I am lucky and work in my spare time as a scuba diving instructor. Because of this, I was on vacation at the Diving Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (DEMA) annual tradeshow in Las Vegas last month. I had the opportunity to walk around the exhibition floor where there were well over one hundred manufacturers, tourist destinations, retail stores and other scuba diving companies. They were all hawking their wares and pitching their resort destination as the best one to go to.
This is much like managing traffic in the communication service provider (CSP) network. CSPs are using Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) to create policies to manage the information streaming through their network from their customers. The PCRF is connected to the Policy and Charging Enforcement Function (PCEF), which applies the defined policies to the data traffic.
It is necessary to properly prioritize and identify traffic to be able to effectively apply the appropriate policies.
Sorting Through the Data
At the DEMA show, it is information overload entering the show’s exhibition floor. There are thousands of people and all the exhibitor booths are placed all over the convention hall. With limited time, I had to carefully pick who I talked to. It was going to be impossible for me to visit every single booth and there were quite a few that I was not interested in. It was important that I established some guidelines and a way to manage how I would maximize my time to visit the booths I had an interest in.
I established several categories of exhibitors that I would use to determine my priorities. First were the vendors I knew about and had a specific interest in visiting. These were mostly the companies and people I have done business with in the past. These were booths I made sure I visited while I was at the show. Next were companies I was aware of because of previous exposure. I did not always remember their name, but I could usually recognize their logo or see their product on display that I was interested in. Last, were all the exhibitors that I did not really know about. These were vendors displaying new products, ones I had little or no interest and many of the travel destinations since I did not foresee an exotic dive trip in the near future.
The show provided me a guidebook which had a map of the floor and a directory of all the exhibitors. This was a pretty thick book and since I did not know many of the exhibitors, I decided to pseudo-randomly walk around the exhibit hall and expect to achieve my goals. The exhibitors used various techniques to attract my attention. Some had banners above their location that were visible from a distance. Others had products on display as I walked by. Most had a colorful or eye-catching logo or banner on the wall behind them.
I used these signals to go to the vendors I had interest in. Sometimes, there were products I wanted to see. I had a specific interest in GoPro camera accessories and underwater video lights this year. If I saw a vendor I did not recognize displaying products related to these topics, I stopped and had a conversation with the person there. Quickly, I was able to obtain more information and determine if their products suited my needs.
Diving in Hawaii
Sometimes a vendor would come out and attempt to engage me in a discussion I was not interested in. I would quickly motion that I was not interested and continue walking on. Ultimately, I used the priorities I had established going into the show and my experiences as I walked around the exhibit floor to establish my criteria. I applied those policies and experiences while I looked at each booth to determine which exhibitors I would spend time with.
My experience on the show floor is exactly what the CSP is looking for when they deploy a PCEF solution. They want a solution that is able to inspect traffic, looking for specific subscribers (vendors) and content type (product) and to make an informed decision as to what to do with that traffic (get more detail, ignore, prioritize, collate and collect).