Service providers are moving network infrastructure to the edge to support new data loads and traffic patterns driven by 5G and the IoT. By moving cloud, compute and processing power to the edge of the network, it’s possible to support the ultra-low latency, interactive requirements of 5G applications that run at the edge of their network such as connected cars. Many IoT services are reliant on links at the network edge that can process data immediately, rather than having to wait for a response from a remote data center. Cloud is also critical to this new network topology as it enables greater speed and agility, besides providing the scale needed to manage the high volumes of data traffic generated by IoT devices and machines.

However, as with all new technology, there are always a new set of problems to deal with. The only way operators can address these challenges is to ensure they have complete visibility across all phases of the IoT lifecycle. This can be difficult using traditional network monitoring and assurance tools. Having a window on this complex new environment requires the use of software with unlimited scale that can reach across all aspects of the network, whether physical or virtual.

On the edge of Edge Computing

The Edge Computing space is gaining a lot of traction at the moment with many operators, NEMs, and new market entrants bringing a range of new cloud and server technologies that are effectively moving data center functionality to the edge of the network. This will see operators leverage their new NFV architectures to deploy a range of SD WAN and C-RAN solutions to support data traffic. The smart data this will generate will add much-needed intelligence to the network that will inform policy and traffic management systems. Eventually, networks will become automated and self-optimizing allowing operators to allocate capacity to areas where it’s needed the most to manage peaks or in the case of IoT traffic to manage sophisticated smart city deployments, driverless cars or smart factories.

This is where visibility becomes paramount as these IoT use cases and the data traffic they generate is unprecedented. The stakes are much higher with IoT as well because operators will have to report on the status of mission-critical systems. The performance of a heart monitor in a hospital carries much greater risk than a smartphone failing to connect to a Netflix server due to a problem in the network. It’s all very well reconfiguring your network to account for 5G and IoT services, but there could be serious consequences if you can’t see what’s happening and you’re unable to make sense of the data being produced.  Put it this way, a frustrated subscriber who can’t stream the latest Game of Thrones episode will call the customer service center to let you know there’s a problem, but machines on a production line that are having connectivity issues won’t be flagging that to anyone. So how do you find out if there is a problem with your IoT network?

IoT in clear sight

The only way to gain insight is to leverage smart data solutions that maintain visibility throughout the IoT lifecycle. This covers everything from the testing phase through to the monitoring and analysis of live traffic to network orchestration and automation.

The smart data becomes the oil that fuels the network engine. Once you’re able to access and analyze that data in real-time, you can gain new insights into how the IoT devices and machines behave, how they interact with the network and what type of traffic patterns they produce. Once you have access to smart data, you can make more informed decisions about how to optimize the network, allocate capacity and boost performance. The visibility that smart data enables will also highlight new anomalies; significant changes in the network that could indicate network congestion, or other issues, affecting potentially hundreds or thousands of IoT machines or devices. That actionable intelligence is worth its weight in gold to an operator and its enterprise customers, who are relying on the network to provide the communications backbone for their IoT deployments.

Edge Computing is a nascent space, but it will become a critical element of mobile network architecture. However, this isn’t just a mobile play. It will also apply to ISPs, cable companies, and other service providers as 5G and IoT become more pervasive. The need then for visibility across all phases of the IoT life cycle is abundantly clear as the industry moves network infrastructure to the edge, harnessing NFV and cloud to deliver new services. With a smart data solution, you can monitor the sheer depth and breadth of the IoT ecosystem to ensure everything is assured and that everything is connected.

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