The first wave of Diameter signaling controllers (DSCs) focused primarily on routing of messages within the evolved packet core. Operators that are focused on rapid deployment of differentiated services want to expand the scope of what’s possible with services based in part on big data and policy derived from intelligence found in the network.  A next generation of Diameter signaling controllers will take the capability set to the next level by approaching the challenges service providers face with routing and security from a different angle and solving them through orchestration, enhancement and interworking of Diameter and non-Diameter message flows.

The new approach to Diameter signaling control focuses on interworking and includes the ability to extract information from signaling messages and enhance the flows through real-time manipulation. It sets the stage for leveraging external repositories of subscriber information to assist in the rapid creation and innovation of differentiated services. As a result, there is more control in the hands of service providers, which helps reduce costs, extend policy, charging and mobility across different technology domains while accelerating time to market.

In a recent industry study of DSC vendors by Heavy Reading, Jim Hodges, a senior analyst, indicates that an entirely new view of the DSC has emerged as a central hub to support service orchestration:

“Given the flexible protocol design structure of Diameter, including the support of AVPs (information fields in the Diameter messages) that can be utilized to capture and transport a broad range of service-related control plane data, a large range of service-related use cases could be potentially supported.  This could be accomplished by adding, modifying or extracting data from the AVPS on even a personal flow basis.”

What Jim is pointing out is that the expectation for a DSC is fast becoming something more than a device that plays the role of a Diameter router. When we were looking at this problem, we approached the design of a DSC differently in order to best accommodate this emerging role of service orchestration. Instead of focusing solely on Diameter routing functionality, we focused first on building a platform that can orchestrate, enhance and interwork Diameter as well as a host of other protocols in an intuitive and user-friendly way. Inherent in the architecture is flexible routing, security and overload protection to provide the basic Diameter routing agent (DRA) and Diameter edge agent (DEA) functionality.  It is the orchestration component that differentiates the offering. In this manner, the next generation of DSCs can easily support Diameter mediation, RADIUS, SS7/MAP interworking along with using other protocols such as HTTP and LDAP to enhance message flows with subscriber and usage intelligence from other databases. 

This provides something more: a service innovation platform that can be used to fix vendor incompatibility issues and enhance charging and subscriber policy across technology domains all while providing the core DRA and DEA functions service providers have come to expect.

I want to know your thoughts on the evolution of Diameter Signaling Controllers. Let me know what you think the future holds for this space by leaving a comment or question, or tweeting us @Dialogic or @ThomasSchroer.