Diameter signaling traffic is on the rise. Smartphones use diameter signaling every time the device is reactivated. Advanced, personalized and application-specific services require more frequent exchanges of policy information and use diameter signaling more. 4G LTE network elements that must communicate with each other add to diameter signaling traffic.
Increased diameter signaling can clog networks, and as pointed out in a recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) TechZIne article by Partrick McCabe and Allan Jerrett, “How to Overcome Diameter Signaling Challenges in an Evolving Network ,”research firm Infonetics (News - Alert) has even reported that signaling storms can lead to network outages.
As the authors explain, one approach to dealing with increased diameter signaling is leveraging diameter routing agents (DRAs) on the communication service provider (CSP (News - Alert)) level. DRAs provide relay, proxy, redirect and translation of diameter signaling, bringing signaling storms under control.
DRAs bring several benefits for CSPs by allowing them to simplify the diameter mesh, mediate between control elements, precisely define the control behavior, and create a secure roaming infrastructure.
Simplifying the diameter topology is one of the most important functions of a DRA. Every diameter element in the network connects to another diameter element in a peer-to-peer relationship, according to the TechZine article. This creates a complicated mesh structure as more elements are added to the network, but inserting DRAs into the network allows CSPs to collapse parts of this complicated mesh into a hierarchical hub-and-spoke topology.
The deployment approach is different depending on the size of the network, however.
- For small networks that do not have a large geographic span, the DRA can be collocated and serve as a diameter hub.
- For medium-sized networks, however, a dedicated, centralized DRA function within a given geography or packet core cluster often is the right setup. “With this approach, multiple elements can use the centralized DRA with no further topological design considerations,” noted the authors. “In this case, each centralized regional DRA communicates with centralized national IMS resources and with centralized billing and charging resources.”
- In the case of large networks, a DRA for each packet core usually makes sense.
The article does note that “because large-scale networks typically cover a large geographic area, it’s also very important that the DRA supports session binding to ensure that related applications and devices are served from like elements. This streamlined routing of diameter messages simplifies operations and improves performance.”
When looking into selecting a DRA, the article also details why providers should pay attention to scalability, flexibility and ease of use.
“Operators must have a solution in place that is suitably easy to use, flexible, and scalable to accommodate a demanding and dynamic environment where networks are growing rapidly and requirements are changing all the time,” it noted.
The facts are that while the data storm arising from the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and all of those apps they use gets the headlines, there is an equally important data storm on the signaling front that does not get as much attention but is as if not more important for assuring compelling customer experiences. Diameter signaling the medium for handling all of that growing signaling congestion, attention should and must be paid.
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Edited by Peter Bernstein