People have often told me that I should share some of the content of my discussions with customers. So here goes: while speaking to a customer I begin to reflect on why DRAs (Diameter Routing Agents) usually interest core network signaling engineers; it’s because they are the ones who are building the Diameter signaling network and require a solution for optimal network scaling. Our conversation focuses on how much more efficient, smarter, flexible, cost effectively, and securely we can manage the signaling load for Diameter messages and other protocols.
Most people who are involved in mobile broadband or LTE are not that interested in Diameter signaling. At least I find this to be true when I address Diameter directly in pure technical language. However, when I speak about what great things we can do by using the information contained in every signaling message, you get a complete different conversation, and an interested audience. Typically, when discussing Diameter signaling the interest is in terms of what a DRA and DEA (Diameter Edge Agent) should be able to do according 3GPP and GSMA specifications. But as there are now more vendors claiming to have a DRA/DEA (although only a few are actually deployed) … customers are usually surprised at the possibilities of adding services, increasing security, and optimizing the network when deploying a DRA.
If we rename DRA/DEAs to more of a smart proxy (or charging controller), meaning a function that can look inside a message and make decisions on message content, while looking from the application level downward (remember Diameter is an application layer protocol), you get a completely new field of opportunities. The people working on an operator’s commercial services side understand that their customers are generating more and more traffic. And they have been notified that this traffic congestion can be a huge challenge for their network people to manage properly. (In fact this is the ‘standard’ technical DRA discussion) However, when an element like a DRA is inserted in their network to manage the signaling load, here we see the added value of a DRA to look into application specific aspects. Here are some examples that have been well received by services/commercially oriented people.
Example 1: Offloading from OCS resources
When a prepaid customer is out of credit, it usually takes quite a few re-attempts before the customer or application realizes that there is no credit left and that is the reason the requested service is not working. However, during this process, there has been lots of signaling messages generated to communicate in “Diameter language Gy” that there is zero balance left, and these messages use the resources of an OCS (Online Charging System). But by looking at the Diameter message in a smarter way (e.g. with application view) you can proxy the OCS for this very simple function and optimize its resources for use by only revenue-bearing messages. This is what our SDC does, the Signaling Delivery Controller for Diameter management.
Example 2: Rollout special campaigns at lightning speed
If a DRA is deployed to sit in front of an OCS to protect it for problems like overloading, this same DRA node can enable a quick rollout of special marketing campaigns without even touching the existing OCS and its surrounding provisioning system. This news would make your marketing team extremely happy as currently, they must wait for long development times plus each new service is weighed against high costs. For example, if you want to offer a specific segment of customers or devices a special offer such as free minutes on a public holiday there no need to bother the OCS. A smart DRA can do the job quickly and at minimal cost.
Example 3: Speak all dialects of Diameter
Our customers know that our SDC “speaks” all the Diameter dialects that the various vendors have implemented (more than 50 at this writing). And if that wasn’t already enough, it also “speaks” to other protocols like SS7, RADIUS, LDAP, etc. All this information is all very interesting to technical people but not to marketing services and commercial people.
However, I explain that by speaking the same language, new services and promotions can be offered much faster and more cost efficiently. Plus the fact that these offerings will also increase signaling traffic without any negative impact on the network so the network engineers won’t get angry. In fact, it’s a pure “win/win” as it is the traffic you want to generate because it brings revenues and creates customer loyalty.
In summary, my discussions usually leave people pleasantly surprised with the knowledge of the added value of our smart Diameter solution, known as the SDC. . It is not just another award winning DRA/DEA but a platform that is the starting point of application-relevant signaling management by giving you access to the gold that is inside the signaling messages… so don’t hesitate and contact us, surprise us and we will surprise you!
Peter Nas serves as Senior Solution Architect at F5 Networks and draws from more than 20 years of telecom experience to advise operators how to leverage Diameter signaling solutions to enable the optimal LTE experience. Peter joined F5 with the company’s acquisition of Traffix where he was responsible for global business development. Prior to joining Traffix, he worked at Tekelec focusing on market development for Diameter and SIP routing. In his days before Tekelec, he served as Core Network Engineering Manager at a prominent mobile operator in the Netherlands.