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Fueled by the rising demand for mobile data, the staggering growth and complexity of today’s 4G core network environments call for greater harmonization of Diameter signaling traffic within and across those networks. The Diameter Signaling Controller has emerged as an centralized signaling framework that can improve core network performance and reliability, and plays an important role in realizing emerging 4G business opportunities, including LTE roaming. This whitepaper discusses the surmounting challenges of Diameter signaling protocol within 4G core network environments, and how the Diameter Signaling Controller addresses these challenges with efficiency.
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reliable 4G data services. high-capacity 4G technologies like LTE. disconnect peer) 1 Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. 2012 Page | 2 . including roaming sessions. 2011 . Diameter is used primarily to exchange vital policy. At the network core. The types of information exchanged in Diameter messages include: → Policy (user authentication. this means an eventual transition to an all-IP network architecture. availability) → Peer State Machine (capabilities exchange. they enable the delivery and control of IP-based services over 4G networks. location) → Network Resources (allocation. This architecture has two fundamental components: the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). Together. charging and subscriber profile information across various core network elements and external networks as well.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK Introduction Mobile data traffic is on a dramatic upswing. growing by an astounding 133% in 2011 and forecasted to grow by another 18-fold within the next five years. service-specific authorization. 1 To contend with this explosive demand for fast. Diameter in the Evolved Packet Core To deliver fast. the EPC and IMS make extensive use of the Diameter signaling protocol. The information exchanged is used to establish and maintain data and IMS sessions. Cisco. service providers are evolving their network infrastructures and rolling out the latest high-speed. QoS) → Charging (credit control) → Subscriber (profile.2016. reliable mobile data services. HSPA+ and WiMAX.
especially as the demand for mobile data grows. and can weigh heavily on the nodes. like session interaction. Another factor . and real-time credit control. Service providers must overcome these Diameter signaling challenges in order to ensure the most reliable.today’s smartphones. so does the amount of signaling traffic required to deliver it. as witnessed recently in a few well-publicized. Within the evolved packet core network. causing signaling traffic on mobile networks to multiply rapidly. HSS and OCS. threaten to derail 4G networks. A centralized signaling infrastructure decouples scalability-related tasks from the functional features of the network elements. large-scale LTE network outages. The Rise in Diameter Signaling Traffic The rise in signaling traffic on 4G networks is a culmination of multiple factors. In addition. and each subscriber is consuming more data than ever. some elements lack or offer only a limited set of scalabilityrelated features. tablets and apps make it possible for end users to consume more mobile data services than ever before. the core network elements that utilize Diameter. including load balancing. As the network grows. With no slowdown in sight. failover. Diameter signaling growth will continue to accelerate as today’s mobile subscribers make the transition from 3G to 4G networks. The unprecedented amount of signaling traffic generated by 4G networks can lead to latency.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK Diameter Challenges & Considerations Undoubtedly. each node is taxed with additional performance and load balancing requirements. Page | 3 . are left to individually handle a number of reliability-related and scalability-related tasks. even as the demand for data rises. service providers must be able to efficiently handle this traffic load to ensure optimal network performance and to maintain a consistent. Yet. Without a centralized signaling infrastructure. such as the PCRF. Its widespread use throughout the core network can generate an unprecedented amount of signaling traffic. and this can further exacerbate performance issues. These challenges. further contributing to the rise in Diameter signaling traffic. This type of architecture offers predicable and consistent scalability capabilities core-wide. signaling overload and network outages if not handled efficiently. throttling and more. carrying important session and subscriber information across network nodes and to external networks. And as mobile data traffic rises. challenges remain in how to handle a large and increasingly complex mass of Diameter signaling traffic. discussed in detail below. today’s smart phones. causing overload and failures during sudden spikes in signaling traffic. Diameter plays an important role in the delivery of 4G data services. profitable 4G networks possible. policy and QoS. These tasks extend beyond the core competencies of the network elements. reliable customer experience. Scalability & Reliability More and more consumer and M2M devices are connecting to mobile broadband networks around the world. What’s more. Diameter is utilized heavily to realize a number of advanced signaling capabilities. and is easier to manage and scale. tablets and apps produce idle signaling chatter between sessions.
And. implement subsets of the protocol. Challenges in Multi-Vendor Core Networks Diameter standards do not define how each network element should handle performance-related tasks such as routing and load balancing. a task as common as a version update to a single network element can introduce a new.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK Interoperability To achieve a robust. high-performing 4G network. although Diameter is well-defined by 3GPP and IETF standards. And while this has long posed interoperability challenges for service providers. These unpredictable changes require a centralized point that can validate messages and fix interoperability issues on the fly. wherein the network nodes have multiple. Alternative options to this scenario have traditionally included vendor lock-in and maintaining inflexible networks that resist enhancements and waste investments. those challenges are especially apparent in Diameter-based networks. or expect peer elements to handle them. Service providers may also require that only subsets of the protocol be available to peering networks. These inconsistencies can cause incompatibility issues and increase the likelihood of network failures and outages. unrecognized or misconfigured attribute or message that can break its interoperability with its interfacing endpoints and impact network performance. Different vendors may interpret standards in different ways. Some vendors offer limited or no support for these functions. and direct touch points with other nodes. or use non-standard or vendor-specific variants and Diameter applications. interoperability issues commonly arise during periods of network changes or updates. service providers must be able to build their network infrastructures with Best of Breeds components and vendors. Beyond initial network testing and configurations. For example. making high availability an even greater challenge in multi-vendor network environments. Page | 4 . These variances require a centralized signaling infrastructure that can efficiently reconcile issues and facilitate rapid interoperability. In multi-vendor network environments. the upgrade or replacement of a single component or vendor can be slowed down by months of interoperability testing and coordination. it is not air tight.
especially as the demand for 4G services grows. MME (S6a) and HSS. In realizing these agreements. including the PCRF (S9). Without a centralized signaling infrastructure.” OA&M Service providers today require real-time. Page | 5 . exacerbated by its astounding volume of signaling messages. can make it difficult and costly to manage. holistic network information to ensure proper network health and to make qualified operational decisions with confidence.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK Security In launching 4G networks. Furthermore. “The challenge of Diameter centers on the question of how to handle a large and increasingly complex mass of Diameter signaling traffic.one that calls for interconnect and roaming agreements that give consumers access to mobile data services anywhere in the world. In order to successfully deliver and capitalize on 4G data services. as discussed above. troubleshooting and network planning. Yet the complexity of a Diameter signaling plane’s mesh architecture. service providers must also take into account the security risks of exposing the core network to external peers at multiple junctions. Security threats that are inherited from peering with untrusted networks can jeopardize the network’s performance and stability. The challenges and considerations of Diameter. able to grow and evolve. the evolving 4G ecosystem will require service providers to forge multiple roaming and interconnect agreements without exposing their networks to security risks. service providers must consider the evolving mobile broadband ecosystem . center on the question of how to handle a large and increasingly complex mass of Diameter signaling traffic. it can be a challenge to efficiently aggregate important signaling information for analysis. service providers must be able to overcome these challenges and to create a 4G EPC network environment that is highly reliable and secure. and easy to manage. especially as the demand for 4G services grows.
The Diameter Signaling Controller (DSC) is an intelligent signaling framework that streamlines all Diameter-based IP signaling communication within and across EPC and IMS environments. service providers have begun to introduce the Diameter Signaling Controller to their 4G networks. interconnect → Reduced complexity and cost of managing & scaling the network Page | 6 . able to grow and evolve. it creates a core network environment that is highly reliable and secure. In doing so. The features and functions of the Diameter Signaling Controller include: → Dedicated load balancing to reduce signaling congestion.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK The Diameter Signaling Controller To address many of the sticking points of Diameter protocol mentioned above. and easy to manage. overload → Improved signaling performance and network reliability → Advanced message handling to ensure flexible and robust routing → Message validation and rewriting to facilitate greater interoperability with low latency & response time → Network topology hiding to enable secure 4G roaming.
ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK Centralized Signaling Infrastructure In this architecture. Advanced message validation and rewriting ensures that nodes are not affected by any misconfigured or malfunctioning network element.” Advanced Message Handling The advanced message handling capabilities of the Diameter Signaling Controller extend well beyond those of a standard Diameter routing agent. This allows the DSC to centralize a number of important performance-related tasks. charging and QoS functions. In addition. and afford a number of advantages. the DSC assists in simplifying core network maintenance by providing a single. the DSC contributes immensely to the overall performance and robustness of the signaling plane. the DSC alleviates the burden on other Diameter nodes already tasked with various session management. protocol analysis and validation. In addition. and it detects erroneous routing loops that can otherwise overwhelm a network endpoint with a flood of repeating. centralized point to perform Diameter signaling monitoring. failed messages. “The Diameter Signaling Controller centralizes a number of important performancerelated tasks to alleviate the burden on other nodes. message handling and failover. This also includes Page | 7 . and reduces the costs and complexity of maintaining it. In doing so. and throttling. such as load balancing. the DSC handles congestion and signaling spikes efficiently to protect against overload and network failures. it performs failover and failback. With dedicated load balancing. In this capacity. all Diameter messages are routed through the DSC instead of by direct association between nodes.
single point of entry for visited networks.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK the normalization of non-standard Diameter variants. such as LTE roaming agreements. even when protocol changes or updates are made. the DSC can efficiently filter out irrelevant or non-required messages and AVPs to further reduce the load on network endpoints and quicken response time. TLS and NoTLS. and transport protocol switching between TCP and SCTP. the DSC makes network expansion simple and limitless. the DSC acts as a secure.” Unbound Network Expansion By providing a centralized signaling infrastructure. allowing service providers to readily grow their network to stay ahead of the demand for mobile data while protecting their investment in the network infrastructure. thus facilitating greater network interoperability without having to meddle in multiple network endpoints. Secure 4G Roaming & Interconnect The Diameter Signaling Controller plays a crucial role in realizing partnerships within the 4G ecosystem. only the DSC needs to be updated with the routing information. based on any message or AVP within the message. “As a border element. This facilitates rapid horizontal scaling. the DSC acts as a secure. single point of entry for visited networks. Page | 8 . In this capacity. including network topology hiding. When deployed at the edge of the core network as a border element. offering security mechanisms. In addition. as well as the subscriber location functions (SLF) needed to realize federated subscriber database architectures. message validation and rewriting. The DSC allows for flexible and accurate message routing. including network topology hiding. When a service provider introduces additional Diameter nodes to meet the needs of its growing network. instead of each point of interconnection within the network. It also ensures consistent addressing for external partners even when topology changes are made within the internal network. it offers a number of security mechanisms. It applies session stickiness needed to realize PCRF binding. as well as with interconnect and OTT partners.
It demonstrates industry-leading levels of performance in message validation and rewriting. unique to Diameter networks. and secure. In addition. The functionality and flexibility of the Alepo DSC is met with astounding simplicity in maintenance. On a single appliance.PCRF. GSMA and IETF. and require an intimate knowledge of Diameter signaling to carry out successfully. Alepo’s DSC is built in compliance with leading industry standards of 3GPP. 3GPP Diameter Routing Agent (DRA) or a GSMA Diameter Edge Agent (DEA).000 Diameter messages per second. Alepo has designed the DSC to be light-weight and nimble where other solutions overload the DSC with extra. making the core network easier to manage. pre-integrated Page | 9 . carrierclass products available on the today’s market. standard Layer 7 switches typically lack support for long-lived sessions. always-on solution. It supports multiple Diameter applications and reference points such as Gx. with low impact on latency and response time. Alepo’s DSC boasts unrivaled speed and performance. Alepo can provide a comprehensive suite of 4G core network products. peripheral tasks. Alepo’s DSC features an intuitive administrative interface that reduces OpEx without sacrificing flexibility. While they do share common functionalities. It reduces network complexity and costs. Alepo’s DSC creates a core network environment that is high performing and reliable. it offers five nines availability to assure service providers of a robust. multi-vendor network environment. A proven. backed by the GSMA. It may be deployed as a standalone element integrated in a highly interoperable. This lends itself to the agility and lightning fast performance of the Alepo DSC. load balancing and message pre-processing.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK A Class Apart: Alepo’s Diameter Signaling Controller Alepo’s Diameter Signaling Controller is one of the most robust. This can be a sticking point for DSCs borne from general routing. S6a and Gy. By focusing on its core mission. having successfully enabled VoLTE roaming scenarios as part of an industry-wide test event. such as routing. AAA . The Diameter Signaling Controller vs. it offers proven interoperability. Flexible Deployment Options Alepo’s DSC offers flexible deployment options to best serve the requirements and needs of different types of service providers. the Layer 7 Switch We often get asked how the Diameter Signaling Controller compares to a standard Layer 7 load balancing switch. endlessly scalable. it can process over 200. OCS. Furthermore. It serves fully as an IETF Diameter Agent.as sa proven. Overall. S9. including Alepo’s DSC and industry-leading policy and charging control (PCC) architecture . Long-lived Diameter peer sessions can last for days or weeks. interoperable solution. Rx. switching or other session border control products.
Alepo is a leading expert in AAA-based signaling infrastructures. With carrier-class AAA solutions in deployment since 1997. This expertise has made Alepo’s 4G deployments around the world a success. Today. operators are assured of Alepo’s proven solutions and 15 years of industry experience. Page | 10 .ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK solution. and has an intimate knowledge of Diameter protocol and the Evolved Packet Core environment. Alepo boasts over 15 years of proven industry experience. In any deployment scenario.
Tailored to each service provider’s unique business needs. The company has partnered with leading manufacturers of telecommunications equipment to ensure improved interoperability and smooth customer experience for users. Alepo’s solutions are built according to the design principles of compliance to standards.com Twitter: @AlepoUSA Facebook: /AlepoUSA LinkedIn: /Company/Alepo Page | 11 .com EMEA Regional Sales Paris. including unified balance management. expand and capitalize on 4G mobile broadband services.sales@alepo.ALEPO WHITE PAPER | MASTER THE 4G DIAMETER CORE NETWORK About Alepo Founded in 1994. Texas +1 (512) 879 1030 sales@alepo. scalability and featurerichness. Alepo provides IT systems and IT consulting services for telecommunications companies. Alepo’s solutions integrate seamlessly with a mobile operator’s existing IN-based infrastructure to allow for convergent services. enabling them to compete efficiently and realize next generation service opportunities.com APAC Regional Sales Mumbai. stability and innovation make Alepo a market-leading vendor of solutions for both greenfield and established service providers. France +33 3 69 61 81 92 emea. India +919820145547 apac.com media@alepo. Alepo is a leading provider of enabling infrastructure for telecommunications service providers. automation.com LATAM Regional Sales Buenos Aires. Alepo’s comprehensive suite of core network solutions enables service providers to successfully implement.alepo. Maturity.sales@alepo. Digicel and Charter Communications as they evolve in the telecommunications marketplace. Contact Alepo Corporate Headquarters & North America Sales Austin. Argentina +54 11 4711 8235 latam. flexibility. Alepo is proud to support innovative market leaders such as France Telecom.email@example.com www. across all legacy and NGN technologies.
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