Big Data, Smartphone Adoption, Heterogeneous Networks and Virtualization are the Trends to Watch for in the Network Monitoring Systems Markets
By Rohan Joy Thomas, Research Analyst, Communications Test & Measurement Practice, Frost & Sullivan
Communications test equipment market has been going through changes for the past decade and the industry is expecting more things to come. Software-defined networks and instrumentation, product and feature integration, and increased complexity of solution just to name a few. Test equipment vendors’ increased focus on network monitoring is not to be ignored. Network Monitoring Systems are used extensively by the network operators’ community in analyzing and monitoring traffic across network infrastructure. While passive network monitoring systems consist of probe-based technologies that are inserted into the network layer, active network monitoring systems consist of products that are used for turn up testing, performance monitoring and general troubleshooting. The difference between passive network monitoring and active network monitoring is that while the former monitors network traffic on the infrastructure, the later emulates data on the network and monitors how the infrastructure reacts to it. Unlike the passive approach, active network monitoring is very limited in terms of testing coverage, and is used for very specific purposes such as network or service upgrade, for example.
Big Data and Heterogeneous Networks are Significant Technological Trends to Watch Out for (see Figure 1)
The exponential increase in digital data are attributes of smartphone proliferation as well as the internet of things which is gaining more relevance in the market. The overwhelming amount of data which is being generated caught most NEMs and network operators off guard as the legacy solutions which were being used proved to be inadequate. Network operators require innovative solutions which are capable of deep diving and tracking relevant information from the plethora of digital data available in the shortest possible amount of time.
The overwhelming amount of digital information has reduced bandwidth usability considerably. The need of the hour is for an innovative solution which will enhance network utilization. One way to achieve this is by shifting from the present macro cell deployment to micro cell deployment. In this way, network operators have the capability to offer a customizable service based upon the demographic of a smaller region. Another trend being witnessed is the movement of digital data from data centers to carrier WiFi. In time, the pace with which micro cell deployments and carrier WiFi penetrate the market would enhance the heterogeneous nature of the environment being monitored considerably.
This would be compounded by the significant amount of workload outsourced to third party service providers, who are now becoming part of mainstream application. Network operators and NEMs would therefore require a solution that can holistically monitor digital information across such heterogeneous environments, as well as meaningfully integrate digital data from numerous tiers of network infrastructures. Data integration, in fact, posed a significant challenge for the carrier community and will continue to be a problem as long as legacy network solutions are still in use.
The carrier community is a very price sensitive market. They are expected to provide exceptional services to their customers within very narrow profit margins. In a bid to offshoot their capital expenditure, the carrier community has been aggressively virtualizing network infrastructure as well as implementing software defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). While the incorporation of software defined networks on top of physical network infrastructure has increased the degree of finger pointing between different IT silos, the network engineers’ inability to keep up with the pace of change of technology has increased the number of blind spots in the network which is being monitored.
Big data explosion, the greater degree of incorporation of heterogeneous networks and virtualization, SDN and NFV have a significant role to play in the growth of the market. However, one cannot rule out the penetration of newer types of network deployments such as LTE and the effect it has on the network monitoring systems market. The degree of LTE deployment varies by region, and has been gaining significant prominence in North America as well the Asia Pacific region. As this continues, network operators and NEMs require improved methods of testing and monitoring traffic on the network.
As these technological trends continue to grow in prominence year on year, NEMs and network operators should continue to offer a superior quality of service to their customers, regardless of the challenges at hand. This could ultimately be done by investing in innovative solutions which can provide a holistic view across the various tiers of network infrastructure.
Market Maturity and Lack of End-User Awareness Poses a Significant Restraint to Market Growth
Although the technological trends which the market stands to capitalize upon are many, there quite a few challenges which hamper market growth. Market maturity is a factor that is on top of this list. In order to make substantial headway into the market, entrants try and promote themselves through products which are very specialized and which cater to niche areas within the market. The users of network monitoring systems would, however, prefer well renowned market participants who have a very broad product portfolio containing monitoring solutions for legacy based monitoring systems as well as for newer types of technology. New market entrants could therefore witness considerable growth in the first few years of launching an innovative solution, but in the years that follow there is strong possibility for their growth to stagnate.
Another challenge that market participants need to effectively address is the general lack of awareness among its users. The network monitoring and testing market consists of a plethora of products and solutions which are quite similar to the other. In order to enhance business utilization, customers need to select the most appropriate network monitoring solution from a set of monitoring solutions and implement the same from an architectural perspective. This was never done before. The repercussions of implementing a solution that is inappropriate for the business could be drastic as it could not only affect the general utilization of the business, but could also increase the amount of time required to get a business application or network monitoring system deployed, which could have a dent on profit margins.
The next factor of restraint is geopolitical and more specifically, has to do with the recent economic downturn that was witnessed by everyone. This had affected budgetary allocation, especially in the area of telecommunications, and came in the way of LTE deployments across most parts of the world, which in turn had an effect on the requirement for equipment specific to research and development and laboratory testing.
A Significant Degree of Market Consolidation Expected in the Years Ahead
The network monitoring systems market witnessed very interesting market trends during the past few years. The network monitoring systems market witnessed a healthy double digit growth rate from the previous year, and is expected to sustain itself over the next five years. With most countries bottoming out of the recession, experts expect to see a revival in the market, which is primarily riding on the hopes of a greater degree of investments aimed at promoting next generation technology and network deployments. The dynamism of the networks has considerably increased. In order to keep pace with the feedback loop which has reduced considerably, a greater degree of synergy between network equipment meant for lab tests and that used for monitoring is required. This would be effective in addressing issues which sporadically appear in any part of the infrastructure in real time. Participants who are unable to do so would therefore be at a disadvantage.
As shown in the exhibit above, the network monitoring systems market generated a revenue of $977.7 million in the base year 2013 and is expected to grow to $2226.5 million by 2020, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.1% from 2013 to 2020.
Although leading participants include the likes of Tektronix Communications, JDSU Corporation and Netscout Systems, the entire market is very diverse and fragmented, consisting of specialists catering to specific niches. In order to promote a greater degree of end-to-end solutions, participants have either partnered with or have acquired smaller participants. Significant acquisitions during the last year would include the acquisition of Trendium and Network Instruments by JDSU, Actix and Celcite Management Solutions by Amdocs, Velocent Systems by Zettics and the acquisition of the Now Factory by IBM. The market is therefore expected to witness further consolidation in the years ahead.
Another trend which is becoming apparent through these acquisitions is the convergence of two separate testing platforms meant for the enterprise and the carrier community. Because of NFV, the distinction between the silos is being done away with. There would therefore be a greater requirement for a common platform that can be used to monitor traffic in both those areas.
Customer\Vendor Relationship has Changed to a Model Built Upon Mutual Partnership
There is a steady shift which is being witnessed from the network equipment manufacturers to the network operators’ end-user groups. While the relatively higher degree of consolidation within the network equipment manufacturers segment is a reason for this, the other reason has to do with challenges the network operators face on a daily basis. This would include the overwhelming challenge of monitoring heaps of data from various network environments and integrating them back into the network in a minimal period of time.
With the innumerable network monitoring products which are in the market, most network operators are placed in a perplexing situation in choosing the most appropriate monitoring solution for their business. They would also prefer a vendor who is willing to share the responsibility in monitoring the traffic on their proprietary network. As a result of the complexity of trends which are being witnessed, the purchase experience offered by most participants will also change, and so would the various distribution channels. The market is evolving from the traditional customer\vendor relationship to a relationship which is built upon mutual trust and partnership.
The direct channel of distribution would also witness a higher growth rate than the indirect on account of this. While this holds true for most tier 1 participants, the distribution channel could lean more towards the indirect type of distribution for most tier 2 and other regional participants. Distribution channels would act as a launch pad for such participants and for regional participants vying for recognition across the globe.
The technological trends that the network monitoring systems market can benefit from are aplenty. Having said that, one cannot rule out the maturity of the market as well as the very high attrition rate, which makes it quite difficult for new market entrants to perform well in such a dynamic market, which was built upon years of technological innovation and expertise. In addition, the threat of any participant getting left behind is very real if they are unable to give solutions to their end users at a cost competitive price. Well established participants counter the challenge by partnering with or acquiring smaller companies in order to provide an experience which is richer and which can provide a higher degree of end–to–end solutions.
Another trend being witnessed within the end user community is transition from NEMs to network operators as well as carrier grade testing. As this continues, end users require a solution which is easily deployable across their infrastructure, and which is capable of holistically monitoring the network across different tiers of infrastructure. The network monitoring systems market’s inherent ability to proactively monitor and analyze information across heaps of big data is an important impetus for the market’s growth.
Metamorphosis of the Test Equipment Industry
As the test and monitoring equipment market continues going through the changes, the network performance monitoring market is expected to evolve with the industry and offer tremendous opportunities to vendors. Big data is looked upon as a threat and at the same time as an area of opportunity for the vendors, however, the full impact of it is yet to be seen. Thus, test and monitoring vendors have to be ahead of the industry in order to provide it with timely monitoring solutions that would ensure positive customer experience.
About the Author
Rohan Joy Thomas is a research analyst at the Communications Test and Measurement practice at Frost & Sullivan. For more information on this research, please contact Julia Nikishkina, Corporate Communications—Measurement and Instrumentation, at
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