People today use their mobile devices anytime, any place, and anywhere and According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) today there are still more than 800 mobile operators investing in LTE. There are also close to 600 additional LTE networks that have been commercially launched and another 60 are still being built out. Growth in LTE is being driven by all types of intelligent devices such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, and IoT Devices are some of the big growth drivers. Adoption of Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and Voice-over-Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) is also extremely high and growing. This growth has caused a tremendous amount of new signaling traffic that needs to also be addressed with a new signaling architecture.

Recently analyst firmMarket Research Future announced that the Diameter Signaling Market globally is growing rapidly and expected to reach a USD $5B and growing at a CAGR of 47% by 2022. Diameter is a protocol that enables signaling between Internet Protocol network elements. It can be thought of as the language that servers and software use to communicate within the core of 3GPP Mobile 3G and 4G/LTE Networks. In IP networks, Diameter signaling performs the role that SS7 signaling performed in legacy networks. Today, as mobile IP networks are handling more data traffic per user than their predecessor 3G networks, Diameter signaling traffic is set to far exceed the signaling traffic in 3G networks. As central signaling routing nodes, Diameter Routing Agents (DRA) have been defined and deployed to facilitate Diameter signaling communications among a network of Diameter peers, eliminating point to point signaling connections, and the high maintenance costs these entail.

Cisco’s Diameter Routing Agent

The Cisco virtualized Diameter Routing Agent (vDRA) is a Cloud-Native software network component that provides intelligent routing of Diameter messages to Diameter endpoints.  The Cisco vDRA operates as a Diameter proxy and load balancer, and is built on the same proven Cisco Policy Suite (CPS) virtualized software used in the Cisco Policy Control Rules Function (vPCRF), the Mobility Orchestration Gateway (vMOG), and our Access Selection (vANDSF) applications, extensively deployed on both VMware and OpenStack hypervisors in Tier 1 carrier networks today. The Cisco vDRA supports 3GPP Diameter interfaces such as Gx, Rx, Sd, Sy, Sh, S6b, S6d, SLg, S6a, Slh, Cx, Swm, Slh, Slg, and interconnects PCRF, AAA, GMLC, ePDG, CSCF, HSS, OCS, SCC-AS, P‑CSCF, MME, SGSN, and PGW among other Diameter peer types.

The Cisco vDRA solution is highly sophisticated yet very intuitive and flexible. Our extensive Diameter routing capabilities include Destination-Host Routing, Service-Key Routing, and Table-Driven Routing, along with support for Binding-based routing and Subscriber Lookup Function (SLF) routing, with database lookups based on IP-CAN session and a range of subscriber identifiers (IMSI, MSISDN, APN, IPv4/6). 

Cloud Native software design

The Cisco vDRA application is delivered to customers in a Cloud Native Docker Container and Microservices-based framework that presents them with a range of operational benefits, including:

  • Simplification: Simpler and faster API-orchestrated system installation, software management and In-Service Software Upgrades
  • Dynamic Service Discovery allowing for dynamic scale up and scale down of CPS vDRA processing nodes within a Cloud Native architecture.
  • A programmable Stats, Counters and Alarms framework based on Cloud compatible best in class monitoring software.  This monitoring tool provides metrics gathering, and interfaces to Grafana for powerful easy-to-use visualization of any metric, and complex alerting rules.
  • Conf-D Integration – Cisco’s Conf-D provides Netconf/Restconf YANG interfaces to the operational commands and configuration of the Cisco vDRA system.  This replaces custom scripts and config files that are otherwise required, and enables integrated single sign-on of multiple user interfaces and Docker services with the Conf-D NACM / AAA model.

Along with these Cisco vDRA platform benefits, the integrated Binding and SLF databases are all based on cost-effective, highly scalable and Cloud-ready NoSQL databases. Our system design and SLF database architecture allows for accepting provisioning requests on any API provisioning end point in our VNF solution in order to provision the SLF. There is no obligation or constraint for the carrier provisioning system to utilize a single API provisioning IP address endpoint in the CPS vDRA solution. Internal DB data replication for any such provisioning requests is handled internally within the Cisco vDRA architecture.

Customer Momentum

We are pleased to say that this new Cloud Native vDRA solution offering has not gone unnoticed in the industry. Cisco has had the pleasure of recently being awarded contracts with two large North American customers looking to modernize their legacy DRA solutions, and accelerate their move to Cloud Native. Cisco is also working very actively with a number of other leading carriers on pre-commercial vDRA trials.

For Service Providers looking to experience the next generation vDRA please contact us at mobilecloud@cisco.com and watch this space for more information.


Jim O'Leary

Sr. Manager Mobile Solutions Marketing