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F5 and Traffix: When Worlds Collide

Strategic points of control are critical to managing the convergence of technology in any network - enterprise or carrier

What happens when technology converges? When old meets new?

A fine example of what might happen is what has happened in the carrier space as voice and data services increasingly meet on the same network, each carrying unique characteristics forward from the older technology from which they sprung. In the carrier space having moved away from older communications technology does not mean having left behind core technology concepts. Though voice may be moving to IP with the advent of LTE/4G, it still carries with it the notion of signaling as a means to manage communication and users, and the impact on networks from that requisite signaling mechanism is significant.

spoc graphicAlong with the well-discussed and often-noted explosive growth of mobile and its impact on the enterprise comes a less-discussed and rarely noted explosive growth of signaling traffic and its impact on service providers. Enterprise experience with voice and signaling remains largely confined to SIP-focused deployments and are on a scale much smaller than that of the service provider. Hence the term “carrier-grade” to indicate the much more demanding environment. The number of signaling messages in 4G networks, for example, associated with a 3 minute IP voice call with data is 520. The same voice call today requires only 3. That exponential  growth will put increasing pressure on carriers and require massive scale of infrastructure to support.

All that signaling traffic in carrier networks occurs via Diameter, the standard agreed upon by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partner Project) for network signaling in all 4G/LTE networks. Diameter is to carrier networks what HTTP is to web applications today: it’s the glue that makes it all happen. As the preeminent Diameter routing agent (DRA) for for 3G, 4G / LTE and IMS environments, Traffix’ solutions are fluent in the signaling language used by carriers across the globe to identify users, manage provisioning, and authorize access to services and networks. One could reasonably describe Diameter as the Identity and Access Management (IAM) technology of choice for service providers. When a user does anything on a 4G network, Diameter is involved somehow.

What Traffix Signaling Delivery Controller (which is both a highly capable DRA as well as Diameter Edge Agent (DEA)) offers is a strategic point of control in the service providers network, serving as an intelligent tier in that network that enables interoperability, security, scale, and flexibility in how signaling traffic is managed and optimized. That should sound familiar, as F5 is no stranger to similar responsibilities in enterprise and web-class data centers today. F5 with its application and control plane technologies serves as an intelligent tier in the network that ensures interoperability, security, scale, and flexibility for how applications and services are delivered, secured, and optimized. What service providers do with Diameter – user identification, permission to roam, authorization to use certain networks, basically anything a user does on a 4G network – is akin to what F5 does with application delivery technology in the data center. mobilenetworks

F5’s vision has been to create a converged carrier architecture that unifies IP services end-to-end across the application, data, and control plane. Diameter is a foundational piece of that puzzle, just as any-IP support is critical to providing that same converged application services approach in the data center, a data center routing agent, if you will.

Both approaches are ultimately about context, control, and collaboration.


These three characteristics (context, control, collaboration) are required for a dynamic data center to handle the volatility inherent in emerging data center models as well as the convergence in service provider networks of voice and data. But as technologies converge, supporting infrastructure tends to fragment. This dichotomy is clearly present even in the enterprise, where unified communications (UC) implementations are creating chaos. In its early days, Diameter deployments in service provider networks experienced similar trends, and it was the development of the DRA that resolved the issue, bringing order out of chaos and providing a strategic point of control through which subscriber activity could be more efficiently managed. Out of chaos, order. That’s the value Traffix brings to carrier networks with its Signaling Delivery Controller (SDC). Traffix solutions optimize signaling traffic, offering service provider operators scalability, availability, visibility, interoperability, and more in an operationally consistent solution. With the number of mobile devices predicted to exceed the world population in the next year, and the advanced services those devices provide driving exponential growth in signaling traffic, the need to optimize signaling traffic is top of mind for most service providers today.

When diverse systems converge, their infrastructure must also converge in terms of support for the resulting unified system. This is particularly true as mobile and virtual desktops become more prevalent and bring with them their own unique delivery challenges to both the service provider and data center networks.

The two worlds are colliding, out there on the Internets and inside data centers, with more and more IP-related traffic requiring management within the carrier networks, and more and more traditionally carrier network traffic such as voice being seen inside the data center. What both worlds need is a fully end-to-end IP core infrastructure solution – one that can support IP and Diameter and scale regardless of whether the need is enterprise-class or carrier-grade. One that maintains context and manages access to resources across both voice and data and does so both seamlessly and transparently.

Bringing together F5’s control plane with that of Traffix brings a holistic approach to controlling a converged voice-data network that enhances critical network functions across the application, control, and data planes.

Traffix aligns well with F5’s overall vision of enabling intelligence in the network and providing context and control for all types of network services – whether carrier or enterprise.

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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