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Keeping mobile data flowing
Mobile data application delivery control
By: Quocirca
Published: May 2010
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Due to competitive pressure and demand from subscribers, mobile network operators have had to handle an ever-increasing volume of data traffic. Much of this is driven by users accessing data applications that may not have been specifically written for mobile environments. Managing the applications and the data they generate is the key to providing a satisfactory experience for subscribers.

This paper discusses how mobile network operators (MNO) can prepare their networks for what is likely to be a continually growing demand for mobile data access. It should be of interest to those tasked with managing mobile data services and those that make a living by providing the applications that drive them.

Executive summary
The increasing demand for mobile data access alongside traditional telephony services is stressing mobile operators' networks as never before. The extra load from data services is especially hard to manage when there are unexpected peaks in demand. One way to gain better control is to deploy application delivery controllers to manage mobile data applications and the traffic they generate, optimising the user experience and minimising their impact on bandwidth-constrained resources.

  • Mobile data volumes will continue to soar as users seek access from a range of end user devices As the use of smartphones and cellular connected devices (laptops, netbooks and e-readers) continues to grow, MNOs need to make sure their networks are ready to cope with increasing, and unpredictable, volumes of data traffic. This will include surges caused by sudden rises in popularity of some mobile data applications or the acquisition of many new subscribers in a short period of time through winning new delivery contracts.
  • The demand is from both business and consumer subscribers Employees accessing email and other productivity applications are driving demand as much as consumers uploading photos and videos to popular web sites and downloading new handset applications. MNOs need to understand different traffic types and, in some cases, be able to prioritise depending on the subscriber profile or the particular mobile data application being accessed.
  • MNOs will need to take an increasingly pro-active approach to managing mobile data applications and the traffic they generate First, it is necessary to make sure the applications themselves can respond to varying workloads and then make sure that the traffic they generate is optimised for delivery across bandwidth-constrained networks by intelligently shaping data traffic close to the mobile data application itself. Both of these objectives can be achieved using application delivery controllers.
  • Application delivery controllers (ADC) both help manage the application and ensure efficient communication between mobile data applications and end user devices ADCs are network devices, which can be used to manage traffic to and from mobile data applications and to manage the applications themselves. ADCs can improve the capacity and efficiency of applications by imposing prioritisation and shaping policies on traffic. ADCs also provide load balancing, acceleration, caching, filtering and offload capabilities to improve availability, security and performance, thereby ensuring the successful delivery of data to users of mobile devices.
  • To be effective, ADCs need to be deployed close to mobile data applications Some mobile data applications will be deployed on an MNO's own IT infrastructure, for example subscriber portals; many others will be accessed over the internet. Software-based ADCs (softADC) can be deployed anywhere on the MNO's network, on the same physical or virtual servers as the mobile data application, alongside internet gateways or on partner sites where applications popular with an MNO's subscribers are hosted.

Conclusions
The hunger, from both business and consumer users, to access data from their mobile devices is only going to increase for the foreseeable future. For MNOs, it will be hard to predict what the new mobile data applications will be and how widely their subscribers will use them. The one thing MNOs can do when providing access to new mobile data applications is to ensure the application itself, and the traffic it generates, is handled as efficiently as possible. In doing so, MNOs can be more responsive to the wide-ranging demands of their subscribers and ensure that they can, at least, meet expected service levels, if not exceed them.

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