In case you haven't heard

The media had it in the spotlight for a while and you can still catch a piece here or there. But just in case you haven’t heard the good news, Traffix was acquired by F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV), the leader in Application Delivery Controllers.  In this post, I’d like to delve slightly deeper to explain why this is a good thing for Traffix customers, all service providers, and ultimately, for the end user.

F5 is a company of over a billion dollars in annual sales and a market value of over 10 billion dollars, clearly deserving of the reputation as the experts in IP solutions.  Furthermore, the F5 organization is unsurpassed in its investment in R&D, responsive support and timely delivery. And their results speak for themselves.    
Now that Traffix is an integral and important part of F5, the experts of the applications and data planes (the edge of a telephony network) are joined by the experts of Diameter and the control plane (the core of a network).

And most importantly, service providers have already begun to experience the added value of our products’ synergies. Our solutions work together to form the most comprehensive IP solution for telcos, ensuring optimal performance of the edge and core networks. This end-to-end approach enables service providers to seamlessly transform their networks to IP based technology. And IP-based technology, or otherwise known as 4G, gives the consumer the best experience in using a mobile device for data, meaning viewing videos, playing games, checking Facebook, sending photos or many others.

There are multiple positive energies of the F5-Traffix combination. Not only do service providers receive 100% reliable signaling management, but they benefit from fortified R&D, delivery and support teams. And there is renewed confidence that we are there for the long haul.

I’m confident that the market, both service providers and their customers will be pleased with the merging of the two worlds because if not immediately, sometime soon, your phone system will move to 4G, an IP-based data and control. So what could be better than having the IP experts of all parts of the telephone network put their resources, knowledge and expertise together to ensure the highest quality of service, wherever you are, and however you need it to work.
Stay in touch, it'll be exciting.

Ben Volkow
CEO Traffix 


What are the ingredients for a market leading Diameter router?

We've often asked what makes the Traffix Signaling Delivery Controller the market leading Diameter solution. We put our heads together and here's why we can proudly say that the Traffix Signaling Delivery Controller (SDC) is the market’s first and most mature Diameter routing solution, available since early 2009.
  • Traffix SDC is the market’s most deployed Diameter routing solution with over a dozen live deployments in Tier 1 carriers.
  • Traffix SDC is the market’s only full Diameter routing solution combining DRA, DEA and IWF that goes far beyond the industry standards’ requirements.
  • Traffix SDC offers far more Interworking functions between Diameter to Diameter, and between Diameter to legacy protocols than other vendors.
  • Traffix SDC is the only solution that can run on multiple IBM, HP and Sun hardware flavors with unparalleled performance in each.
  • Traffix SDC is the only dedicated Diameter routing platform (not HSS or PCRF….) in the market.
  • Traffix SDC has unbeaten performance and value/cost ratio – 4 times more than the closest competitor.
  • Traffix SDC supports over 50 Diameter interfaces – it’s the only solution that fits all Tier 1 Diameter needs.
  • Traffix SDC is the only market solution supporting Active/Active configuration.
  • Traffix SDC includes WideLens™, a network analysis, statistics and management solution.
  • Traffix SDC includes a full Diameter test suite.
  • Traffix SDC is the solution of choice for vendors such as Ericsson, ATOS, NSN, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, Bridgewater and others.
  • Traffix has the largest work force dedicated to Diameter in the industry.
  • Traffix has demonstrated unbeaten commitment to our customers for the best support, flexibility and satisfaction.


The Brain Surgeons of Diameter

I’ve been hearing something from the field that doesn’t quite sit right. I’ve been hearing that developers of 3G voice protocol SS7 can easily segue into developing good solutions using 4G Diameter protocol such as real-time intelligent routers and reliable load balancing solutions.

Diameter was selected by the industry standards bodies such as 3GPP to be the one protocol that replaces all legacy protocols (MAP, LDAP, Radius, and others) because of its extreme flexibility to support data, services, and applications.
On the flip side, that side flexibility does cause management difficulties. Software engineers who work with Diameter find that after years of intense programming, they can succeed in creating cutting-edge solutions. They understand why Diameter is the chosen protocol to support all the data dominated services and applications of 4G. They know how to configure the code to ensure a 4G network’s reliability to send the right message to the right location 100% of the time. They can design intelligent routing and load balancing solutions to give the network unlimited scalability and 100% reliability.

However, this expertise took some years to perfect and a dedicated team focusing solely on the Diameter protocol and here’s the secret. It took the experience of deploying the Diameter protocol stack in operators around the world to learn the deep secrets and tricks of the trade of working with Diameter. And that is why today, Traffix is the only company that can call themselves true experts in the field of Diameter. That is why there is still is no other vendor offering a full Diameter solution of routing, load balancing and gateway solutions with the added value that Traffix Service Delivery Controller (SDC) offers.

I would say that for others to claim, “we know signaling” based on past experience with SS7 or other legacy protocol is equivalent to a heart surgeon leading a team to operate on a brain without the back up of a brain surgeon.

My son wants to have laser eye surgery to correct his myopia. Am I going to look for a doctor who recently went to a short course to perform the operation, or am going to ask everyone I know for their references, and then select the surgeon who has been doing this operation for years with the highest rate of success? I think the answer is obvious.
Susan Becker


Town Planning/Network Planning

Imagine, if a small town consisting of one main road, a few arterial roads, with the traditional system of traffic lights, one day woke up to a new reality. Overnight its town residents were shocked to see thousands of new business moving in, bringing with them many more residents, constant commercial activity and of course, higher volume of traffic.
Well, if you think that the first tactic the town should take is to add more houses and streets, think again. Just adding these elements without the necessary infrastructure would just burden the congestion and confusion, and slow down the efficiency of the town.
It’s the same in a network. Just adding bandwidth or spectrum can’t solve today’s sudden surge of more activity of thousands or hundreds of thousands of smartphone subscribers using their mobile data for most of their awake hours.
The town needs to revamp its traffic light system just as the network – now filled with new elements and fragmented from the data strain and new services, needs to upgrade its signaling – and in 4G this means its Diameter signaling.
And what does upgrade mean? Well let’s go back to our town. If once upon a time, the town’s planners would have simply added more streets and traffic lights, today, they would consider a wireless traffic management system that operates according to the traffic flow for maximum optimization. So too, network architects must include Diameter solutions such as DRAs for intelligent, dynamic routing, load balancers for unlimited scalability and network control, and Diameter gateways for instant connectivity with legacy elements.
You wouldn’t want to live in a town whose infrastructure hasn’t kept up with its growth would you? Well, why would you subscribe to a carrier whose network hasn’t kept up with your needs for reliable and fast service?


Diameter for the Technically Challenged

"Diameter for the Technically Challenged" or what should you know about Diameter signaling protocol even if you are not a telecom engineer

During your average day how many times do you speak and text on your smartphone, browse on your tablet, or work on your laptop? In the evenings you may read ebooks, message from your mobile, or check your Facebook. You go on vacation and watch videos while waiting for the plane, take pictures with your phone and send them to friends back home. You leave your Skype or instant messenger open on your tablet so you can always see who among your contacts are available for a quick chat. In short, you are always connected to the network, meaning that the mobile operator's processing behind the scenes to support all your data communications is always on, and has now become a critical factor in the performance of the mobile network. And the trend to use the mobile network for data is growing in leaps and bounds.

Your Mobile Network is Moving to IP
To support your constant use of the Internet through your cellular network, many mobile operators are beginning to empower networks with Internet Protocol (IP) using technologies generally referred to as 4G such as IMS, LTE and others. These technologies require systems to communicate with each other using what is known as a signaling protocol that can support millions of subscribers accessing the Internet all the time. The particular signaling protocol selected by the telecommunication industry is known as Diameter.

Diameter: The Chosen Standard
The organizations who set international standards in the telecommunications industry (such as 3GPP and ETSI) have selected Diameter as the signaling protocol to enable operators to support 4G services. Why is that? Because Diameter is the only signaling protocol that is capable of managing the constant flow of core network signaling in an environment that has become far more complex with many more network elements needed to fulfill the promises of 4G.

Fulfilling the Promises of LTE Mobile Technology
Today's mobile network operator growth is fueled by data traffic; voice has become secondary. On paper, LTE and other IP-based technologies have made amazing promises to provide you with high quality mobile broadband, sophisticated services, tiered charging plans, better roaming schemes, and much more. However, the implementation of all these promised services takes place in the core network and requires signaling that will tackle the challenges for cost-effective connectivity, scalability and control in the section of the network known as the control plane.

Data Brings Complexity
In fact, your mobile operator's focus on data will only increase in time as the initiatives of voice over LTE (VoLTE) take hold, introducing a network where everything is data. Access to data, meaning the web, video, SMS, MMS, presence, and VoIP, requires constant Diameter signaling with a spaghetti of network nodes and interfaces. Network operators need a configuration of Diameter solutions such as gateways to connect the new elements to the old ones, load balancers for scalability meaning to grow the network easily, and routers that ensure the messages from each subscriber go to the right places – in short, to support communications that are becoming increasingly complicated.

Using Diameter to Control the Complexity
Once upon a time, network signaling was activated when a phone call began and ended when the speakers hung up. Now this scenario is no longer relevant, and your mobile operator has far greater challenges to solve. The only way for your mobile operator to successfully manage its network is to focus on its control plane with the right signaling products that provide cost effective, robust and intelligent solutions.

You may not be a telecom engineer, but you want to know that your network will respond rapidly to your request the next time you pick up your tablet or mobile device. Whether you want to send a message home, check your train's timetable or download an app, you want fast communications. In summary, it doesn’t take a telecom engineer to understand that almost everything you do with your mobile device depends on data communications, and that the right Diameter solution is the key ingredient for high performance, excellent quality of service, and advanced service enablement.

** The above was written by Susan Becker Traffix Marketing manager, I thought it’s a very good “Diameter for dummies” articale


Diameter over SCTP

I want to discuss today one of the issues we had elaborated on in the Diameter technical group (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=1787697 )

This is the trend towards Diameter SCTP
We see more and more Diameter running over SCTP in some major operators, really everywhere – APAC, EU and US.
This is still a very small percentage of Diameter (which in itself is still in early adoption days) but this is certainly a trend.
This creates some new issues:
- Vendors support for SCTP is limited – so connectivity problem is an issues
- Connectivity between Diameter SCTP/Diameter TCP requires mediation (Diameter SCTP to Diameter TCP gateways)
- Testing is problematic – many in between entites (routers/switches/load balancer…) have problems with SCTP and it takes time to understand this is not a problem related directly to your product, so you only test your product you test all the transport layer in between (something that works with no problem with TCP)
- Need for through testing – the product beaves completely different with none TCP layer 3 stack

I really don’t know what the future hold, will Diameter over SCTP trend increase and it will become the common path ?
I personally don’t think so, there were many initiative to improve TCP over the years (e.g WTCP) and although they had great advantages over TCP they never won, so I’m afraid SCTP will follow the same route. But still there is Diameter over SCTP trend on the rise. Well we’ll need to wait and see.


Improving Diameter protocol

This time I want to discuss one of the problems we see with Diameter and introduce a work being done to overcome this problem.
Capabilities exchange is one of the fundamental and most important mechanisms in Diameter, it is taking place in the beginning of each session, and allows peers to define the basic parameters/capabilities for the session (version number, supported Diameter apps, security mechanisms, etc…)
But what if the capabilities on one of the sides change during the session ? what if the sessions are being kept open for long time
and in this time an upgrade or configuration change in one of the clients/servers involved takes place ?

The way Capabilities exchange is defined in RFC 3588 is that it can take place only in the inception of a session, so if there is a change
during the session it means we need to tear down all the existing sessions involved and restarted in order for the updated capabilities to be taken into account – not very efficient you’ll agree.

But worry no more, the cure is on the way, a new IETF Diameter draft is here to help - The Diameter Capabilities Update Application.
A work led by Glen Zorn, whom is one of the driving forces behind Diameter since his Cisco days.

This work defines a new Diameter application intended to allow the dynamic update of a subset of Diameter peer capabilities over an
existing connection.
Because the new proposed Capabilities Update application operates over an existing transport connection, modifications of certain capabilities is prohibited.
There are a lot of heated discussions going on in the Diameter swamp around this new work – some security issues have being raised, but I think those will be handled also.
This is a blessed and important work (I can see all of you with Gx interface related work scars nodding your heads) and let’s hope we will have this draft approved soon.

I personally believe with service providers complaining on the amount of signaling in Diameter and the delays involved in some of sessions set up times – this new work is very important and sheds bright healthy light into one of the dark corners of the Diameter 3588 RFC.


RFC 3588 vs 3588bis, what will the market adopt

RFC 3588, the Diameter base protocol RFC was officially introduced in 2003 by the IETF.
Over the last couple of years there was a lot of work done to introduce a new Diameter base, this was led by people like Glen Zorn and Victor Fajardo, was named RFC 3588bis.

RFC 3588bis is set to replace the original RFC 3588 with fixes to some of the Diameter base issues, mainly in the areas of session, security (TLS) and some improvements and clean up (IPSec..)

I have a few concerns how It will affect the adoption of Diameter, which is today mainly in the telecom field (and not the Internet)

There are a few questions that come to mind (and my own personal bet)
- Will the market move to RFC 3588 bis? (yes, the big question is in what rate)
- Will it create interoperability issues ? (yes of course)
- Will it create confusion ? (you bet)
- Will it help to establish Diameter position as the AAA/Control protocol of the next decade ? (maybe)
- Is it needed ? (I prefer not to answer this one  )

One thing for sure it’s going to be interesting in the Diameter scene, with continuing adoption, growing amount of Diameter signaling, Diameter spreading out of the mobile core to the wireline, booming amount of Diameter interfaces, LTE (which should be renamed to Diameter TE due to the amount of Diameter signaling there) and of course new Diameter base.


Diameter Routing Agent – some open questions

I want to share with you, some thoughts from discussion I recently had about DRA.
Diameter Routing Agent (DRA) was defined in 3GPP Release 8 and onwards to manage PCRF interaction in LTE networks.
PCRF’s are becoming more advanced, with more and more Diameter interfaces, more and more traffic – and pretty soon you need someone to manage this Diameter signaling Spaghetti – this is where DRA comes into the picture – putting some order and management.
We come across some first implementations of DRA’s (and yes we in Traffix have one also, and it’s fully 3GPP Kosher) in the market this days.
Some questions that come to mind from some first glimpse in DRA implementations:

DRA – Standalone / or part of the PCRF
We see both scenarios in the market, some of the DRA’s out there are part of the PCRF, maybe it’s because they were rolled out by the PCRF vendors, I personally believe there is a huge advantage for a standalone installation, separate from the PCRF.

DRA – Diameter Proxy agent / Redirect agent
DRA was defined to act as both Proxy or Redirect agent, there was a big argument if both functionalities are needed, and eventually it was decided not to decide.
I personally think giving the DRA the flexibility to act as both Proxy or Redirect is great, and makes sure that networks could be tuned and set with much less limitations.

DRA - Interconnectivity
Policy in 3GPP is all about freedom – either in roaming scenarios or in interconnectivity between different technologies.
However with DRA being supported only by 3GPP for mobile networks, how will it integrate to the RACS in the TISPAN wireline networks for example ? will it affect fixed mobile convergence scenarios ?

Diameter Routing Agent is still new functionality, both in the specifications and much more in the market, with first glimpses mainly in LTE labs and with half backed products that only resemble DRA from a far.
I personally believe DRA will become a central component in LTE and future telecom networks, getting more and more responsibility and functionality, but this days are still far and many standardization open issues need to be closed before that.