Big data is becoming explosive data. Data volumes are growing continually and in danger of overwhelming systems, processes and organisations. The advent of 5G, the growth of the IoT and the ubiquity of connectivity will catapult the volume of data into exponential growth over the coming months and years.
How on Earth will telcos manage this massive increase, let alone monetise it?
The simple answer is with network analytics. This provides a more complete and practical answer through agile management of cloud network portfolios, managed with tools that make the complex look simple, resulting in manageable data at scale.
There is also a move to push analytics closer to the source of the data to determine what needs to be kept faster before it is processed, ‘cleaned’ and stored.
Network analytics as a solution to the massive increase in data sounds, frankly, trite. Yet, examples are emerging that prove how useful analytics, combined with machine learning optimised for the cloud, can be in not just ‘managing’ data but producing excellent results for the bottom line.
One telco (others will feel this pain) experienced a massive spike in support calls after we were all forced to work from home in the first surge of the pandemic. Many of those calls were about home networks suffering congestion that all but prevented people from doing their jobs. Frustration levels were high, so the telco diverted a significant percentage of its fibre traffic onto its LTE network. A quick trial proved it worked, the solution was rolled out and calls dropped by over 350%.
This is one example, but it shows that if the pandemic has a silver lining, it is that it has focused telco minds on how to manage the deluge of data that is coming their way. And there is no doubt that 5G, network virtualisation and the IoT will play a huge part in driving that growth in data volumes.
It’s worth mentioning here that power management will also play an increasing role. Advanced wireless networks have variable power supplies, and boosting power boosts their capacity. So understanding how much and where to boost the power is important, too. Power is rapidly becoming a massive issue for telcos in 5G, and as the climate crisis intensifies, pressure will be put on telcos to reduce or optimize their power consumption.
The search for solutions is not straightforward, and managing various clouds in sync with on-premise data lakes and warehouses are all legitimate areas to explore. The challenge is to manage data at scale, from the edge where we first meet the data to the AI where we turn the data into transformational value and do so in a well-governed, secure, and seamless way. Open Source big data tools have paved the way for the next generation of cloud data platforms that address some of these areas.
We have to thank the Open Source community for providing the solutions for some problems and the building blocks for others. It has enabled companies like Cloudera to develop ways of managing data in a hybrid cloud environment, essentially providing one pane of glass to manage multiple, complex environments and data flows.
The real benefits of network analytics do not just lie in networks. Used intelligently (and with a degree of common sense), analytics can be used for fast fraud prevention, analysing customer usage patterns for a better customer experience and, of course, producing significant efficiency improvements in the network itself. Now, of course, even regulation and compliance require companies to know precisely what is happening all the time and to ensure adherence to privacy constraints.
Of course, this sounds rather simplistic, and telcos need to be aware that big or explosive data is what the ‘hyperscalers’ manage best. But with a solution that can manage the hybrid environment required to keep the avalanche of data under control, telcos are in a position to do what they do best.
As Anthony Behan, MD of Communications and Media at Cloudera, puts it, “these dramatic, lurching changes are difficult to manage. Data has never been more important. Network, customer, finance, partner, and operational data all contribute to a comprehensive view of business performance and service delivery that can make the difference between the right strategy at the right time, and a decision that maybe shouldn’t have been made. Managed right, it can revolutionise predictive maintenance and intelligent anomaly detection on the network while supporting pre-emptive customer support and lifetime value optimisation.”
Managing explosive data may not be an impossible mission after all. Indeed, armed with this level of analytics sophistication, telcos can differentiate their offerings, intelligently bundle innovative new services and provide a reactive and agile level of customer service that others can only dream of.
Related article: Volume and value of data increasing exponentially in the Data Age