Blogs

Real-Time Network Analytics for Intelligent Infrastructure

Streaming data analytics help telecommunications networks weather the storm

After Hurricane Rita pummeled Louisiana and Texas in 2005, many people volunteered to help family, friends, and strangers fix their homes and recover property. Loaded with supplies, their intent was to travel into affected areas and stay until they could at least help secure the damaged homes. The havoc caused by arguably one of the most intense tropical storms ever to hit the Gulf states left permanent images of devastation.

To add to this imagery, National Guardsmen transported by Blackhawk helicopters were positioned at many interstate exits with their machine guns at the ready. Although the guardsmen were there to inspect vehicles for any evidence of looting, their presence also limited access to public services or disaster relief teams. The situation was real-time affirmation for doomsday prognosticators.

Life changes dramatically after a disaster when there’s no fresh water or electricity available. Refrigerators don’t stay cold, and the food inside spoils. Gas stations can’t pump gas, grocery stores can’t sell groceries, and credit cards are worthless. And yet an observer who went inside someone’s damaged home to start the cleanup found family members talking on their telephone. The home was as dark as night in the middle of the day, there was an inch of water on the floor, and aside from the phone conversation, it was as quiet as deep space. In spite of all the damage and loss, phone service had somehow managed to continue uninterrupted throughout the raging storm and its tragic aftermath.

Standardized infrastructure

Operational telephone service after Hurricane Rita and other past disastrous events wasn’t simply good fortune. Thanks to the development of design standards for equipment by Bell Labs back in the 1970s for its telecommunications network, an infrastructure built on standards was put in place that enables emergency responders to communicate. The infrastructure also enables families and friends to communicate, which is truly a public health asset. A calm and informed public can communicate with each other instead of lapsing into panic and uncertainty. And loss of basic infrastructure could be highly devastating if police, fire, and medical agencies were unable to coordinate and deploy their services. These agencies need to be ready to deploy services in any weather—rain, hail, sleet, snow, and the like—or in the aftermath of disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, and severe damage caused by high winds in tornadoes and hurricanes.

The Network Equipment Building Standards (NEBS) guidelines specify operational limits for harsh conditions such as extreme shock and vibration, temperature, and humidity ranges that resemble conditions associated with catastrophic events. These guidelines have been adopted broadly and now compose requirements for meeting minimum standards in any telecommunications network infrastructure. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is the European equivalent of NEBS.

In today’s era of billions of smartphones and connected devices, a rising number of everyday services are channeled through this telephone network infrastructure. And the applications that deliver these services look a lot like the familiar terrain of big data and analytics as opposed to traditional landline infrastructure. In particular, IBM® Power Systems™ servers and IBM InfoSphere® Streams software are playing a key role in transforming telecommunications to enable even more reliable communications than ever before, especially during natural disasters and other cataclysmic events.

Recently, IBM announced that Power System S822 and Power System S822L servers have passed the rigorous standards for NEBS and ETSI environments. These IBM POWER8™ processor–based systems are designed to offer optimal platforms for hosting highly sophisticated real-time applications such as the IBM InfoSphere Streams Telecommunications Event Data Analytics solution. They also help drive network performance optimization and virtualization of network functionality. And they reside solidly within potentially harsh environmental conditions.

POWER8-based systems are well suited for ingesting network traffic at line speed. The Power System servers are paired with the advanced Mellanox ConnectX-3 Pro EN Single/Dual-Port Network Adapter and 6WINDGate Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) software module for the Power System infrastructure to facilitate fast packet ingest. In addition, there is no packet loss, and adequate processor capacity for real-time analytics applications such as IBM InfoSphere Streams.

InfoSphere Streams is IBM’s real-time analytic offering. InfoSphere Streams continuously integrates and analyzes data in motion to deliver real-time analytics. The result? Telecommunications providers now have the ability to dynamically act and adjust in the business moment. For example, InfoSphere Streams* provides fast analysis of call data records. It also helps telecommunications providers monitor and improve network performance and proactively optimize network utilization. In addition, InfoSphere Streams delivers advanced end-user services focused on marketing and fraud and threat detection. InfoSphere Streams works for telecommunications because it is designed for speed, processing millions of events/second.

Fortified foundation

Changing operational dynamics and business models are driving the telecommunications industry to become increasingly innovative by offering highly versatile IT platforms that have capacity to spare for future applications and networking capabilities. High-performance POWER8-based platforms and robust, real-time analytics from InfoSphere Streams can offer more flexibility and successful outcomes than legacy, limited-function appliances that remain quite prevalent in today’s telecommunications network environments. Innovative, flexible telecommunications platforms help ensure emergency first responders and the general public have reliable communications channels available when disaster strikes.

Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments.

*Real-Time Analytics of Data in Motion Delivers Competitive Advantage for Telco,” IBM Big Data and Analytics video, YouTube.com, November 2014.

Resources

  • For IBM guidance on NEBS- and ETSI-conforming applications for Power System S822 and Power System S822L servers, as well as using 48-volt DC power supplies, download the document, “Power S822 and S822L Compliance for Telco Solution,” by Richard Talbot, Ted Maeurer, and Edward Liu, IBM, October 2014.
  • To learn more about the capabilities of InfoSphere Streams for telecommunications, visit the Stream Computing Industry Alignment website at IBM.com.