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Why Alef provides Mobile Network as a Service with an API-first Approach

Alef's API centric approach empowers enterprises to easily create networks that solve for their unique use cases, all while giving enterprises control and flexibility not available with traditional carriers.

API Approach vs. Managed Service

by Zidan Lian

We see ourselves as a mobile enabler, empowering enterprises to deploy their own private mobile network through our Mobile Network as a Service (MNaaS) offering. Our approach is API-first, with enterprises connecting their managed radio access points to our Edge API Platform to create a private mobile network.

Our API centric approach is in contrast to what a majority of others are doing in the market. They are providing an end-to-end managed solution where enterprises have no control over how requirements and functionality is implemented and if they are implemented within the existing IT infrastructure. 

I was lucky enough to have the experience of leading the product development of a turn-key private LTE solution for enterprises a few years ago when Industry 4.0 was embracing mobile technologies in its early days.  

The main challenge from a mobile carrier’s perspective is how to provide enterprises with full control of their users’ mobile devices on a mobile network that is not their area of expertise, in terms of both technical know-how and the visibility of networks and operations.  Unlike in the consumer market where mobile service providers can easily consolidate similar requirements from millions of mobile subscribers, in the enterprise world they are facing such diverse requirements across thousands of enterprises, which makes feature development and customization a significant challenge for both the traditional mobile operator, as well as the enterprise trying to fill the gaps. Basically, trying to create a network for a small set of end users with specific needs, the enterprise, that was never built for them in the first place.

Mobile service providers typically provide turn-key solutions in the form of managed service, which means that the service provider will build and manage all elements that go into the solution, design, and development of service features. This is based on the mobile service provider’s best interests in terms of ROI and often those service features are given to customers via a service portal.  

When a private mobile network is delivered to an enterprise in the form of a managed service, the mobile service provider will create an end-to-end managed network including everything from cellular access point management to the core network that manages the mobile devices data traffic, network transport between the access points and the core, and certainly the mobile device management.  All this management in terms of functions and features will be crafted by the mobile service provider and delivered via a service portal, and thus, when enterprises deploy the service provider’s managed service, they bring in a new system that is completely separated and disconnected from the enterprises existing management system, which gives them no control over their own service portal.

 

Enterprises biggest criticism to this managed service approach is that they have no control over their own mobile network that they paid a significant amount of money to deploy and maintain.   

Zidan Lian, Alef Head of Product Tweet

Enterprises biggest criticism to this managed service approach is that they have no control over their own mobile network that they paid a significant amount of money to deploy and maintain.

In modern enterprise network management, a centralized identity based NETWORK ACCESS CONTROL (NAC) has been deployed to manage various access technologies from wired and wireless LAN to VPN over the Internet, elements such as who is using what from where, when, and how to access enterprise networks is well tracked and controlled in real-time. However, with a mobile service provider’s managed service approach, the mobile network is disconnected from the enterprise’s central security control platform, and enterprise network managers are forced to use the service provider’s service portal to manage mobile devices that they usually control at their existing security console.

API background art
Enterprises who are used to consolidating all network management elements under the single pane of glass will hit a wall when they try to manage mobile devices under the controls in the mobile service provider’s system.  The separated set of mobile devices management within the 3GPP domain introduces additional workload for enterprise IT teams managing duplicate user profiles outside the existing identity store like ACTIVE DIRECTORY, and at the same time introduces security risks due to being potentially out of sync between the separated DB systems.  Moreover, if enterprises need specific control features they are at the mercy of the mobile service provider’s development capacity and business justification of any customizations.

Alef’s APIs approach will plug all mobile network management functions into the existing enterprise management platform, so that Alef can provide enterprises with all the information they need about their mobile devices to the enterprises via APIs in real time. This way, enterprises can retain full control over their private mobile network from the same identity based network access control console, just as they manage their wired and wireless LANs today.

Our APIs enable enterprises to extend their existing network management system to include the cellular based private mobile network as if they are operating their own private mobile network as another access technology, instead of outsourcing the management to a carrier to manage the end-to-end system on their behalf.

 

Enterprise network managers and application developers can freely create their own device management logic and policies by using the security and QOS functions we expose via APIs, without going through lengthy and sometimes expensive customized feature development cycles in a managed service approach.  Subscribers, SIMs and network management functions such as Create, Read, Update, Delete (CRUD), and traffic control traditionally done via a service portal will become micro services at Alef platforms that can be called by APIs. This allows enterprises to either use their existing software or build new applications by integrating the micro services inside their system, eliminating any human intervention in their business management process.

In closing, moving away from the traditional managed service approach will guarantee enterprises control and flexibility over their own private mobile network and give them back the freedom to build upon their own enterprise requirements.

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