RtBrick has recently announced the availability of its Broadband Network Gateway (BNG) software. RtBrick’s BNG is the first use-case for its FullStack routing software, which runs on merchant-silicon hardware, transforming it into carrier IP/MPLS infrastructure.
Richard Brandon, VP of Marketing at RtBrick talks us through their new software for disaggregated networks.
1. Tell us about your network architecture, what are the main features?
Unlike traditional network equipment, our architecture uses a ‘disaggregated’ system, which in simple terms means, our network software is independent from its underlying hardware. For many years the only way to deliver the levels of throughput required by the Internet was to build monolithic routing systems using custom silicon and optimize the software around it. But our architecture uses a ‘cloud-native’ approach, with software running on off-the-shelf low-cost hardware.
2. What are the benefits of the Broadband Network Gateway?
Because our BNG (Broadband Network Gateway) can run on off-the-shelf hardware, per port costs are a fraction of those of traditional systems. A choice of software suppliers will make it faster for operators to deliver new features and services. And open standards and Web2.0 tools make the whole system easier to automate and to operate at larger scale without increasing staff.
3. Tell us about the switch from traditional broadband networking to Cloud Networks.
Any hardware changes?
The shift toward a cloud-native approach is probably the biggest change we’ve seen in carrier networks since the arrival of the Internet. In terms of the hardware, this is due to adoption of merchant silicon. Silicon vendors now have the equivalent capabilities on their high-volume, low-cost networking chips that the traditional system vendors use on the line cards in their systems.
This merchant silicon is being used to build a new category of powerful low-cost ‘bare-metal’ switches, often constructed on the same outsourced assembly lines that manufacture the traditional vendors’ router systems.
Do customers need to shift anything in their usage of services?
For end-users, the change in service infrastructure should be transparent – other than new services that are developed faster and cost less.
And how can companies make the switch seamless?
There are many benefits of a cloud-native approach, but they will require the adoption of new skills and Web 2.0 tools. Most of the carriers we speak to are already committed to this journey.
4. Can you see telcos releasing services and software similar to Facebook, Google and Netflix in the future?
Telcos will have the flexibility to deliver whatever services they like, whether that’s video or cloud services, but the biggest similarities between the telcos and the cloud-natives will be the way they deliver them. For example, they can drop a new service onto their platforms with relative ease – like adding Facebook Chat for 2 billion existing users. These are things that have seemed unattainable in the telco space – until now, that is. The telcos have seen how the giant ‘cloud-natives’ have found new ways to operate their businesses and now they can emulate them.
We need to distinguish between ‘the cloud’ and a ‘cloud-native’ approach. The cloud implies shared resources, which can have privacy challenges. A ‘cloud-native’ approach can still use dedicated infrastructure for a single operator, which in turn provides services for many private subscribers. There are also essential legal requirements that need to be provided across their subscriber services, such as providing Lawful Intercept for intelligence agencies.
6. Tell us more about the modularity of the system. Would the modules interact seamlessly from one protocol to another, and how can that help telecom companies?
We’ve taken an approach to our software that is native to cloud IT environments, with each use-case getting its own unique code-version, built from discrete blocks and delivered as a software container running on a Linux operating system. The code isn’t bloated with features that aren’t needed. This also allows us to upgrade or add each feature independently, in sub-milliseconds, with no service disruption. And you can test individual microservices in isolation, rather than having to test the whole system as a ‘black box’.
7. Can a telco switch to cloud 100%? Are there any drawbacks or pain points in doing so?
A greenfield telco could certainly apply a cloud-native approach to its entire operation, but in practice, most operators have to consider their legacy service portfolio. The nature of the legacy systems is that they ended up having to support a superset of all possible features, even though many are rarely, or never, used by each carrier. This makes them expensive to build and operate. We’d suggest this switch as an opportunity to rationalize legacy portfolios and focus the benefits of the cloud approach on the services which generate the bulk of the traffic.
8. What are some service potentials that telcos can tap into with this technology?
The vast majority of traffic – and cost – in most telco networks is driven from large volumes of high-speed but relatively simple services. For many carriers, the place to start is their consumer broadband services, which generate the bulk of the traffic, but the same approach can be applied to their enterprise and wholesale service portfolios.
9. The software comes with ‘single-pane-of-glass’ Web2.0 Management System, including a zero-touch-provisioning system. Can you tell us about the advantages of these systems?
They eliminate human error through automation, reduce operating costs and save you re-inventing the wheel – as many powerful tools have already been developed. Simply power-on your bare metal switches and they will self-register, download the correct software image, discover their topology and all microservices self-start. You can glue this into your existing OSS using REST and RPC interfaces, such as gNMI (Google Network Management Interface).
10. What does it mean for telcos to be able to operate on web-scale?
Rather than try to build an unattainable flawless system, a web-scale approach focuses on self-healing systems. Our composable code and single state database makes it easier to contain risk. For example, we can isolate different routing universes (such as public and enterprise networks), watchdogs can detect issues and redeploy software if needed, and it’s inherently simpler to control.
11. What are the implications of using merchant-silicon hardware?
Taking advantage of merchant silicon in bare-metal switches, and disaggregating the hardware from the software, brings some huge benefits to carriers:
- Lower cost hardware – per port costs are a fraction of traditional vendors’ systems
- You can swap and change software without throwing away or even upgrading the hardware
- You break the hardwiring between platforms and services, enabling easier re-use of common hardware across any service
12. Can you tell us about the IoT implications of this merging of hardware and software?
The explosion of IoT devices means even more traffic generated and even more distributed networks. For a telco, this means more cost. It seems unlikely telcos will be able to match this with an equivalent increase in revenue, so they must find a way to deliver more broadband capacity at a lower unit cost. Disaggregating the software and hardware will cut their network costs by at least half.
13. What else could be achieved with the scalability and agility of the systems?
Network disaggregation has only been possible because of the advances in performance of standard merchant silicon, which will increase even more over time. In addition, the same architectures that scale-out the huge cloud-native data centers can also be applied to telco Central Offices, with spine and leaf switching architectures scaling to support huge numbers of subscribers.
14. So far, how are your initial trials going with mobile operators? What are the main challenges you are facing, and how do you plan to overcome them?
Our initial trials are with fixed broadband operators, including some of the largest in the world. This bring challenges of scale, rich service feature sets and robustness. But RtbRick is staffed with some of the world’s best telco engineering experience, and we’re reusing established and hardened telco protocols where it makes sense, like BGP and MPLS routing.
15. What are some of the benefits of moving towards a more cloud-native business?
There are two main advantages: Cost, both purchase cost and operations, and service agility. It is much faster to deploy and test new services and infrastructure than has ever been possible before.
16. What is the significance of being validated on several bare-metal switch platforms?
It gives the customer a new degree of choice, which helps drive down costs even further. They can reuse their hardware across any service, rather than deploy one platform for each service. And they can mix and match the best hardware platform for their use-case with the best software on the market, rather than having to compromise between the two.
17. What are some of the biggest obstacles you are currently facing regarding deployment?
Probably our biggest obstacle is our own ability to cope with the level of activity and interest in the market. We’re already working on some huge projects and we have to prioritize new features accordingly.
18. Are there any risks that operators might face when implementing the Broadband Network Gateway?
It’s important not to simply replicate everything that exists in the existing network and service feature set. Trying to build a ‘superset’ of all features on day-one will be self-defeating. We’d suggest solving ninety per cent of the problem with a cloud-native approach and leaving the niche 10% of services running on existing platforms.
19. How fast can operators deploy your solution, and how fast can they expect to see actual results?
No major telco will do this without a thorough trial, testing and implementation plan. That’s going to take more than a year from start to finish, which is why it’s important to start now. Cost savings are immediate from day-one of going live.
20. What plans are on the horizon for RtBrick?
We have plenty to keep us busy in fixing the access network, which is where we see the major pain point in telco networks today. But we have lots of ideas about how we could apply our technology on other areas of the network in the near future.
Interview with Razan Itani – Monty Mobile
Monty Mobile is launching a Health Check Mobile App, Corona Care, which will rely on the full cooperation of people and their awareness to fill a daily health check questionnaire covering COVID-19 symptoms.
A team of data scientists will build algorithms to analyze the data collected, and the support of medical experts is required to accurately identify and extract stats of COVID-19 symptoms. Monty Mobile is utilizing its experience and resources to cooperate with key mobile operators in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Razan Itani, Solutions Manager at Monty Mobile talks us through their new app, Corona Care, which will be available to download at the end of April.
1.What is the Corona Care App? What is it used for?
First, I want to start by expressing my admiration and respect to the doctors and nurses who are doing their best in fighting against COVID-19. This emergency requires global effort from engineers, scientists, developers and leaders in technology. As Monty Mobile is part of that community, we have developed a new Mobile App as a quick scan and check-up tool for COVID-19 symptoms. Its strength lies in its simple yet advanced features, especially in regard to data analytics, as we aim to collect and study symptom variation based on user profiles and segmentation.
2. What are the main features of the App?
Initially, we will focus on the basic features, it is expected that users on a daily basis will fill questionnaires for symptoms in a chat log. If any critical symptom is identified, we will ask again if symptoms persist and advise them to consult a doctor. The App will calculate the quarantine percentage of users and track accordingly. Moreover, users will have access to the latest WHO releases, as it is the only trusted health information source.
Advanced features related to location tracking and notification for users include those who are in areas of infected people, which will be released at a later phase, with the possibility of integration with Red Cross or Emergency Centers.
3. What kind of personal info are people required to submit?
We do understand that people’s privacy is a priority, but so is our health and saving lives. We will ask users to fill their general profile like Age, Gender, Weight, Location, Medical Stats – key criteria needed to make a diagnosis.
4. Misinformation regarding the virus is one of the biggest issues. Besides stating facts about the virus, can the app help clear the misinformation? If so, how?
Yes correct, in regards to our App, we will only use and share official WHO information.
5. How does Monty Mobile plan on using the technology to further accelerate the advancements in medical tech?
Collecting data from different countries for different profiles needed for analysis, will be a key factor. We have a group of data scientists who will take the lead in profiling, segmenting, and clustering big data, based on different algorithms.
We are then ready to put such data in the hands of doctors, scientists, and researchers; the data is only as accurate as the information provided by our users, which is why users play an essential role in this process.
6. How do you plan on reaching out to as many potential users as possible?
The Corona Care App will be released to App and Play Store. The main target will be to collaborate with Mobile Operators or Governmental Health Institutions who already have mass reach to subscribers and who can easily organize bulk campaigns to promote the App.
7. How is big data going to be used, and how can this help people stay safe?
There are plenty of examples here. China used technology and big data to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence played an important role in developing dashboards and monitoring the spread of the virus to alert people. Since China is fully equipped with face recognition and infrared temperature detection technology, AI companies have claimed that these tools can recognize people even wearing masks, thereby helping to track infected people and identify who they have been in contact with. Smartphone apps are also a tool to keep an eye on people’s movements and determine if they are in contact with an infected person. Smart surveillance cameras have ensured that those who are quarantined, do not step out.
8. How will the data be analyzed in order to serve better findings next time?
It will be valuable to have insights into the evolvement of the symptoms and how it varies according to different profiles. Also, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy challenged researchers to analyze about 29,000 scholarly articles to answer key questions about the Coronavirus. Such data is needed to better understand the origins and transmission of the Coronavirus in order to support efforts in finding a treatment/vaccine.
9. What are the biggest challenges when it comes to implementing the Corona Care App?
We need the user to trust and feel comfortable with the app, as the users are the only source of information for symptoms. COVID-19 is not a taboo and the main aim of the App is to raise awareness and provide support.
10. How do you plan on expanding, after you have launched the app?
Applying quarantine is one way to limit the spread of COVID-19 – it is a crucial measure at this time. But because we are living in an era of technology and social media domination, it is necessary to utilize technological advancements to help fight against COVID-19, in every way possible. Corona Care will be recognized as an achievement at Monty Mobile, but we will continue moving forward in bringing innovative solutions to our global community.
Interview with Peter Clarke – WND UK
1. ) What is Sigfox, how does it operate, and what are some of its benefits? What does it mean to be a 0G network exactly?
Sigfox 0G is a low-power, wide area wireless network created specifically for sensor data communication and sending very small packets of data. Its extremely low power consumption means that sensors can be discreet and run for a long time on batteries. Other benefits include the low cost and simplicity of putting an end-to-end solution in place, the availability of high-capability devices that are becoming ever cheaper to produce, and anti-jamming abilities. These factors make it ideal for large scale Internet of Things (IoT) applications that only need to send small bits of information – such as logistics, utilities, smart cities, direct marketing and more.
2.) What aspects would you credit the success of achieving over 90% population coverage in just 18 months when deploying Sigfox in WND UK?
Our base stations are low-cost, unobtrusive and quick to deploy. As our antennas are roughly the size of a TV antenna, they can be added to buildings with minimum disruption. By offering a small incentive to hosts, we’ve been able to roll out our coverage extremely quickly, and we also have the flexibility to react speedily to customer requirements.
3.) What were some of the challenges and obstacles when implementing Sigfox in the UK?
Our main challenge in implementing Sigfox in the UK wasn’t so much the roll out, as generating awareness of the product. In terms of roll out, we did get off to a slow start, but we had over 1,940 sites up and running after just 18 months. Today we have 90% coverage by population in the UK – and we’re really keen to generate awareness of this availability, as well as the unique advantages of Sigfox. It’s unfortunate that to date there is lots of talk about IoT networking capabilities but no where near enough awareness of this IoT centric network capability.
4.) What measures are you taking to stay ahead of competition like LoRa and LTE-M?
We don’t actually see technologies like LoRa and LTE-M as competitors, more as a separate offering dependent on use case as they are better suited to either high-bandwidth, large-data applications or use cases where customers want to run their own network. For IoT solutions such as connected video cameras, Sigfox technology won’t fit – but for requirements which require simplicity in connected devices to send small packets of sensor data then we are an obvious choice. We plan to continue to improve and increase the density of the network, while bringing more awareness to the market about the broad range of use cases for our network.
5.) How has Sigfox advanced the IoT industry?
Sigfox was the first company to build a global network dedicated to the IoTs, based on low power, long range and small data requirements. This has empowered a whole new range of use cases for IoT – where lots of small pieces of information come together to provide ‘big data’. Examples include supply chain and logistics, smart cities, utilities and energy, agriculture and more.
6.) How does Sigfox transform a linear supply chain into an integrated one?
An integrated supply chain is much more efficient than a linear one – but can take a long time to set up and requires a great deal of trust and co-operation between supply chain members. Sigfox has created a solution that delivers end-to-end visibility of the supply chain journey, real-time tracking of transported goods and retrievable packaging. This allows global businesses to set up an integrated supply chain in weeks, not years. Our integrated solutions have increased customers’ average ETA of supply chain goods by 40%.
7.) What are the benefits of an integrated system and what are the drawbacks?
Business benefits of systems integration include increased productivity, better transparency, cost savings and better efficiency leading to increased customer satisfaction. One downside is security. With systems all talking to each other, there’s increased risk of hacking. With Sigfox, this is not an issue, as information is not transmitted over the internet – it is a one-way transmission from the connected device to the base station.
8.) How does WND maximize return on investments?
We’re continually reaching out to channel partners that have the ability to work with our end customers, to put solutions in place using Sigfox connectivity. This will drive up the number of connections, which will ultimately lead to a good return on investments.
9.) How does Sigfox extract meaningful data, what does it do with this data?
Extracting data isn’t something that we do. Sigfox simply acts as a conduit for the data to go from a sensor device to a customer’s platform for analytical purposes, we provide the transport layer to get it there.
10.) What role does Sigfox play in enabling business transformation Security in data sensor networks?
Security is a significant challenge in IoT due to the open nature of some protocols and the fact that IoT significantly broadens the potential of attack of business intelligence systems. Due to these concerns – and the fact that IoT is intimately linked to business-critical processes – Sigfox made it a major priority to embed security. The Sigfox network is unique in design and is one of the most secure platforms available today. This is because Sigfox connected devices are shielded from the internet by a very strict firewall. While Sigfox-ready devices are IoT objects, they do not connect directly to the internet and do not use internet protocols (TCP, IP). What’s more, they are not permanently connected to the base station, but wake up only when they need to send a message.
The Sigfox protocol is also designed to ensure the security of data in motion. Each Sigfox ready device has its own symmetrical authentication key. Even if one device is compromised, the rest of the network is not impacted. We can also offer customers message encryption as part of their solution.
11.) What are some applications of low-power wide-area networks used for besides smart watches and house appliances? How can consumers and businesses benefit from this technology?
Low-power wide-area networks open up a whole new range of applications that leverage the power of connecting large numbers of devices and enabling them to transmit small bits of information. Consumer applications include connected smoke alarms that can send an alert to your smartphone when they detect an issue and fall detectors that can trigger an alert if the wearer falls or pushes a panic button. For businesses the range of applications is huge. In agriculture, for example, Sigfox can enable farmers to track herds, monitor weather and soil conditions, check silo and tank levels and more. Perhaps the largest sector we are seeing though is asset management and recovery for logistical and supply chain businesses. There are also applications for, direct marketing, manufacturing, utilities and smart cities – just to name a few.
12.) From a business lens, what do consumers want? Both personal and business wise, what are the new products that are hitting the market?
There are new IoT solutions hitting the market all the time. One of the most unique use cases we’ve seen was a campaign conducted by Ebi, taking direct response marketing to a new level. They sent a mail pack to prospects allowing them to book a test drive simply by pressing the ‘start’ button. Consumer applications range from baggage and pet trackers to connected security systems and fire alarms. Commercial applications are as diverse as the range of businesses out there. For example, retail customers are using smart buttons to get a live picture of customer satisfaction, while farmers are using smart gates to deter stock thieves – the list is endless.
13.) What would it take for developing countries to catch up to the IoT explosion and utilize the emerging technologies?
One of the great advantages of the Sigfox network is how quick and affordable it can be to roll out. More are devices coming to market, prices are dropping, and platforms for data analysis are readily available for the Sigfox ecosystem – so it’s ideal for countries that want to access the benefits of IoT but do not have a well-established communication infrastructure. One of the original use cases for Sigfox Foundation was to help protect rhinos in Africa and ensure the safety of researchers in Antarctica.
14.) Where do you see the IoT market heading in the near and far future?
We are seeing a lot of maturity in the market that we didn’t see a few years ago. People are not looking at the technology but at the business applications. They want to know what they can do with it. Now that the market is beginning to settle and the different technologies are finding their places, more major companies will start to adopt IoT technology as part of their digital transformation planning. This will bring even more maturity in terms of a growing ecosystem making the future look bright for the Sigfox network and WND.
Mountasser Hachem – He Who Dares Wins
Inside Telecom introduced the new Mobile Virtual Banking (MVB) application from Monty Mobile.
Inside Telecom introduced the new Mobile Virtual Banking (MVB) application from Monty Mobile. Monty mobile is working hard alongside operators on a global scale to develop the world of mobile banking; improving and revolutionizing online banking systems and bringing FinTech to the world’s unbanked.
As a result of his focus and passion for innovation, CEO of Monty Mobile, Mountasser Hachem is featured in Entrepreneur Magazine’s, ‘The Most Daring CEOs of 2019’. Mountasser is dedicated to the evolution of the telecoms sector and encourages a positive work environment and culture of shared decision-making. Inside Telecom looks forward to more updates from the Monty Mobile CEO in the near future.
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