NetScout to move into Big Data analytics with dual July launch

Operators could enable new raft of services and capabilities in IoT era if they can aggregate, analyse and customise subscriber and network data.

NetScout is making a major move into enabling service provider big data strategies with two solution releases scheduled for July. The aim is to give operators to tools and means to be able to develop services that can underpin and take advantage of the IoT world.

The vendor will release a service called BI (Business Intelligence) for Service providers, along with another release called Custom ASI (Adaptive Service Intelligence).

Jim McNiel, CMO, NetScout, said, “BI for Service providers is the big data technology stack, that allows you to extract, transfer and load [network state] data into any analytics tool.”

“Custom ASI is the data structure that we patented that enables us to manage all this data.”

The two releases will “enable customers to assemble their own interpretation of their data using our tools,” said McNiel.

NetScout sits over a great deal of network data, captured through its probes and network instrumentation products. It has previously used that data to feed Performance Assurance applications.

The Big Data vision it has is to be able to take that data, and combine it with other data such as user, service or application information, to enable operators to do much more with the data. That can include designing more efficient operational processes as well as informing new services for customers and third party partners.

In fact, it’s like a much grander, more outward-facing, implementation of the underlying vision for the Tektronix Communications-Arantech deal of a few years ago. (TekComms/Arantech is, of course, now subsumed within NetScout following NetScout’s acquisition of Danaher’s comms portfolio last year.) TekComms’ original vision for buying Arantech was to be able to use Arantech’s analytical capabilities to turn very techie network operational data into useful business insights.

However, NetScout’s 2016 push into Service Provider big data will see it go much, much further, providing feeds of data into either its own analytical engines, or into operators’ big data platforms or, in fact, both.

It will also offer customisable data monitoring and analytics adaptation, such as its deal with Oracle, announced in October last year. On an earnings call in May, NetScout said the following about its ASI technology: “We are opening ASI to a broad range of non-wired data sources, including server data, synthetic data and Wi-Fi networks, and we are making ASI data available to third-party applications and analytic engines.”

“Telcos are going to have two major value propositions in the connected IoT world. The first is obvious – backhaul [connectivity] to all IoT devices. The second piece is managing that network of devices in the aggregate”

McNiel said that if telco’s customers can be presented with data in more interesting ways, then they can start to extract more value. This includes the finding more relationships in data, as per the Graphic Database model.

“Telcos are going to have two major value propositions in the connected IoT world. The first is obvious – backhaul [connectivity] to all IoT devices. The second piece is managing that network of devices in the aggregate,” McNiel said.

BIG DATA STRUCTURE

McNiel said that operators must be able to provide more contextual services to to the market. Examples he gave included targeted geo-specific marketing (for instance dyanmic billboards that change adverts to target specific users nearby) and presence validation for users of credit cards. 

Can you imagine what would happen if AT&T tried to use Splunk to manage their subscriber data?

Phil Gray, Product Manager at NetScout, said that big data strategies must start with the quality of the data feeding the engines.

“It has to be well-structured, well-understood, it has to be a quality data source. At the heart of what we do is make sure we take disordered and disparate data sets and structure them. In the old world that was for Performance Management and now all those data sets are being offered to all the other apps you can run on top.”

McNiel added, “Can you imagine what would happen if AT&T tried to use Splunk to manage their subscriber data? They’ve have to build another seven super-data centres… That’s why Splunk is not going to work in the service provider space: as people become more dependent on digital info te boil the ocean approach to discover some little nugget of data is not going to work.”

THE VIRTUAL APLIANCE ALLIANCE

As well as expanding from its Performance Assurance beat to a wider brief as a Big Data enabler, NetScout has been on a mission to transform itself into a company aligned with the strategic transformation of networks from hardware-specific appliance to virtualised instances running on COTS hardware.

Again, from its results call in May: “Supporting customers with their virtualisation and cloud-based infrastructure initiatives is just one area where ASI tips the scales in our favour… NetScout ASI technology will play an important role in positioning us to win this technology turn and even potentially accelerate this transition for our customers as we have been able to do multiple times during the last two decades.”

That means that its aim of introducing new data analytics capabilities, and the ability for operators to customise the service intelligence they are offering, is allied to its ability to deploy its instrumentation software in virtualised form.

Gray said, “If you have been in the tools business for any length of time you will know that people want to deploy tools in exactly the same way as the services environment, so virtual appliances and software is the only model that follows the desire customers have to deploy services that way. NFV-SDN are real and our expectation is our tools need to go same way.

“The big change is that we are not just saying we are all-software but that we can offer software live in that service provider environment, allowing our customers to spin up and down resources for instrumentation to grow with traffic load as they want to. We never had a reliance on custom hardware, never made a card with acceleration or anything, so it’s very easy for us to do.”

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