IMS is something many service providers need but the complexity of implementing IP multimedia subsystem solutions has certainly been a cause for operators to deploy such solutions more slowly than some would have hoped. Beyond complexity, another factor which needs to be overcome is interoperability between disparate vendor’s systems.
For this reason a number of organizations such as the IMS Forum have been focusing on plugfests to ensure IMS vendor A can interoperate seamlessly with vendor B and C.
The need for interoperability is not lost of companies like Tekelec and HP who began collaborating last year and more recently made an announcement that their respective platforms will work together.
Specifically the companies have aligned the roadmaps of the Tekelec TekCore Session Manager, a CSCF platform and HP OpenCall home subscriber server or HSS.
The solution includes IMS core network infrastructure, service enablers, operational and business support system linkages and application service offerings that enable the delivery of subscriber-centric services across wireless, wireline and broadband networks.
The IMS core network elements in the solution include the following:
· Call state control function (CSCF) and home subscriber server (HSS)
· Service enablers such as the media resource function (MRF), presence server, electronic numbering (ENUM), group list management and voice call continuity (VCC) platforms
· Multimedia applications such as enhanced voice services, instant messaging (IM) and multimedia content sharing (e.g., "see what I see")
· Integration with back-office and legacy systems.
The companies explain that convergence cannot happen in a vacuum but instead needs a convergence framework which requires a good deal of planning. In addition they feel such a framework needs to address:
1) A unified signaling and control infrastructure that unites signaling and control procedures across multiple network types. Furthermore, this is a prerequisite to enable uniform access to applications and services across heterogeneous networks.
2) Providing a real-time unified view of the customer. This view may include the users communication’s preferences, information regarding whether the subscriber is currently on a call, and a list of people engaged in a conference call with the subscriber. This real-time view of the customer is essential to enable subscribers to seamlessly access services and applications as they move across networks and device types. A consolidated awareness of the subscriber by the network is also necessary to enable the network to know how to deliver calls and further determine the willingness of the subscriber to accept the call.
3) The network needs to be able to deliver the necessary media or content to the subscriber across a variety of different access technologies and be capable of adapting the media to the access network and device.
The companies point out an instant cut over to an IMS-based network is often impractical and instead service providers need to consider migrating to IMS while still engaging their NGN and TDM networks.
Of course leveraging disparate networks is analogous to creating monstrous problems one may liken to Frankenstein.
For as a subscriber moves from network to network they likely experience different control procedures and applications. From a carrier perspective, similar, but different applications may need to be deployed in each environment creating complexity from a management and operations perspective.
Moreover each network type has its own control layer, its own applications, and its own subscriber data. To enable convergence this must change. However, in enabling convergence we must also realize that a greenfield approach, that moves us completely to IMS is often not a possibility given the investment that has been made in existing services, and constrained capital budgets.
The first step in moving towards convergence, is to implement a unified control layer according to the companies. Why? A unified control layer can facilitate access to applications and services regardless of the network type. The second step is to provide a unified view of subscriber data. These two steps will enable the development of converged applications and services.
The joint IMS solution is based on ATCA-based blade servers and service providers are trialing this solution at the moment. In addition the companies have a multiplayer game demo running in the lab.
My take on this news is it is good to see two major players in the service provider space coming together to make it easier for service providers to build next generation networks and applications. One benefit of this collaboration is faster time to market for service providers worldwide.
A wise approach here is the realization that service providers are not going to have Greenfield opportunities and as such a hybrid solution makes sense at the moment. Tekelec says they will be working with HP more closely in the future and furthermore they will work with other vendors more closely as well. This news is good for the market and likely signals a trend toward more vendor cooperation which is in the best interest of everyone involved and will help further the IMS market.