The changing face of data

Jason McGee-Abe
Published on:

It’s an exciting time for telecom operators to innovate, not only to become more internally data-driven themselves but to also help drive big data technology globally. Jason McGee-Abe looks at what current developments are helping to redefine the big data approach

One of the most important questions you’ll hear in the telecommunications industry today is:  “How can we benefit from big data”.  A question that has been asked for a long time now but it is becoming ever more critical to find the answers in our data-driven world. Big data can be defined as large volumes of raw data from multiple sources to drive optimisation. Monitoring and optimisation have traditionally been conducted with historical data but with real-time, location-based big data today, this type of analysis is being conducted on-the-go and helping to provide optimised end-to-end process and enhanced experiences.
All operators are on the hunt for ways to make inroads with big data, and with enterprises also increasingly become digitised, the pressure to develop is heavy. Digitisation and transformation programmes are a common part of businesses’ make-ups today. 

Vendor developments

As we go to print, Huawei has just launched its big data solution, certified for SAP Vora, which will help enterprises improve their decision-making ability and support enhanced service innovation. When deployed on its big data platform FusionInsight, SAP Vora provides memory-based fast computing capabilities for data stored on a Hadoop distributed file system (HDFS) with computing power for Spark architecture. 

This helps users to implement enterprise-class analysis and queries based on Hadoop data and quickly and accurately gain customer and business insights from large datasets.

Matt Ma, president of IT cloud computing and big data product line at Huawei, said: “Huawei adheres to an attitude of open cooperation with partners. SAP is the world’s leading provider of enterprise application software solutions and we look forward to working with them to provide customers with comprehensive and superior data solutions. This will assist customers in achieving business success during the big data era.”

Oracle has recently revealed a major upgrade, including built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, to its IoT cloud offering it says will help businesses get more value.

“IoT holds the potential to transform today’s siloed operations into a modern, interconnected, digital set of workflows with real-time visibility and responsiveness,” says Bhagat Nainani, group vice president of IoT applications at Oracle. “Oracle continues to push the boundaries of IoT to help our customers significantly simplify their IoT deployments. By receiving real-time data streams enhanced with predictive insights, they can reach new levels of intelligence and a much quicker realisation of ROI.”

Nokia is rolling out new applications to develop big data and has put the shared data layer on its developer portal. The company says: “Using application programming interfaces (APIs), developers will be able to securely use information such as policy, charging and subscription data, in line with country regulations and customer permission, to develop and test location-based big data analytics and network diagnostic applications.”

Huawei networks can analyse users’ behaviour and intentions using big data analytics, triggering network automation for high-quality service transmission, end-to-end application experience guarantee, and intelligent O&M and fault location. Networks can also open up information using interfaces based on service and application requirements so that users can optimise and innovate services and improve efficiency. Many operators are boosting their ranks with application and cloud-based companies via acquisitions to take advantage of a world where we are all, consumer and enterprise alike, increasingly becoming digital.

Mid-September saw NetScout launch its nGenius business analytics solution. The company says it delivers “the industry’s first next-generation smart data approach to analytics that makes wired data consumable for big data applications in a scalable, cost-effective manner”. 

As traditional communications service providers evolve into digital service providers, they are striving to use network data to automate operations, enhance customer care, and deliver personalised services.  Anil Singhal, co-founder, president and CEO of NetScout, says:  “By leveraging our vast expertise and extensive technical capabilities, we’ve delivered this winning combination in nGenius business analytics and our ISNG smart data platform, enabling our customers around the world to make superior business decisions.”   

Big data = Business intelligence

Global research firm Gartner has validated the evolution of business intelligence and analytics, stressing the evolution that is set to unfold. The adoption of new technologies and big data intelligence are critical enablers to success in today’s data-driven world.

Earlier in the year, Gartner said that as companies gather more and more data, data science will grow by 800% over the coming five years. Another Gartner report said that the business intelligence and analytics software market will reach $18.3 billion in this year and will grow to $22.8 billion by the end of 2020.

Telefónica launched an enterprise big data unit last year to market the company’s experience in big data to enterprise customers and to tap into business intelligence opportunities. It is targeting corporates by setting up a big data unit that benefits from the company’s internal experience of analytics. The new unit, called Luca, is designed to allow corporate clients to understand their data and encourage a transparent and responsible use of data, says Telefónica. 

“Data is a critical asset for the future of Telefónica and any organisation,” says Chema Alonso, the group’s chief data officer,  “Big data has helped us at Telefónica, and we strongly believe it will help our clients in decision-making, more efficient resource management and in returning the benefits of this wealth of information not only to their clients and direct users, but also to society.” 

Telefónica says the unit “will have a comprehensive portfolio of services to provide solutions for the big data requirements of Telefónica’s corporate clients”, adding: “The business insights area brings the value of anonymous and aggregated data on Telefónica’s networks for a wide range of clients.” 

Alonso says: “With Telefónica’s fundamental promise to always maintain privacy, security and the transparent use of the data we want to help our clients understand its full potential.”

Key challenges

Big data brings big opportunities for cyber criminals to hack systems, exploit network access points and security vulnerabilities. Data security will continue to be one of the biggest challenges for operators. According to figures from an NTT Communications report, more than six billion cyberattacks were attempted in 2016.

In our July/August issue I wrote how combatting cyber terrorism was crucial to the success of the internet of things (IoT) and smart cities. As we experience a surge of DDoS attacks, Mary Clark, chief corporate relations officer and chief of staff at Syniverse, summed it up nicely to GTB: “Last year’s Dyn attack, and others like it, demonstrate that the network will not look after itself, and the public internet is a “wild west” that is not fit to support IoT use cases in the future.” 

“Some companies are able to carry on throughout DDoS attacks completely untouched because they are on secure, private IP networks. These networks are built to minimise risk by running completely independently from the public internet, and allow companies to control access. This means not only controlling speed and latency, but also knowing the individual behind a device accessing the network, are exactly who they say they are – and this is where attribution comes in.”

Another challenge being faced is that many data exchanges, a number of which include highly sensitive personal data, run over the public internet. Security of big data is huge, particular when we start looking at smarter homes, cities and wearable devices and technology, many of which will also run over the public internet.

There are so many potential points of data collection that, when put together, makes it easy to identify people. Les Anderson, global CSO and vice president of cyber security of BT, says to GTB: “IoT technology means that, nowadays, everything is connected - vehicles, traffic sensors and even consumer goods can generate and communicate all kinds of information. A conservative estimate is that there will be 50 billion such devices connected by 2020. 

“Whilst revolutionary technology like this is exciting, it also has serious implications for network security. With so many connected devices, there is a huge increase in the number of potentially weak or open entry points that can be exploited, and the number of security risks shows no signs of slowing down. The predicted influx of data caused by IoT means that 50% of IT networks will struggle to cope and 10% could be overwhelmed as early as 2018.”

Big data future

With Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast predicting global IP traffic to increase three-fold, reaching an annual run rate of 3.3 zettabytes (3.3 billion terabytes) by 2021, the amount of data to secure is monumental. However the opportunities are rife. For the first time in the 12 years of the VNI forecast, machine-to-machine-supporting IoT applications are calculated to be more than half of the total 27.1 billion global devices and connections and will account for 5% of global IP traffic by 2021.

“Faster speeds are not the only factor driving growth of internet traffic. The IoT is accelerating the number of devices that are attached to the internet, not only adding to the growth of traffic but also adding potential pathways for attackers,” said Cisco’s 2017 mid-year cybersecurity report.

But big data can also unlock how we help address epidemics and humanitarian crises, as can be exemplified with the GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good initiative, which was launched in February 2017. The initiative is backed by 19 companies with a presence in 124 markets around the world.

“The GSMA and our mobile operator members are committed to working with UN agencies and national governments to provide critical mobile big data to help address the world’s most pressing challenges,” says Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA.

“Big data presents a huge opportunity for operators to accelerate and scale the impact they can have in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

What’s clear is that the evolving face of data science will continue to be a leading area that will shape our future. Big data and analytics will unlock the full potential of many services and help us evolve from just a network-based approach to a more customer-centric and optimised one to leverage mobile operators’ big data capabilities.