Mobile Apps Benefit from Diameter Signaling
As application services increased across the mobile internet, it became increasingly apparent that the Internet needed better traffic management to improve network performance. Services became ever more greedy for network resources, and user experience deteriorated. If only there were some kind of traffic cop to direct the flow of data in a more intelligent way.
Enter The Diameter Signaling Protocol
Established as a successor to the RADIUS protocol (a play on words - you may recall that from your math classes that diameter is twice the value of radius), Diameter is a more advanced solution to provide network security through Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA). The protocol is defined in RFC 6733, and consists of messages with Attibute-Value Pairs (AVPs). It runs across the transport protocols TCP and SCTP.
So how does Diameter function? Consider this. Suppose that we have six servers as part of an application solution, and each of these servers needs to speak to the other. Server #1 needs to speak to Server #2, but also to #3, #4, #5, and #6. So now we have six connections. Server #2 not only needs to communicate with #1, but also with #3, #4, #5, and #6. That's five more connections. By the time each server has a connection to the other, what we have discovered is what is called a mesh network, and lots of network traffic. A Diameter Signaling Router (DSR) placed in the middle of this mesh will solve a lot of problems. Now we reduce the number of connections to six, from the DSR to each server. Traffic problem solved.
These days all the network providers are getting Diameter, and the solution is in big demand. Major telecom companies needed it for their networks, and telecom vendors have answered the call. When Oracle purchased Tekelec last year, the purchase included Tekelec's Diameter Signaling Router technology. Cisco, Ericsson, and others are also offering their own Diameter signaling solutions.
You may be wondering how that affects your mobile internet usage. Let's use an example. Suppose you want to buy a song from an online service using your smart phone application. You may think that there would be only one connection here – just you and the service. But the service itself may consist of a wide array of computers connected together. One may hold customer data, another may retain the files to be downloaded, and still another may handle billing information. In today's mobile networks, Diameter is now acting as traffic cop to handle the Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting required for you to purchase and download your favorite song.
The need for mankind to innovate and adapt to ever-changing business and consumer needs is the driving force in our current technological revolution. Diameter signaling technology is another of those clever innovations.
Image courtesy of Jason Howie via Creative Commons.