DPI: Enabling secure, personalized and metered services

Why Deep Packet Inspection may be the key to enabling secure, personalized and metered services, should the FCC decide to end net neutrality in the USA.

And isn’t it ironic?*

It’s like spamming the FCC with bot driven anti net neutrality comments.
It’s like a DDoS attack keeping anyone from commenting on it

OK maybe neither of these are actually irony.

I don’t know, maybe rain on your wedding day isn’t irony either.

But it is surely interesting to note that when the federal government first proposed a plan to do away with the level playing ground of net neutrality and invited everyone who had anything to say about it to post a comment on the FCC web site – the most noteworthy reactions demonstrated how even a neutral net can be rendered inaccessible by malicious attacks: First, more than a million bot-generated messages spammed the website to support cancelling net neutrality regulations. Then somebody launched a DDoS attack to prevent anyone from reaching the site at all to register their opinions.

The topic continues to be hotly debated.  Brian Ross, Managing Editor of TheJazzChef.com decried what he called “The FCC’s Stealth Net Neutrality Vote” and likened the outcome to medieval times when “In Germany, men grew rich by building castles in the Rhine and attacking ships that failed to pay for passage through their section of the river.”  Tyler Cowen, writing for Bloomberg View, counters the doom and gloom reactions to the proposed changes by highlighting two studies that show that upon the advent of Obama’s net neutrality regulations, “…most relevant corporate share prices didn’t much react to these events, which suggests that the net neutrality decisions weren’t so important for the sector.”

Regardless of how you feel about this subject, it will likely create a major disruption in the US telecom industry and, since much of the world follows the US lead in technology, the impact could spread globally. Fast lane and zero rating will become more prevalent. Service providers will scramble to create differentiation by packaging tiered services to appeal to different customer segments and budgets.

In a non-neutral net, service providers will be allowed to bundle services into tiered offerings with different allotments of data volumes and traffic bandwidth. For example, a premium offering could include all-you-can eat YouTube at guaranteed speeds – along with caps on non-YouTube data, in exchange for a premium price. Operators will be permitted to favor OTT business partners of choice and their own promoted content as well. These models are already widely used in countries which are not net-neutral. With the FCC’s parallel relaxation of Internet privacy regulations, Service Providers will be allowed to build high-value, curated data sets for their own advertising and for revenue generating sales to outside advertisers.

To support and enforce such offerings requires the ability to identify all types of traffic (including encrypted video) and to prioritize bandwidth for different user/application/traffic sessions.  Needless to say, to be effective, this must be done inline, in real-time and on a massive scale AND this functionality must be instantaneously correlated with user policy settings in order to enable priority, prevent congestion and enforce limits. Big data analytics will be able to mine this wealth of information to create high-value, segmented data for all kinds of targeted marketing use cases.

In my previous blog on this topic “Bye, bye net neutrality”, I outlined how multi-service gateways enable service providers to offer and deliver differentiated, personalized service packages by virtue of their Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology and granular network intelligence capabilities. DPI has been somewhat undermined in recent years as network equipment providers incorporated some of its capabilities into their infrastructure. However, in a non-neutral net, powerful DPI is precisely the technology that will be needed to detect and identify every kind of data traffic and make it possible to optimize, filter and rate the traffic to ensure that everyone is getting exactly what they paid for. In a world without net neutrality DPI, together with timely analytics, makes it possible to optimally manage the non-neutral access that telecom companies will begin to offer.

And maybe it’s ironic that this same inline DPI technology that can most effectively deliver differentiated, personalized and metered services, is also the most powerful way, when coupled with industry-leading web security components, for telecoms to block web threats and provide Security as a Service to millions of customer end points. The net may not be neutral but it certainly should be safe.

For a technology that seemed old fashioned, DPI “has a funny way of sneaking up on you…who would have thought…it figures.”

*Apologies to Alanis Morissette.

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