Liquid Applications is driven by the launch of the Radio Applications Cloud Server, essentially a product that adds computing power close to or at the network edge, to gain access to and process network information so that applications and content can be tailored and/or optimally delivered to the end user.
RACS has been built in partnership with IBM, whose Websphere Applications Service Platform for Networks (ASPN) is being integrated with NSN’s base stations to deliver the network-aware apps concept tht NSN has termed Liquid Applications.
Adding intelligence to the base station or the network edge can achieve several things: it can act as part of a content delivery network doing things like local caching. It can also act to optimise backhaul requirements by lessening the need to re-deliver popular content or applications over the backhaul link. Additionally, it can allow operators to take advantage of things that the base station “knows”, like radio link quality, user location and local cell conditions, to deliver content or applications optimised to the circumstances of that user.
The aim is to give operators tools to “add value” to the data stream, so that they can make more money from the delivery of applications, by enhancing applications with network level information.
NSN’s approach is to place a “cloud” server near to or at the base station. Its newest Flexi 10 base stations can support a plug-in card. Older units can be supported by adding a thin network server (described as a slice) next to the base station.
Phil Twist, Head of Portfolio Marketing, Nokia Siemens Networks, said, “We have added computing platforms to the edge before. If you look at something we used to call Flexi Direct, that was about taking the RNC taken to pieces and moving it out to the base station so we could build a 3G network without an RNC. This takes that same computing module, adding storage, break-out and access to the radio data.”
Twist said that depending on the applications involved, backhaul demand could be reduced 30-40% by storing content close to the user. Mapping applications, which are often heavy in information, are prime candidates for being optimised and enriched by the addition of cell-level network data, Twist added.
Twist also placed the RACS solution within the vendor’s end-to-end optimisation package, so that it operates together with the operator CDN. “If it makes more sense to do caching in core network it’s there, if we want to change the QoS criteria across the network for real time video, it’s there. So it’s not just a standalone module in the base station, it gives us the ability to assess network parameters as well as react to them. With RACS we’ve got additional tools within the network itself to do that.”
NSN and others can take the operator horse to the water but they cannot make it drink.
KEITH DYER ADDS:
The Mobile Network is only a week old but already one of its early themes – that edge intelligence and intelligent networks will become an increasingly common trope through 2013 as operators seek to find ways to monetise mobile data further and optimise their networks more dynamically – has received validation from Nokia Siemens Networks’s announcement.
Mobile CDNs as a concept have been around for a while, and NSN is far from alone in outlining to operators the possibilities they may hold. There are also companies out there looking at added edge intelligence to do things like reduce backhaul load (remember, NSN said to TMN it thought backhaul load could be reduced 30-40%) or deliver localised services. Intel, for one, has made it a mission to move its processing presence in network platforms from the core to the edge, taking advantage of this model.
Small cell developer Ubiquisys works with Intel on its Smart Cell and EdgeCloud concepts, using partners such as Saguna and Quortus to develop the applications. Altobridge is another company with an edge data strategy, and is integrating its WAN data optimisation capabilities with small cell vendor Argela.
Of course, NSN and others can take the operator horse to the water but they cannot make it drink. Operators still have to come up with compelling propositions for the applications partners and developers that they hope could take advantage of the “cloud-server at the edge” capability.