Ixia adds Diameter capability as part of platform play

Diameter assurance part of Ixia's aim to manage growing monitoring and assurance requirements.

Ixia has collaborated with Developing Solutions to add high-performance testing of Diameter signaling to its IxLoad solution.
Diameter is a set of signalling protocols used for policy, charging and subscriber management. Ixia wants to develop its ixLoad solution to be able to deliver actionable insight into this LTE signalling traffic.

The company said that mobile operators face a major challenge in coping with surging traffic that can overwhelm infrastructures, which causes network outages and critical billing issues. Since these failures most often occur at high scale or under extreme conditions, Ixia said that operators must be able to proactively assess and validate the performance, resilience and scalability of LTE network cores, policy and charging systems prior to live deployment.

It added that IxLoad delivers insight and visibility into network behaviour; device performance; and the scalability of subscriber, billing and policy management systems using both Diameter and non-Diameter protocols on a single test system.

Its press release said:
IxLoad EPC solutions now leverage Developing Solutions’ dsTest to promote high-performance testing of Diameter-based billing and policy systems. Additionally, customers now benefit from Developing Solutions’ SmartAVP technology, which allows flexible testing of mandatory and custom Attribute Value Pairs, and SmartEvents, which enables rapid custom testing of specific implementations and triggers.
IxLoad with dsTest features extensive Diameter interface support including multiple interfaces such as S6a, S6d, Gx, Ro/Gy, Rf/Gz, S6b, Rx, Sh, Cx and Sy.

The development is an illustration of Ixia’s mission is to become a provider of an “intelligent access layer” that enables operators to monitor and optimise their networks, and the applications and services that run over them.

CEO Victor Alston told The Mobile Network that the company is moving from being a provider of test solutions, into assessment and then into monitoring and assurance. Ixia said that its platform approach will allow operators to scale their probe-based monitoring systems by providing actionable data into those systems.

“We spent 10 years focussing on helping customers build networks out, with equipment manufacturers being 70-75% of the business, helping them with their product development life cycle.

“In the last few years we have started to expand the offering. The rationale was that we built great products for testing technologies – take LTE as an example, in the process of building that we also built a lot of IP that can be leveraged after the deployment of LTE as well. So the idea was to start to move the business from test, into assessment and finally into monitoring and optimisation.”

“So in moving into assessment we help mostly carriers, and also enterprises, make sure technologies are deployed properly, and help them make sure services are running with good with QoS, are running properly.

“The acquisitions we did recently are about expanding us on this curve of test, assessment, monitoring and optimisation. BreakingPoint gives us a security assessment platform, as we build any new technology we can assess that technology, for WiFi, high frequency trading, storage, call centre and for VoLTE and security. That’s relevant for carriers buying our test solutions but also very useful for NEPS to make sure they are providing products properly for those carriers.”

“The Anue acquisition gave us a beachhead into the monitoring and optimisation space. Anue looks at all the traffic in your network and is able to figure out the needle in the haystack so you can figure out what the problems are, how you are dropping packets, and when a call drops what causes it. The operator can then leverage those analytics in order to make decisions and predict behaviour and change how it is operating.”

Alston said that product launches such as the IxLoad/ Developing Solutions partnership, would support this goal of helping operators predict and react to behaviour in the network, and assure their monetisation architecture. One recent launch was a GTP Session Load Balancing capability, which Alston said was “important and relevant”.

“Inside a production network there are millions of packets going by. If someone wants to figure out why a particular call is being dropped or a set of calls are being dropped, they can leverage this technology. We sift through all the packets, reconstruct a GTP session, which is the building block of 4G, then give that to probes and other analytics tools to figure out why those calls are dropped. That’s not just at the packet level but at session and also at the application level, which gives our product a lot more meaning to these carriers.

Traffix with F5 is another example of that. In mobile networks there are a variety of Diameter based protocols driving authentication and billing – the monetisation infrastructure of the mobile operators. So now that you’ve put all this infrastructure out there, what are the gateways in place to ensure that monetisation? So you might hear about location, video and voice services. These all patch into the VoLTE fabric, leveraging Diameter based infrastrucure from the likes of F5 and Tekelec. We can make sure the vendors are building those products properly, but also help operators to assess and monitor the roll out of those Diameter based solutions so they can assure their monetisation architecture.”

The value we bring to the operators is to provide an access infrastructure to help optimise the networks

For Alston, the speed of growth of traffic and bandwidth in the network is creating a gap between the network and the PC and server-based systems operators use to monitor it.

“The network is growing at very high speeds, and that’s happening very fast, however these tools run on PC architecture and they scale at Moore’s law. There’s a fundamental gap and that gap is speed: we bridge that gap. Carriers leverage us as a gateway into the monitoring system. We see every packet that goes to the network, every 4G call that you make, and we are able to go through those calls and figure out the packets you want to send to the probe.”

Alston said that rather than sell packages aimed at certain services or applications on the network, Ixia sells a platform that allows the operators to scale their assurance architecture as they grow, or add services.

“We sell the platform and you can use it however you want: for Diameter, for GPT, for video, you buy the platform based on the bandwidth that platform can support and the feature set it can support. We think there’s value in that platform play because what we are trying to get people to do is put in an access infrastructure. We don’t want to say just buy it for this or that, we say buy it for the fact that in the future you will add probes and you will need to slice and dice and look at this data in new ways. Over time that will give you more and more intelligent access to higher and higher things such as applications – moving up the stack as well.

“The value we bring to the operators is to provide an access infrastructure to help optimise the networks. That’s our story – about building an intelligent access layer for that monitoring and optimisation.”

Ixia is not the only company targeting Diameter assurance. Tektronix Communications included Diameter validation as one of the solutions within the Network dimension of its four-prong TIP strategy. The company has added Diameter protocol analysis capability to its Iris Session Analyzer and Traffic Analyzer products.