.
While adjusting to the challenges of IP mobile data and a new focus on the customer experience, CSPs face even larger demands to transform their business and network focus as well. Virtualization has become a real goal. Software Defined Networking (SDN) promises to disrupt traditional network operations by turning the management and orchestration function within the network upside down. Automation, in the form of Self-Organizing Networks (SON) promises to do likewise.
This report focuses on the service assurance supplier perspective, and their response to new operational requirements. Heading into 2013, Stratecast surveyed more than service assurance suppliers about their forward-looking strategies. Given the rapid appearance of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and SDN since then, we revisited some suppliers in early 2014 to get a feel for how the emergence of network virtualization technologies will affect their plans and the needs of their CSP customers. The results of both time-based perspectives are addressed within this report.
Throughout this document, Stratecast uses the term “Virtual Network.” Although we agree with the industry consensus that NFV and SDN are not inextricably linked at this stage in their development, and that some CSPs may only employ one or the other, Stratecast believes that the long-term and best use of the technologies is as complements to each other. While SDN aides the process of separating the network control plane from the data plane, NFV gives these planes a commodity platform on which to operate. “Virtual Networks” refers to the ideal combined future network with elements of both NFV and SDN. A more detailed explanation of this long-term operational view of NFV and SDN is available in a previous Stratecast report.
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