As service providers grapple with providing more complex individual services as well as converged services, the need to test these systems grows as well. Providers need to ensure their subscribers receive high levels of service quality as well as reliability. One of the companies addressing the reliability of service issue is Mu Dynamics. Adam Stein (pictured), the company's VP of Marketing recently sat down with me to explain how his company's Mu 4000 analysis platform is able to test for variations of service traffic, known vulnerabilities and DoS attacks.
The company recently started supplying its technology to Starent Networks who uses the Mu-4000 to protect attacks like the Slammer Worm, SIP Invite/Register, OSPF Hello and other malicious code.
In Stein's words, for service providers, his company's solutions reduce network downtime which reduces revenue loss and churn. For suppliers, he allows them to focus on their core competency while leaving the security to his company.
It is not only security you need to worry about in your networks... Studies have shown many operators are spending 25% of their CAPEX budgets on IPTV and when you have this much invested you need to ensure the quality of experience is up to snuff. When you consider that most carrier networks are not optimized for real-time applications, you see why testing is so important. This is where Agilent
comes in. In a discussion with Andre Dufour the Product Manager and Joe Haver the 3P Segment Manager (pictured to right in order) we got to talking about television channel changes and how slow changes in the IPTV world can lead to unhappy customers.
A 250 millisecond channel change is considered instant for example any worse and the customer is not as happy. Just as bad as long channel change times is an inconsistent change time according to Dufour and Haver.
Other issues which need to be addressed are whether the TV picture becomes blurry when the phone is being used or a p2p application is launched and whether authentication working properly. Perhaps most important is determining whether the current network configuration allows QoS and QoE expectations to be met.
The company recently released a slew of product updates to address the growing complexity of your networks. For example the N2X Multiservices Test Solution now has multiplay performance statistics for video, voice and data services on a single report. The MSTV platform now has an AV quality assurance solution and the WireScope Pro now has VoIP testing and Gigabit Ethernet traffic generation built-in.
There are a number of testing companies on the market and one differentiator Agilent brings to the table is their ability to test the entire network. They feel this is important as they feel piecemeal testing is not suited to characterizing the end-customer's QoE.
The Dufour and Haver further explained their Agilent J6900A Triple Play Analyzer Platform can now handle Microsoft's Mediaroom IPTV software platform. This news is important because now that Agilent can understand the proprietary Microsoft Protocols, service providers can use their products to measure quality issues resolved by the system such as packet retransmission requests as well as determining if the QoE was affected in any way.
When asked what pain the company takes away for customers, the response was, "We take away test complexity and determining QoE in an objective manner."
This is the reason the company has developed superior tools to help providers with determining what the problems are with their wireless networks. Companies like Actix play in this space but it seems Tektronix sees this is as a natural area to expand into and as they say, they want to be a one-stop shop.
It is for this reason he company now has a application called automatic radio optimization which is now part of the company's Optimon suite of advanced network optimization products based on the company's Network and Service Analyzer (NSA) platform.
This new solution can suggest what the problems are in your network by integrating data from log files, protocol traces, OSS counters and drive tests. By integrating these techniques and passively monitoring the RNC and subscribers the company is able to determine quality levels with minimal drive tests. They are also able to take into account in-building wireless quality which drive tests cannot achieve.
In one case this software helped a service provider determine a problem in their network they were sure was interference. After $33,000 worth of testing and the associated churn of customers that comes with not solving the problem quickly, the company eventually turned to Tektronix who found the problem was a ping-pong handover issue which was quickly solved with a software tweak.
But network optimization is not only needed when there is a problem, the solution is designed to ensure providers do not overspend when they purchase RNCs or on OC3s.
As network complexity has grown and providers are going to great lengths to ensure customers do not leave them, doesn't it make sense to get your security and testing house in order soon?