What the heck is MEC?

October 13, 2015

cowboyFor those who have been following our posts for the last few years, we have been discussing three emergent trends:

  1. The blurring of the lines between mobile operator and enterprise infrastructure.
  2. The reversal of common IT platform services spend from 80% capex/20% opex to 20% capex/80% opex.
  3. The innovation opportunity created by mobility and the immense untapped capability of mobile operating systems to transform business.

Each trend is discussed in the context of computing needs in the cloud services offerings and, in the near future, edge processing inside the enterprise. The use of edge processing has been slow to emerge due to a lack of standards and the need to accumulate enough interest to catalyze the mobile operator market.

In the last year, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute “ETSI” kicked off an initiative to more fully develop Mobile Edge Computing “MEC” (pronounced MECk) and create a common technical landscape. This will allow the Independent Software Developer “ISV” community to more easily develop packages that are portable to any RAN vendor’s MEC hardware platform. You can learn more here. This is exciting to us as it’s a further proof point that the journey that SpiderCloud has been on to create an awesome customer experience along with critical services has been embraced by mobile operators and their key suppliers.

SpiderCloud spoke at the first MEC Congress, in London on 29-30 Sept 2015, about our early prototypes and experiences with our E-RAN in learning about the market and technology potential in the past five years. While many of the present considerations around MEC are focused on foundations for 5G services, SpiderCloud has been showing enterprise-focused services targeted at increasing revenue directly, or as feeder service that must be performed locally.

A few examples could be helpful to illustrate them:

  • Increasing revenue: Unified Communications tying the native interfaces on a mobile device to the enterprise’s infrastructure have drawn interest from enterprises that wish to integrate and simplify the lives of their business customers who are highly mobile. This reduces the need to build “enterprise OTT”, and simplifies day-to-day usage.
  • Feeder Service: Location Based Services raw events are capable of generating a very large stream and can impact backhaul if it’s sent in raw form to a cloud service. We collaborated withVodafone and HP to build an on-board x86 Services Blade and App for the E-RAN’s Services Node. The process of events stream into UE locations could easily be handed to an external application using the context of UE locations to make better decisions within an equipped facility. The edge service was necessary due to both time critical events, and the sheer volume.

The E-RAN’s ability to conduct many of these early prototypes is directly related to the Services Node aggregating the cloud of radios in the building. All mobility events are “in front” of the x86 Services Blade such that mobility event handling and context switching don’t need to be incorporated into the macro-network. Further, the cost of x86 processing capacity is amortized across all the Radio Nodes in the building. This makes the business case work. If every small cell needed an onboard processor, edge computing could easily be cost prohibitive for most applications.

And, finally, 451 Research’s Ken Rehbehn moderated a webinar on MEC development with Intel’s Caroline Chan, McAfee’s Dan Frey, and SpiderCloud on 8 Oct that is available for replay here. It explored MEC concepts, SpiderCloud’s early edge cloud experiences, a deep dive into operating the McAfee NG-FW as an enterprise service, and a number of audience questions about MEC.

So, we welcome ETSI MEC as yet another proof point that the trail we are blazing with our early mobile operators in both R&D and deployment is going in the correct direction. As MEC applications hosting and use cases develop, we suggest that Product Managers in mobile operators pay attention to the indoor applications market as it’s very unique and potentially far more profitable, relative to MEC in the macro-cellular.

– Art King, SpiderCloud Wireless, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies

Twitter: @EMobilityInside
Visit our Enterprise IT site @ http://SpiderCloud.com/EInsider


Challenges Confronting Enterprise CIOs and Mobility Leaders in Moving Enterprises from Wireless to Mobile Productivity

September 19, 2013

The goal of CIO’s and enterprise architects is to unwire their organizations and make them more productive by any means necessary – by focusing on the core business of the enterprise. Rather than making IT bigger, the CIO’s focus is to make the business more agile and flexible, doing more with less. The use of mobility, cloud, applications and managed services help them achieve the enterprise goals.

The communications technology of yesterday (that is embodied in fixed devices, e.g. desk phone and laptop software, e.g. UC clients) must be moved to the employee’s mobile devices. The point of failure within most mobile initiatives, at present, is the lack of respect for the need of mobile device owners to have a “magic” user experience (no App to install, do nothing new, no change in user behavior). The differences between a consumer and enterprise behavior, and requirements are significant.

Normal consumer behavior is to cost optimize as much as possible with a goal of a free service (such as Skype), and defer certain broadband behavior or actions (use of free Wi-Fi hotspots to offset impact on plans). And finally, unpredictable quality is acceptable.

Enterprise behavior, though influenced by consumer demand for ease-of-use, focuses on cost optimization. All actions are urgent, and/or immediate, and quality must be consistent, good, highly predictable and repeatable. IT also likes to keep things simple (devices, applications and services). If not, new cost-reducing or productivity initiatives will not be used or adopted. Most importantly, IT’s focus is to make access as secure as possible, and empower employees with high quality mobile services that work, with no limitations, wherever people are.

Sounds easy, right?

Deploying new tools, and getting their usage ingrained into an organization is one of the hardest tasks in enterprise IT. If the OTT tool replicates a consumer grade communication feature of the mobile device, and is not a mandatory part of daily workflow in the person’s role, chances of success are low.

There may be ‘islands’ of OTT, but moving everyone onto one platform is extremely hard. The right philosophy to enterprise services, in context of Unified Communication, is that the experience should become a “Clientless UC” experience where the consumer experience of “just make it work” is integrated to the enterprise platform. By taking this path, enterprise IT significantly reduces its OTT support burdens, and greatly increases the chance of success vs. the present UC strategies. Many enterprise device owners will continue to be very resistant to adopting multiple tools. Enterprise IT, when presented with service packages that allow the consumer interfaces to accomplish functions that OTT solves for, will approve those packages instead of using Capex funding to build and run the OTT services themselves.

The Pre-Requisite: Dependable Coverage and Capacity

Nothing halts a mobile initiative decision faster than lack of reliable coverage or capacity. Mobile operators who are trying to sell advanced services layered on top of the macro-network know this problem well. Office buildings that have known significant coverage/capacity problems can be excluded from evolving, because of the steep operations expenses associated with systems engineering and provisioning. Why? Enterprise IT has to make simple decisions on technology that must be good for all employees within the enterprise. On average, an IT team moves 40% of employees annually. If a group of employees were unwired, and then moved to a location with poor coverage/capacity, not only would they be unhappy, but they would also have to be re-provisioned with wired services. The operations expense with normal technology moves is far lower than unwiring/wiring. A practical IT person will defer unwiring their organization until dependable coverage and capacity is available. As new energy efficient buildings and remodeling gradually eliminate the ability of the macro-network to penetrate with reliable signals indoors, providing coverage and capacity from the inside-out is becoming a big problem for mobile operators.

To succeed in the enterprise, we need to mirror the consumer mobile experience with enterprise devices and applications.

Earlier this week, Vodafone did exactly that. Vodafone is the world’s first mobile operator to offer a system that can deliver reliable mobile services indoors, for enterprise customers of any size, using a highly scalable system.

“We can now, more rapidly than ever, address the needs of thousands of enterprise customers who rely on mobile connectivity and services for business productivity” – Marcel van den Biggelaar, Head of Technology Strategy, Vodafone Netherlands.

Vodafone Netherlands is empowering enterprise CIO and IT teams with a mobile experience without the need to change user behavior, or take a crash-course in becoming a mobile operator overnight (placing themselves in harm’s way for IT trouble tickets).

Why is this important? 50% of enterprises would churn to an operator that could provide better in-building mobile coverage.

So, who else will take the bold step to fix the problem with mobility inside? Industry insiders are speculating “SpiderCloud expects to also announce US and South American customers between now and Mobile World Congress.” If you are a CIO or IT team leader for mobility, we know what you are hoping for. By the way, we can be of help, and visit our Enterprise Insider for insights.

So who else can do what we do? Very few, fewer than you’d think. See Maravedis/Rethink Wireless “Small Cells Inside the Enterprise: The Who What  & Where”.

Next, we will cover more problem areas in enterprise as we transition from a wireless to a mobile enterprise, and the mobile operator data center opportunity.

Stay tuned; mobility inside is coming your way.

Ronny Haraldsvik, SVP/CMO 
Twitter: @haraldsvik
Art King, Director of Enterprise Services & Technologies
 Twitter: @EMobilityInside



Can a Small Cell System Handle All Enterprise Voice and Broadband Needs?

June 3, 2013

We think this is possible. We have been collecting 18-months of system performance data from the network deployments, and the data shows a 99.5% reliability. Performance metrics are collected by our SpiderNet system, a centralized configuration, fault, and performance management system that allows our customers to rapidly provision, deploy and monitor E-RAN deployments. Keep in mind two key metrics (KPI) for how macro cellular and Small Cell networks are measured by mobile operators:

  • Voice call set-up success rate (CCSR) must be at 98% or better
  • Voice call drop rate (CDR) to be less than 0.8%

The average performance data for voice call set-up success rate, voice and data sessions and handoffs events, were collected from scalable network deployments ranging from 7 to 65 radio nodes and supporting 500 to 3,000 people, each powered by one Services Node.

SpiderCloud’s E-RAN networks, with soft handoff, today show average voice call set-up success rates of 99.5% and an average call drop rate less than 0.8%, where the best network deployment shows a call setup success rate of 99.8% and call drop rates below 0.4%.

Each deployment handles thousands of voice calls every day, ranging from 300 in enterprises where mobile devices complement desk phones to over 3,100 in enterprises where only mobile devices are used, and the Small Cell system handles all broadband communications needs. Each of the networks manage hundreds of thousands of data and handoff sessions every day, with the largest deployment experiencing over 500,000 daily sessions.

With these performance metrics, we have shown scalable Small Cell systems installed to support small to large enterprises, can indeed handle all of the voice and data needs of an enterprise.

In comparison, individual or “mesh” Small Cells using hard-handoff, experience voice call drop rates upward or 5% or more. Why is that?

Dense indoor networks present several challenging technology obstacles. Experience shows the indoor Radio Frequency (RF) environment becomes increasingly complex and challenging as the density of the deployment increases. This is particularly true in multi-story buildings where mobile devices experience a three-dimensional (3D) RF environment. A single handset is able to see a very large number of Small Cells, some on its own floor and others from floors above and below it in buildings with open atriums and in campus areas. A device may experience as many as 3-5 handover events per minute, and the radio signal inside buildings experiences flat fading, which means that even a stationary handset sees signal from individual and uncoordinated small cells fluctuate by 6-8 dB. Without a central coordination point or support for soft handoff, such network deployments will experience an unacceptable call drop rate of 5%.

In brief, different solutions fit in different places. See what I mean in Art King’s recent blog – Small Cells Repeats the Enterprise Evolution Cycle.

So how do you achieve 99.5% reliability?
One Services Node can control up to 100 multi-access 3G/Wi-Fi/LTE Radio Nodes. Our E-RAN system overcomes these obstacles while simplifying the installation process greatly compared to traditional methods. One E-RAN can deliver unprecedented capacity and coverage to over 10,000 connected smartphones and tablets, with just one connection to the mobile operator’s core network. The scalable system architecture simplifies deployment and overall network configuration for mobile operators as they address pent-up demand for reliable mobile services from enterprise and large venue customers.

Can a Small Cell System Handle All Enterprise Voice and Broadband Needs?
If the system can scale and support soft-handoff and SON – You betcha! More importantly, Enterprise customers already show a strong willingness to switch mobile operators for better coverage. The Market Opportunity for mobile operators in US and Europe is $100 billion for enterprise services.

SpiderCloud Wireless will be at the Small Cell World Summit in London this week.

Ronny Haraldsvik SVP/CMO
Twitter: haraldsvik


From Outside-In to Inside-Out

September 3, 2012

Small Networks and Digital Oxygen, Big Enterprise Services Future for Mobile Operators

What a difference a couple of years can make. We’re in the midst of a mobile industry in transformation – the most rapid change we have seen from the RAN equipment and services players since the move to CDMA/WCDMA over a decade ago. With the inclusion of Wi-Fi as part of outdoor macro networks and coffee and retail shops and Femto cells as a useful stand-alone access point for residential and small businesses, “small” is here to stay. Small, as in small cells, which embed 3G, Wi-Fi and LTE access functionalities into a small cell form factor as part of the overall macro network, lovingly referred to as HetNet (Heterogeneous Networks), is growing in importance as Small Cells are in strong consideration as infill networks for dense metropolitan areas where they complement the bigger Macro network. Since Mobile World Congress 2011, Deutsche Bank Securities has called for an answer to the “densification problem.” And we are “getting there” as an industry.

As we look to 2020 and ignore some of the ‘noise’ in between now and then, the pragmatic view is mobile networks will become more capable and agile with the use of Macro and Small Cell networks to better handle capacity requirements from consumers and enterprises. Since we will likely not see a 3GPP ‘5G’ term, we’re talking about a common service network infrastructure where Macro/Micro/Small Cells work in close tandem with intelligent physical and virtual routing of access and services.  In simple terms, vendors will help operators make better use of what they have, to deliver more capacity, when and where it’s needed.

Goldman Sachs expects small cells to drive 18% of RAN investment by 2016. The profound statement here is that the 18% may be able to handle as much as 80% of all the traffic. For proper context, keep in mind that indoor/outdoor multi-mode Wi-Fi/3G/LTE is part of this equation.

Scalable small cell systems are in the early days of making a bigger impact in metropolitan public access markets, and evolving to include all access technologies in various form factors. The next battleground is for sustainable ARPU and the enterprise markets.

Multi-Mode, Multi-Access Small Cells that can Scale to Demands of the Enterprise

Mobile operators want to acquire and retain valuable enterprise customers. For the next few years, ARPU growth for Western and USA operators will come from the medium to large enterprise segments. In many countries, ARPU for enterprise subscribers is twice as much as the ARPU for consumers.  Employees of mid-to-large sized enterprises constitute 15% of subscribers at major mobile operators like Vodafone, and contribute as much as 30% of their revenue. These enterprise customers are not only the most loyal and profitable customers that mobile operators have, but also the most demanding. They expect the mobile operator to deliver seamless wireless coverage in their facilities, to stay ahead of the rapidly growing demand for wireless capacity, and to offer innovative ways to solve business problems.

Often, enterprise subscribers are willing to purchase new services from operators, ranging from international roaming plans to mobile device management. However, to win these customers, mobile operators must provide high-capacity networks where business customers spend more than 80% of their working hours – indoors.

Enterprise small cells have emerged as the most promising technology to deliver high-capacity and 3G coverage inside offices. Analyst firms such as Infonetics, ABI Research, and Informa expect enterprise small cells to be the fastest growing segment of the small cell market. Infonetics Research expects enterprise small cells to grow fastest, contributing to over 50% of small cell investment by 2016. http://tinyurl.com/6ngeo83

ABI predicts small cells for enterprise deployments will catch up with DAS by the 2016 timeframe – reaching the $2 billion mark by 2016. (August 24, 2012: http://tinyurl.com/9o8gktv). The inside enterprise opportunity with a lower cost and more flexible system that can be deployed by-enterprise, by-floor, in days and not 9+ months, also means that operators are making better use of licensed spectrum indoors which have a positive impact on resources used by the outside macro. Our findings show that as many as 90% of medium to large enterprises in a metro area have cellular indoor coverage and capacity problems – which currently cannot be addressed cost effectively by mobile operators.

When properly accessed with a lower cost and scalable small cell solution, the amounts of pockets of un-used licensed spectrum inside metropolitan and campus office buildings in New York, San Francisco, London, Beijing, Singapore, Paris and Barcelona alone…could mirror the importance of discovering and utilizing the world’s largest crude oil deposits in Ghawar (Saudi Arabia) in 1948. Mobility spectrum (licensed) is the digital oxygen, and our industry’s equivalent to crude oil deposits.

But, scalable enterprise small cells cannot fulfill their potential without a deployment architecture that meets the performance expectations of enterprises and the business requirements of mobile operators. Enterprises expect small cell systems to provide seamless voice coverage, LAN-comparable mobile data throughput, and integration with local applications. Mobile operators need a solution that can be rapidly deployed, minimizes operating costs, is easy to manage, and scales – from small offices to huge multi-story buildings.

SpiderCloud’s small cell architecture, called E-RAN (Enterprise Radio Access Network), is designed from the ground up to meet the performance expectations of enterprises and larger venues (V-RAN) and the business requirements of mobile operators.

What makes a scalable small cell RAN different?

  • Seamless voice coverage, with make before break handovers
  • Consistently high data throughput, by managing inter-small cell interference
  • Policy-based integration with Enterprise Intranet and voice applications
  • Rapid deployment, with self organizing and self-optimizing algorithms
  • Enterprise-centered management
  • Lower operating costs through efficient use of backhaul
  • Scalability – from small enterprises to very large

SpiderCloud Wireless E-RAN systems are deployed in commercial networks. With 65 Radio Nodes and one Services Node deployed using SON over 16 floors in one green building in the heart of London, SpiderCloud is proud to lay claim to the world’s largest (consecutive and SON connected Radio Nodes) and most capable in-building small cell network for voice and data services, where the foundation for services is already in place. The world of mobile is indeed turning itself inside out and Digital Oxygen may be as valuable as crude oil by 2020. ?

Stay tuned, as we share more progress and adoption of the SpiderCloud Wireless small cell systems for scalable deployments inside enterprises and large venues.  You can request a meeting with us at any of these upcoming industry events.

You can also follow our progress at twitter spidercloud_inc and haraldsvik.
Twitter

Ronny Haraldsvik
SVP/CMO
SpiderCloud Wireless


SpiderCloud Live With Vodafone

February 24, 2012

At SpiderCloud, we have been very quiet for the last year, but very busy. Keeping our heads down and working closely with Vodafone, we have managed to solve a problem that no one else has managed to solve – building a small-cell network inside a large office building. Our solution is now live with Vodafone.

Many companies have built consumer femtocells and some of them have “enterprise” versions of consumer femtocells that offer higher power and capacity. Still, these enterprise femtocells work as isolated cells. Carefully deployed, an operator can use two or three of them in a building, but no one has managed to build out a building with even five of them working together. One femtocell company has proposed a “femtocells grid” but the grid requires two 5 MHz channels to operate, making it unattractive to any major mobile operator. According to Informa, almost two million femtocells were shipped by the end of 2011, yet hardly any of them is solving the problem of providing coverage and capacity to buildings larger than ten thousand square feet.

SpiderCloud is making small cells work for busy office buildings, with its unique controller-based architecture. Our commercial deployment support

  • Thousands of calls per day with hundreds of thousands of handovers, and <1% call drops
  • Self-organizing dense deployments, in multi-storey buildings with open floor plans
  • Enterprise-friendly installation, with just one IPSec tunnel to mobile operator’s core
  • Single point of provisioning and ongoing, remote, management
  • Integration with the enterprise’s intranet
  • Plus, a comprehensive set of features that makes it possible for mobile devices to select the small cell system when they enter, to handout to GSM/3G networks, get service priority and more…

SpiderCloud’s largest commercial deployment today has almost 60 small cells, covers over 450,000 square feet and supports thousands of commercial users every day. Learn more about our breakthrough technology at www.spidercloud.com, or feel free to contact us.

Amit Jain
VP, Product Management.