Service provider data: 5 ways to store, access and analyze useful information

Telecom Writer

With big data set to grow exponentially in the next decade, telecommunications service providers face several challenges. Not only will providers grapple with escalating smartphone and tablet usage, they'll also need to find innovative ways to manage service provider data generated by a new class of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and gear.

How many devices are we talking about? 451 Research estimates that IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will nearly quadruple globally in the next several years, from 252 million in 2014 to 908 million in 2019. So what's a provider to do? Here are the top five ways service providers can store, access and analyze their big data over the next 10 years.

1. Software-defined networking

Telecommunication providers in the U.S. and around the world are transitioning to software-defined networks (SDN), which enable them to proactively anticipate and respond to their customers' needs. By transforming hardware-intensive legacy networks into programmable solutions, an SDN can streamline operations and deliver new services. It also creates a centrally managed network that dynamically senses and reacts to changing workloads. AT&T, for instance, recently implemented an SDN to build a streaming cloud environment for its mobility network data centers.

"This means that we can deploy new functions into our network almost instantly with a software update," writes AT&T Senior Executive Vice President John Donovan of Technology and Operations on the company's Innovation Space blog. "Previously, we had to install new hardware each time we added a new functionality. Today, we can upgrade in minutes rather than months."

2. Improving efficiency

Companies are always looking for new ways to store and manage data; cloud-based and hosted services are strong alternatives to building expensive new data centers. According to Verizon, Citi slashed the number of data centers it ran from 70 in 2009 to 20 in 2014, while boosting the utilization of the remaining centers from 5 percent to about 45 percent.

3. Wi-Fi offloading

The IoT isn't the only thing keeping telecommunications providers awake at night. With over-the-top services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO growing in popularity among mobile users, increasing data loads could break cellular networks — unless our old friend Wi-Fi lends a helping hand, that is.

Republic Wireless, which launched the nation's first hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular network in 2011, may provide the template for big data game plans in the next decade. The small carrier uses Wi-Fi first, with Sprint 4G cellular as its backup network. By adopting a similar hybrid design, carriers will gain an essential data-routing solution to prevent overload on their networks.

4. Private networks

A private network enables enterprise users to assign different classes of service to wireless applications. For instance, a business might give video and voice traffic the right of way over other apps, such as email, where latency matters less.

The recently launched Verizon Wireless Private Network, for instance, is designed to help IT departments manage the onslaught of smartphones, tablets, modems, routers and M2M devices in the IoT era. By separating the business customer's data from public Internet traffic and service provider data, a private network provides an additional security blanket.

5. Proactive monitoring and analysis

Big data heightens the need for better data management tools. A quick case study: Consolidated Communications, Inc. (CCI), a leading business and broadband communications provider across an 11-state region, wanted to improve its ability to detect issues as they emerged and be able to take corrective action before service was impacted. The problem was that the manually setting thresholds and alerts for its existing performance management software didn't give staff enough of an early warning to head off issues. The solution? Predictive management software to detect problems as they emerge. This upgrade enabled CCI to head off service disruptions before they began impacting customers.

Learn more about IBM solutions for Telecommunications, including proactive customer care and customer experience analytics.