To solve the tasks related to traffic filtering, providers usually install a high-cost hardware-and-software system. However, an alternative is to software DPI solutions, which may be as efficient as the “gear-based” solutions but also less expensive

VAS Experts is a company that develops services for internet traffic control and deep analysis. Total Telecom recently caught up with Artem Tereschenko, Partnership Manager at VAS Experts to explain the technical advantages of software DPI solutions.

Among other things, we discussed how such solutions help to optimise the budget and remain hardware-independent and the future directions of DPI development.

Is it correct to say that software solutions are better than the hard’n’soft’ ones because the former ones are gear-independent?

It would be wrong to say that software DPI solutions are definitely better. They are simply different, with a number of their own unique features.

Firstly, they are truly hardware-independent, so clients are able to optimise their expenses on network development, refinement and maintenance. It’s the widespread practice, specifically for big companies, to minimise the lists of various equipment and vendors.

Secondly, the solution’s life cycle is longer. There is no hardware part deterioration; software solutions can migrate to a different hardware system and can be scaled up easily, so, their lifecycle becomes virtually never-ending. Meanwhile, when gear-based solutions deteriorate or become out of order, their lifecycle is completely over.

Thirdly, in our case, the software solution is a kind of "combine", which alone can replace many devices with different functions and form the network core.

All-in-one solution can reduce the number of devices and simplify management of the network

How much easier and simpler is it to install soft solutions, compared to hard ones?

The start is definitely easier. Clients may already have a virtualisation environment or spare hardware to which the software may be installed with no physical contact with a vendor.

There are disadvantages as well. As hardware manufacturers are multiple, issues related to specific features of a given gear may emerge during installation. Sometimes software solutions require setup from ground zero upon installation, while a hard’n’soft system can be purchased already set up.

So, the notion of “easier and simpler” is applicable to the installation process. Operations of both types of solutions require pretty equal input.

Please elaborate on compatibility with the hardware of various manufacturers. Can clients theoretically face any issues?

Some software products were created for specific platforms. Our product is set to fit an array of gear. However, technical issues can still emerge.

Prior to installation we test a platform for its current performance – working servers are very rarely new, usually they were in use for quite a while. Some features (read: glitches) can be present; a certain component – processor, memory, drives, NIC, the motherboard itself – can periodically malfunction.
Can you compare budgets of VAS Experts solution and a solution from known vendor?
If we consider providers who buy, among the other, used equipment, here our price will be higher, as we offer fresh software with support and integration.
Usually used equipment is sold with no support. As a rule it is stated that the equipment had passed a technical test, but in any case it forfeited the part of its performance. So, a provider is left face-to-face with this equipment and its accompanying problems, with all available solutions found via Google search and internet forums.
If we are comparing our product to the purchase of new equipment, at the current moment the prices are alike, but in the future our solution will prove move cost-effective due to three reasons.
1. Accessible (and affordable) tech support. 
2. Software continuity: on upgrades we consider the price of the license a client previously bought. 
3. Our solution allows migration from one hardware type to another and we are also adding new functions constantly.
So, the cost of operating the solution needs to be put into consideration. In regards to our solution, this cost is among the most affordable on the market.
Do you have cases of your clients benefiting from specifically from the use of your software solution?
Yes, and I can divide such cases into three types.
One is fast installation and integration. There were situations when clients needed a solution launched ASAP. The most common reasons are either the equipment went out of order or traffic grew unexpectedly. In other words, the situation changed rapidly, so the current configuration is no longer suitable, for various reasons. We can install our software system into any suitable server in literally just one day – and implement it fast.
Second is comfortable and smooth migration. If the task is not urgent (the network expansion goes in stages), we install two working solutions. One operates on the main license, the other one is on the temporary. Therefore, we help a client to migrate gradually.
And thirdly, the importance of adjustable functionality. As we use processor power, we can add new functions regardless of what a client initially bought. Hard’n’soft systems are often optimised for a specific code and cannot stand the functionality growth. Software solutions’ performance grows with the CPU performance growth.
Are there any tasks a provider is easier to solve with hard’n’soft? If yes – why?
There are, or course, unavoidable niche tasks. For example, a device that will serve as a router or switchboard/multiplexor, needs to be installed. In this case, it’s nonsense to install a kind of an intelligent service gateway with a CPU-enabled software solution. Better to take a cheap widely available hard’n’soft that will fit the exact task.
In general, are there any substantial advantages of hardware solutions that may outweigh the software alternatives?
If we talk about the network core we currently use, there are named hardware players, of course. Part of the tasks are delegated to various programmable integrated circuits, so some operations are performed faster or with less energy consumption.
But these solutions age very quickly; i.e. they cannot develop fast enough, because hardware development takes much longer and passes a much bigger number of iterations than soft. In other words, newer software can be released monthly, weekly or even daily, while newer interpretation of gear is released yearly, or every other year.
Of course, hardware manufacturers will have some massively available and not deteriorating products – they will probably be low-cost and demanded by the providers. Like switch-boards, for example. These can be manufactured and, within 10 years, simply firmware-upgraded and patched of detected bugs.
One of the gear solutions’ main advantages is their code is optimised for a specific platform, so they should have less software errors related to hardware issues.
What do you think of this market’s further development? What new functions will appear and what is the next step for VAS Experts?
Large developers demonstrate shifting from hardware solutions with specialised line cards to CPU-processed solutions. This happens due to CPU development (more cores, higher frequency, and power).
We will continue in the creation of a combined system that may fully cover providers’ needs for a service gateway. This includes routing, QoS packet processing, filtering, collection of statistics and a subscriber’s session management (authorisation, account administration). A provider is free to apply the entire multifunctional solution – as well as only parts of it.
Are there competitors with software solutions? Why are you better?
Of course there are. We have advantages in:
1. Operational stability – As more than 1,000 copies of our solution are already installed, we are sure it is stable. We scrutinise all feedback and work on software performance non-stop.
2. Focusing on providers’ market – We do not disperse on other tasks. We know what issues providers face daily – and we know how to solve them.
3. Actuality/contemporariness – Our solution supports the most recent versions of CPUs, NICs, etc.
4. Support – We help with implementation and support operations after the purchase.
4. Price – We consider the cost of having the use of the solution adequate. It is not the lowest on the market, but remains well-suited for providers.

VAS Experts is a software developer of a multifunctional solution for Internet Service Providers – Stingray Service Gateway. Since 2013 we have built trust of more than 1100 providers all over the world.

The SSG solution builds an efficient network core and combines:

Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS/BNG)

Carrier-Grade NAT

Traffic Policing (Quality of Service)

Traffic filtering

Quality of Experience

These functions are based on Deep Packet Inspection technology. Since the platform is able to deeply analyze traffic and detect different protocols, you can effectively manage it:

1. to cut the costs: the solution is software, so it is easy to scale up, maintain and get rid of a set of disparate equipment

2. to increase subscribers’ loyalty with the best quality services at affordable price

3. to provide easier network operation.