The rumor is true, DPI and Policy Control are confirmed to be a couple and have been seen hand-in-hand even in public recently. Feelings are mutual and this is bound to last “until death do us part”.
The 3GPP framework rules! At least in the mobile space and it’s also making headway into fixed. That’s good. DPI has become a critical component in a service provider network, which requires DPI to interact with surrounding systems. On top of this complexity grows with tiered services, volume quotas, sponsored sites, and premium gaming and telecommuter services.
This is where the policy server, or PCRF (Policy Charging and Rules Function), comes in. DPI is an excellent traffic analyzer and policy enforcer. But since DPI in most cases resides inline and manages large volumes of traffic, it can’t afford “wasting” cycles on polling information from other systems and correlating a lot of conditions.
This is a perfect assignment for the out-of-band PCRF server. PCRF is a decision point – PDP (Policy Decision Point). Once the decision is made it’s sent out to one or more PEPs (Policy Enforcement Point). DPI is a great PEP, but other equipment in the network might occasionally be better suited to host certain policies. The Gx interface in 3GPP enables standardized integration between DPI and PCRF. But the fact is that most installations still use a SOAP interface and a more or less proprietary API, but Gx is starting to make an entrance.
Since DPI and PCRF is part of the same eco system, resolving the same challenges, it’s quite understandable that there is some confusion as to whether or not DPI competes with PCRF vendors like Camiant, Openet, Bridgewater and Volubill. That’s certainly not the case. It’s rather the opposite where everyone’s working with everyone. I dare say it’s flat out promiscuous. Do I also dare to assume there will be consolidation within and between the two segments? Well, let me put it this way: anything else would surprise me.
We, Procera, see that most of our customers and prospects either made a decision or are making a decision on PCRF as they deploy DPI today. This is great. It opens up even more opportunities and options for how to create new services, how to strengthen the operators’ business case, and how to adjust to accommodate the ever-changing reality.