November 1, 1998
Centralized Database Approach Boosts IN Performance and Cost-Efficiency
By Cody Bowman
Service providers have been scanning the telecom horizon for an easier, more efficient
way to deploy advanced intelligent network (IN) capabilities. For the first time in years,
a significant advancement is in sight. A new network architecture has emerged that employs
a centralized, off-board "sub-network" to simplify data management, streamline
operations and broaden the spectrum of IN services. This flexible new IN architecture also
delivers nonintrusive data provisioning, real-time database performance and a seamless
interface to just about any service control point (SCP) network. It’s a smart new
architecture that’s changing the way service providers think about the IN.
The Old School
In traditional INs, the service logic for various applications resides within the SCP,
and the databases for these applications also are located on board each SCP pair.
Subscriber-related data such as calling name subscriptions, line information database
(LIDB) records and toll-free customer information is collected and maintained at national
or regional data centers, from which the data is forwarded to the various SCPs. Queries
for data dips from the provider’s own network and wholesale customer networks are routed
to the SCPs to gain access to end-user data.
But as the demand for data- driven IN capabilities has grown, the limitations of this
decentralized database approach have become increasingly apparent. The challenges of
operating and administering IN databases for multiple SCP or multivendor SCP networks for
large and small networks continue to grow and increase in complexity. As more IN services
are added to the network, the increasing size and unique management characteristics of the
associated databases become difficult to manage in an SCP-resident architecture.
Data synchronization also can be a significant problem in SCP- driven database
architectures, since the dynamics of the network can cause the data "snapshot"
received by one SCP to not precisely match the snapshot used by other SCPs. This can lead
to unpredictable query results even within the same network. SCP-resident database
maintenance is even more difficult in networks that rely on SCP platforms from multiple
Finally, the traditional approach of locating database management activities at the SCP
places a direct burden on a network’s critical and limited call processing resources.
For these compelling reasons, telecom service providers have sought a database solution
to support the advanced IN (AIN) of the future.
A Smarter Architecture
A more effective and flexible database arrangement–one that delivers improved database
management, speed, reliability and precision–is now being evaluated and deployed by
leading service providers. This advanced approach removes the data storage burden from the
various network SCPs by centralizing and elevating service application data and related
management activities to a network element known as a service data point (SDP). While SDP
systems have been in use for some time, only recently have key breakthroughs in more open
software and interconnectivity allowed for such valu-able improvements.
By gathering and managing subscriber data in a core repository within the SDP, service
providers can leverage multiple SCP networks more efficiently to reduce operating costs
and improve overall performance. Because the components of this architecture are modular
at both the unit and network level, it is possible to create network solutions that
provide highly specific throughput and database size results.
As the graphic on page 146 illustrates, a measured investment in a centralized database
can lay a solid and cost-effective foundation for a more productive and valuable IN.
The basic configuration constructs an SDP sub-network consisting of real-time SDPs for
call processing and an offline SDP for database provisioning. The real-time SDPs may be
arranged in either mated pair or N+1 architectures. Data received from national or
regional data centers is "staged" in the provisioning SDP, then forwarded to the
call processing SDPs at user-definable intervals. This allows the real-time SDPs to devote
their entire transaction bandwidth to call processing, while simultaneously removing the
database burden from the network SCPs.
By moving network database activities "inward and upward," this innovative
Dramatically reduces the time and costs of operations and maintenance by centralizing reports, statistics, subscription updates and other data administration activities.
Simplifies and reduces the impact of audits by isolating the SCP network from the entire audit process.
Supports more efficient call processing by staging data until the optimum time to push it down to the SCPs.
Ensures data synchronization between SCP elements of multi-SCP networks.
In addition, the value of database dip resale has long been recognized as a viable
product for service providers. However, these dips require direct access to a service
provider’s SCPs, which can threaten security and impede intranetwork call processing. The
SDP creates a gateway that provides an alternative to data dip resale by allowing
wholesale marketing of database image products. Resale of these database images protects
the integrity of a service provider’s own SCP network while further reducing the impact of
Integrating the Technology
New and existing networks alike can benefit from centralized database technology. Of
course, the ability to offer rapidly deployed new services is a key reason why service
providers build INs. Adaptation to virtually any IN environment allows the data
centralization concept to optimize a service provider’s ability to offer new and existing
revenue-generating IN service applications.
Typical service examples include toll-free services, calling name delivery, line
information database (LIDB), local number portability (LNP), virtual private network (VPN)
and numerous other routing-based or subscription-oriented services. Since the approach
solves so many operational headaches, service providers can focus on creating unique and
differentiating services without worrying if the new service also creates new operational
challenges. This enhances service creativity and strengthens market presence.
Cody Bowman is
manager of network intelligence strategic marketing for Research Triangle Park, N.C.- and
Richardson, Texas-based Ericsson Inc. He has more than 16 years’ experience in systems
engineering, product management, software design and product marketing. He can be reached
at [email protected].
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