A practical solution to scaling media in the next generation of networks

Existing Session Border Controller (SBC) architecture, with signaling and media resources integrated on a single element, has served network operators well up until now, and may continue to do so in the foreseeable future for certain applications.

But as traffic on real time IP communications networks continues to explode and complexities of scaling and interworking next generation services such as HD voice across VoLTE, WebRTC, OTT, and Unified Communications increases, the media architecture of IP communications networks needs to be redefined.

To meet the demand for real time communications, service providers will require practical solutions that can meet both current and future traffic demands by putting powerful, scalable and flexible media processing and transcoding functionality where it is most needed. These next generation solutions will need to interwork with fixed, cable, mobile and Over-the-Top (OTT) IP communications networks to launch advanced communications services, as well ensure a smooth network evolution as the telecom world moves towards virtualisation and NFV.

The new SBC architecture needs to function as a software element in the network to:

  • Perform and scale with equal balance in carrier-grade Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) appliance based deployments, as in the new virtual hypervisors and cloud environments such as NFV.
  • Utilise the best of COTS appliances and virtualised technologies to deliver cost and performance efficiencies for scaling media functions.
  • Provide deployment flexibility to integrate or distribute signaling and media functions to meet the demands of different applications.
  • Provide the flexibility to seamlessly evolve from one deployment model to another without requiring a major network forklift.
  • One of the most important capabilities of this next generation of IP networks will be to distribute the signaling and media functions of the SBC. This will allow operators to achieve operational and cost efficiencies, improve network performance as well as quality and reliability.

Added benefits of distributing signaling and media include:

  • The ability to gracefully evolve to the cloud by virtualising signaling first, followed by media (where technology allows), which will allow operators to achieve better performance and economies of scale for media processing and transcoding functions.
  • Ensuring data centre optimisation by targeting separate networking infrastructure for signaling (1G) and media (10G).
  • Capturing network cost efficiencies by sharing media resources across multiple signaling applications such as SBC, or other applications such as WebRTC gateways and call controllers.
  • Achieving further cost and performance gains by independently scaling signaling and media resources for the different requirements of mobile and HD voice, VoLTE, VoLTE Roaming and RCS services.
  • Improving service quality and reliability by centralising signaling control while localising media closer to the customer. In some cases they can centralise media processing and transcoding while retaining call control at the edge, either of which can reduce operational management costs, or reduce backhaul costs while improving delay and latency for a better end user experience.

Geo-separation of signaling and media also enables greater resiliency and redundancy. In larger networks MxN geo-redundancy (across signaling (M) and media (N) elements) can minimise the impact of a single site outage.

A practical solution to the next generation of networks cloud NFV solutions that leverage distributed appliance based- or virtualised - signaling combined with high performance, high density media engine functionality controlled from the cloud provides a differentiated evolution to next generation IP networks.

The hybrid approach, which leverages the best of virtualised and appliance-based implementations to scale the network and support millions of sessions allows operators to future-proof and optimise their network investments, especially in NFV deployment scenarios. It also enables operators to simply leverage virtual media instances to support traffic bursts or handle unforeseen circumstances such as disaster recovery.

Through this hybrid approach network operators can quickly launch new services with unmatched media scalability and flexibility, while significantly reducing data centre footprints, energy consumption and power costs.

Forward thinking service providers are already embracing this hybrid approach, and reaping the rewards of optimising their networks, while maximising current and future opportunities.

Ashish Jain, Director of Solutions Marketing, GENBAND

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