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Connecting the Internet: Alcatel-Lucent's Open API Platform

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Eric WegnerBy Eric Wegner

There is a huge trend of connecting Internet applications via REST APIs. The service providers are opening up their networks and providing access to core assets in ways unforeseen, presenting opportunities to innovative developers, which in turn drives up bandwidth usage and revenue. These APIs are a means for communication transactions and the use cases vary dramatically. Many are GPS location and mapping or social/media file sharing or SMS/MMS based services. Several are business and productivity integration types. Click here for a list.

One challenge for a service provider is to monitor, control and secure these API transactions. As the volume and the importance of the API call to go through both climb, so does the need for management. To solve this, Alcatel-Lucent has a framework called the Open API Platform. It allows a service provider or large enterprise to expose APIs and allow data to be shared between applications; however, it's much more than exposing an API. Monitoring and control in a Carrier Class environment is a different animal. It includes a single place to onboard third-party API application developers and partners, manage and perform analytics and monetize the services. The platform transforms API hooks to the native or proprietary interfaces of underlying systems in a clearly defined and secure model.

The Open API Platform provides a front door for developers to create APIs and to provision their applications. They configure application parameters and create rules for how they can be used, the number of transactions that are allowed, etc. Then they are able to view their own performance on which APIs are heavily used, the transaction times, and on how the APIs perform. The platform also has a business management system to set up billing.

The platform has a System Management Portal (SMP) that looks at the health and performance of the framework and is responsible for functional FCAPS (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security). It can reside at the service provider NOC or be installed in the cloud running on a rack with Linux and MySQL.  Centralization of the management functions is key to operations and keeping costs down. Not all environments are alike and customizing the System Management Portal adds to the importance.

The framework infrastructure has several servers and services gateways. From a fault point of view, the SMP handles traps from equipment and applications and looks for health checks, capacity warnings, system degradations and conditions like split brain between instances of applications. It performs alarm correlation, alarm groupings and has auto-clearing features.

From a performance KPI point of view, SMP polls for CPU, process metrics, disk utilization and overload status. There is a separate server dedicated to API analytics and reporting on messages per second, duration, popularity of user types and profitability statistics. 

SMP also provides a log file management as a debugging and troubleshooting tool and a policy-management capability to schedule automated routine tasks and perform clean-ups and backups. SMP employs northbound SNMP feeds to other management applications to support management integration. From a NOC operator point of view, the SMP dashboard can be customized for their particular role and provide access and views to certain equipment or customers. The goal is to make sure the network entities are intact and provide a high degree of reliability.

Service providers are now enabled to strategically expose APIs, help drive innovation and gain new revenue streams, while at the same time allowing third-party developers and partners to enhance the end-user mobile device experience.

Eric Wegner is a 20-year veteran of the industry and has 10 years of experience with ZOHO Corp. (formerly AdventNet) working on large and complex network management infrastructures for network equipment manufacturers, service providers and military contractors. Eric joined the company as the first sales person and is now business development manager leading the WebNMS division in North America.

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