Gain A Redundancy Advantage When You Migrate SS7 and Diameter Signaling to the Cloud

October 20th, 2017

Multiple market research studies confirm that communication service providers (CSPs) continue to evolve to virtualized environments in the pursuit of migrating network functions to the cloud.

Based on this trend, I decided it was time to expand on Sonus’ view of virtualization and cloud migration for SS7 and Diameter signaling network functions.

I have a couple of thoughts about the market. Mobile traffic continues to shift to 4G/LTE; however, this shift does not mean that SS7 is going away. According to reports from GSMA, subscriber and usage growth in SS7-based 3G networks is expected to continue well into the year 2020. At the same time, with LTE and VoLTE, Diameter continues to ramp as well. Both protocols will continue to remain critically important to provide roaming, authentication, and interworking between network operators.

So, why move SS7 and Diameter signaling to the cloud?

Simply put, it aligns with the overall value CSPs expect from their migration to the cloud. Deploying virtual Signaling Transfer Points and virtual Diameter Signaling Controllers in the cloud facilitates scalability and service agility, based on a more efficient and less costly solution. for managing network infrastructure. And as far as we’re concerned, because it is doable – today.

Like other network functions that migrate to the cloud, if we simply port SS7 and Diameter signaling into a virtual environment is of limited value. What operators really need is a cloud-native design to address the differences and opportunities for optimization in the cloud. One specific area where a cloud-native design can provide benefits is solution redundancy.

For most of signaling history, redundancy was accomplished using traditional appliances designed on a 1:1 active/active basis. While this model can be replicated with a 1:1 active/active virtual network function (VNF) deployment, it does not take advantage of the benefits virtualization and cloud deployments offer. We believe a better solution based on cloud-native design principles exists which will raise scalability and increase operational efficiency.

Our cloud-native design removes state knowledge from the individual signaling routing VNF components that would have traditionally been connection-oriented and stateful aware. This process involves putting in a virtual front-end load balancer facing into the network or interconnected operators. The load balancing VNF can itself be replicated on a 1:1 active/active basis, but behind it are the VNFs performing signaling routing. The advantage of this solution is that as routing VNFs are instantiated or torn down based on dynamic traffic load, they do not have to touch other elements in the network to inform them where to route messages. This function is now performed by the front-end load balancing VNF. This simplification achieves operational efficiency and enables multiple redundancy schemas for signaling routing VNFs.

Sonus’ cloud-native design also allows for other redundancy models beyond 1:1, such as N+1 or N+2. These options might better fit a business’ specific redundancy requirements, while conserving cloud and network resources.

One last thought on this subject. For many mobile operators, the 1:1 active/active solution described above will be implemented within each of their cloud domains. However, this is not a restriction of the solution. I expect this deployment model to be dominant because it is architecturally close to their traditional operations model, making it easier to adopt. In fact, for large global operators, the true advantage will be to deploy a cloud-native signaling solution across cloud domains where load balancing VNFs are distributed to their network edges, but signaling routing VNFs are centralized and scaled for efficiency.

I have additional observations on the advantages of cloud-native design for SS7 and Diameter signaling, specifically about security and service chaining, but those will have to wait for my next blog. For additional information, download our signaling network transformation to the cloud whitepaper

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