by Nick Crown, Senior Product Line Manager
UDC: What is it?
User Data Convergence or UDC is a concept (dare I say, a standard?) based on a collection of technical reports and specifications and is currently under development within the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). 3GPP is an organization that produces specifications for the wireless industry, and as a global organization, it combines the efforts of many regionalized standards bodies. The basic premise behind the UDC concept is quite simple: it’s a lot easier on everyone to consolidate user data into a single unified data store. In 3GPP’s own language:
“The UDC will simplify the overall network topology and interfaces, avoid data duplication and inconsistency and simplify creation of new services by providing easy access to the user data.”
As you might expect, user data is scattered across several different application domains within Telcos, a.k.a. Communication Service Providers (CSPs). With applications that manage our voice and data communications (e.g. HLR, HSS, IMS, etc.) to the applications that are used to manage our customer profile and billing information, CSPs need to know a little bit about the users they are serving: you and me. If the need for this user data is not managed properly, then it leads to that dreaded IT scourge – wait, wait, let the suspense fill the room – SILOS! That’s right, our data is duplicated for each one of these applications, which over time leads to inefficiencies, data inconsistencies and acts of IT heroism to avoid them.
In addition to being inefficient, user data silos make it difficult, if not impossible, for CSPs to analyze, or mine, their user data to reap the following benefits:
- Reduce customer churn rates by identifying trends in usage patterns and taking proactive action to keep us from leaving
- Identify new service opportunities based on existing usage patterns
- Market and advertise better (sometimes referred to as targeted or addressable advertising)
You can’t see the trends without first unifying the data into a single view. The following graphic depicts the high-level components of the UDC architecture:
The architecture can be broken down into two major components:
- The User Data Repository (UDR)
- Everything else
Seriously, it’s really that simple. That being said, the UDR is much more than just a data store. It includes built-in geographical redundancy and data distribution; a common, independent interface (API) for creating, reading, updating, and deleting user data (CRUD); a subscription and notification service for publishing messages to interested applications based on CRUD operations; a fully functioning access control subsystem; a provisioning interface; and a data aggregation/federation service for unifying data from other data stores. Needless to say, there is more to the UDR than that simple orange box conveys.
How is this relevant to UnboundID?
One of key solutions that UnboundID offers to the Telecommunications industry is Subscriber Data Management (SDM). For all practical purposes, you could say that UDC is a reference architecture for SDM. It may not cover all of the use cases required of an SDM solution, but it’s pretty darn close. Now, we didn’t originally set out to create a product based on the UDC architecture. But when we started looking more closely at the SDM market, we realized that our products map pretty nicely to the UDC architecture. In fact, with the addition of the Notification Service in our 3.1 release, we can cover 100% of the UDC requirements.
The following graphic depicts this mapping:
What can be learned from this?
It goes without saying that the Telecommunications industry is mature. These companies are experts at delivering services at scale. They thrive on delivering SLAs that would make most of the new-fangled, cloud players a little uneasy. Let’s face it, if my social profile or latest status update is stale or unresponsive for a bit, then I may be briefly perturbed, but I would quickly move on to more pressing matters. If, on the other hand, my mobile phone is unable to complete a call or deliver a text message, then the depth and length of my perturbed-ness is on another level.
I’m making this point because many of the same user (customer, subscriber, what have you) data problems that exist for the Telecommunications industry exist for the cloud service providers. They too need to come to the realization that application data and user data don’t go together like peanut butter and jelly. The problem is that these companies would be the last ones to look to an international standards body to provide recommendations to them on how they should architect their infrastructures. Or, if the need for a standard were recognized, anything that already existed would be shunned because it didn’t conform to the latest development trend.
Well, regardless of what it is called – be it SDM, UDC, IdM, or otherwise – UnboundID has a solution for the dreaded user data SILOS!