InterComms :: International Communications Project
  Intercomms Issue 18
Issue 18 Articles

Efficient Networks, Profitable Services

InterComms talks to Tony Fallows, CEO, Aria Networks, about how Capacity Management is helping service providers design economically viable networks

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Tony Fallows, CEO, Aria Networks
Tony Fallows, CEO, Aria Networks

Aria Networks offers solutions for capacity management and network planning for mobile and fixed-line service providers.

With the ability to analyse current and future service profiles and forecast customer demand, Aria Networks is able to identify how networks can be more efficient, profitable and reliable.

Tier-1 telcos are using Aria to support long-term evolution plans, then zooming in to solve day-to-day capital efficiency, performance and reliability challenges.

Q: With the Communications industry going through a period of technology and service change what are the main benefits that can be achieved?
A: Consumer broadband services are enablers for content delivery, cloud services and over-the-top services. Broadband access is typically supported by new IP/Ethernet over Optical core transmission networks. Transmission networks can themselves be a big revenue source as they offer capacity to meet growing demand for high-speed, high-availability, leased line business services.

There’s no doubt that there is a massive demand for bandwidth, both from consumers and business customers. Servicing this demand and making a profit can only be achieved by reducing the ‘cost-per-bit’ of bandwidth supplied, and increasing the ‘revenue-per-bit’ of the services being offered.

The real opportunity is therefore not simply having more bits to sell customers, but the ability to offer differentiated services to consumers and businesses on a common platform of network technologies and capacity. This will be realised by investment in two areas: Investing in the right amount of the right technology to meet demand with a range of SLA and QoS options; Investing in capacity management processes that ensure this technology can be used in an agile, profit-focused way.

Q: How can companies justify the cost rather than look at cheaper
alternative technologies?

A: Compared to just a few years ago, communication service providers are now much more cautious about investing in new network technology or upgrading capacity. Any change has to show a return on investment, rather than simply being a ‘land-grab’ for coverage or customers.

More than ever we are seeing technology being evaluated both by the teams responsible for the network engineering and also those responsible for selling to the market. This joined-up approach extends from strategic design decisions through to network build and operation. This is necessary to allow CTOs to understand how they can differentiate products and deliver them with predictable cost and reliable quality of service.

Q: Where can Aria help in this?
A: I was once asked by one of the sales guys, who had just read an article about options for solving mobile capacity issues, “There are five solutions proposed, and it’s left me thinking: Which solution do we help with?”
I scanned through the article’s list which included the usual approaches to dealing with capacity issues, everything from building more capacity, through policy control, to deploying CDN and video compression.

After a little thinking I responded that our solutions address “all of these, and none of them”. That answer warranted an explanation. Let’s be realistic: ‘Planning’ whether that is OSS software or just taking a few minutes to think before you act, is never the ‘solution’. No. Planning is, instead, an essential part of finding and implementing the right solution.

Without planning you pick the wrong approach and have to start all over again when it fails (if you have that luxury). Without planning you might implement the right solution, but too little or too much of it, again risking failure or overspend.

Crucially, capacity management considers technology, economics and changes in market demands. This ensures each person in the service provider who has responsibility for network planning, service delivery, revenue and costs are following a joined-up process from design, through build, to operations.

Q: Capacity has always been a major issue with new service deployments eating into this more and more, how can Aria solve these issues?
A: A couple of years ago many mobile operators assumed you could sell new products and the network capacity would simply scale to meet demand. This didn’t happen, and we saw several high profile cases of services failing when iPhone was first introduced by service providers. iPhone was a step-change in the way customers used network capacity. DSL and cable services are seeing similar challenges, but over a longer time period, as more consumers access video content.

There are technical solutions and organisational solutions to this problem. Aria can help network planners do more with their existing capacity, sweating assets and allocating new capacity only where it is really going to be needed. Aria also enables organisational change. With a single capacity management platform, the network planners, CTOs and product managers gain insight in to the network and how current or planned services use this capacity. This helps identify where potential revenue opportunities can be found in the network, and what product types could best extract that value without extra CAPEX investment.

Q: How are you looking to future-proof the deployments that you are
working on?

A: Aria is helping service providers manage change, so naturally we have to ensure our solutions are able to change as quickly as their deployed technology or product catalogue changes.

Aria has a single product suite that supports capacity management of all major network technologies and services today. We build in configuration options to all our products to ensure that new devices and services can easily be added. This flexibility is achieved through our proprietary artificial intelligence engine and unique data-driven service and capacity templates.

Some customers initially prefer the idea of fixed, pre-packaged functionality, but the appearance of some planning products being ready straight out of the box is usually misleading. Each service provider sells different products, have different network policies, measure different KPIs and work in economies with different revenue and cost models. Configuration is essential, and is often less effort than expected. In a head-to-head comparison, Aria’s solution was shown to be configurable in less than one month, while the competitor’s estimate to code a solution was fifteen months. In a similar case, involving a mobile operator, the introduction of four new equipment models by Aria took less than two weeks, while the competitor estimated nine months to code a solution.

While a configurable system will rely upon either users or an administrator to be able to configure the system as your environment changes, it puts the service provider in control of their own destiny. It gives them the option to configure the system to meet immediate needs and thereby reduces dependency on our roadmap. This ensures our solutions are not made obsolete by change and are not subject to large upgrade costs or implementation delays.

Q: Are there specific deployments you can look at to prove the benefits?
A: Aria’s capacity management solutions are uniquely able to help service providers plan for the next five years of their network’s evolution, as well as handling the day-to-day operational planning required to optimize next generation networks and services.

At one extreme we’ve seen customers using Aria’s capacity management products to make long term strategic design decisions that identify potential savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. That sort of planning activity may only happen a few times a year, but getting it right from the outset obviously has huge benefits.

Capacity management is also a day-to-day operational task. One of our North American customers had to rely on a few simple rules-of-thumb to determine when to upgrade their core IP router capacity. It was impossible for them to determine where capacity would be needed in the event of network faults occurring. They worked with Aria to model their IP traffic, forecast growth and analyse network failure scenarios. This allowed them to safely increase asset utilisation from 50% to as much as 80% while being confident their network would be resilient to router or link failures. An interesting side benefit of automating this analysis was that this particular planning task could be executed every day, rather than just a few times per month, increasing reliability while minimising unnecessary CAPEX.

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