If You Can Scale Small Cells Inside, then Service IT: Small Cell Services at the Enterprise Edge

October 9, 2014

At the heart of SpiderCloud’s scalable 3G/4G small cell system is the Service Node (SCSN).

This is a “local” control point for the small cell network deployed inside the enterprise over existing Ethernet. It’s also where the enterprise edge meets the mobile operators edge network. SpiderCloud’s small-cell system can provide cellular capacity and coverage to over 1.5 million sq.ft. of space and support over 10,000 voice and data subscribers.

Now why does that matter you may say? Beyond coverage and capacity, after credibility has been established with the IT department that mobile services work reliably inside the building, the Services Node is a strategic point of entry into the enterprise IT environment for mobile operators and business partners to service IT, and a potential great revenue opportunity.

A local control point is essential for Local IP Access (LIPA), also known as local switching and local breakout. LIPA enables content caching, access to content-based and localized services. The Services Node offers a platform to host Virtual Network Functions (from any source) at the edge of the network.   As shown in the figure below, the SCSN supports up to three modules: two Access Modules (AM) and a Services Module (SM).

The access module supports radio access technologies such as UMTS and LTE. The services module is designed to support third-party VNFs and is powered by an Intel Xeon processor. The module offers a Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) environment that enables hosting of multiple concurrent virtual appliances across different operating systems (Guest OS) and programming languages.  SpiderCloud has been working with 3rd party ISVs, to bring to market VNF’s associated with security, content filtering and content delivery. See more in Senza Fili’s recent report (“NFV lands in enterprise small cells”).

With the services module, mobile operators can host VNF’s at the edge. Recently, the new incoming chairman of the Small Cell Forum, Dr. Alan Law, pointed out the importance of small cell services, virtualization and leveraging processing power at the edge of the network in an interview with @Lightreading.

As an example, if you take SpiderCloud Wireless, for instance, and what they have with their services node, they have in essence a platform there potentially capable of running applications at the edge of the network already. In essence, you could start to exploit NFV in certain areas relatively quickly.”

SpiderCloud’s powerful services platform enables migration of content delivery and core network functions at the edge. Also, the Services Node becomes a single point of inspection for all mobile traffic coming into or leaving an enterprise or venue, enabling intelligent data filtering and caching applications. In addition, SpiderCloud’s 3G/4G Services Node offers location and presence detection capabilities that enable context aware VNF’s, or Network as a Service (NaaS) opportunities. Dr. Alan Law goes on to say:

As a mobile device moves, it reports measurements to and from networks. Having to pull all those measurements back takes a lot of bandwidth. So if you wanted a location function, you would push that location function to the edge of the network to process all those functions being reported, so you get the best granularity of the data, but without the burden of having to port those features deeper into the network.”

The Services Node provides a trusted connection to the Radio Nodes and a logical view into all devices on the network to enable secure services to any mobile device on the network. The SCSN enables mobile operator managed cloud and application services, such as MDM, BYOD, location and context-aware, security, and IP-PBX services. The Intel Quad-Core Xeon Processor is the basis for the services module, which enables us to host virtual machines on the Services Node.

With Intel, SpiderCloud has established several services partners to showcase how managed services for enterprise customers are enabled via the existing small cell system.

  • Security threat detection with virtualized Network Security Platform (NSP) to identify and prevent network security threats at the edge of the mobile network, before such threats can reach the core network, by blocking malicious packets sent by a mobile device.
  • Location and detection. Using a virtual machine hosted on the Services Node, IBM can demonstrate handset-to-location video and advertising “push” services for use at venues and shopping malls.
  • Caching at the Edge (stadiums). Saguna can show backhaul savings and user experience benefits of a centralized content cache on the Services Node as part of a scalable small cell system for large campus, venues and shopping malls.
  • Context Aware Applications and Location Based Services. SpiderCloud, HP and Vodafone UK won a Small Cell Forum award in June 2014 for innovative work in this area.
  • PBX Integration: Tango Networks (enterprise). Druid Software PBX for Hospitals.


You can read more about the progress of small cell services for the enterprise in one of these recent RCR Wireless articles:

Keep in mind, by fixing in-building mobility with a scalable small cell system capable of also offering managed mobility services, the blurring of the lines between the enterprise and service provider networks will extend the “edge” of the mobile network from the operator’s core into the enterprise premise – thus opening the door for IOT, LBS, NFV and UC services on ONE common platform.

A 2013 research study by Exact Ventures outlined a $100 billion emerging market opportunity for mobile operators in providing mobility services for enterprise customers. The research showed that enterprise customers could save 35% a year by adopting such operator-delivered managed and hosted services. This report and estimate would be wayyyy off. It could indeed be way more.

Meet with SpiderCloud to discuss small cells and services at one of these upcoming events.  Our next presentation is at Small Cells MENA in Dubai October 27-28, followed by Small Cell Deployment & HetNet in Atlanta on November 4-7.

Ronny Haraldsvik

Twitter: haraldsvik

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