Consider a typical tax return. If you own a home and have a mortgage you may be able to deduct interest payments — at least in the US (oh and by the way this article is not meant to provide you with advice on doing your taxes. Please don’t expect it to help you with the IRS at your next audit). If you made interest you must pay tax on it and of course on other income. The various income sources get added, tallied, put onto a form, or entered into software and voila, you have a tax return. Few people I know enjoy doing taxes. In fact doing taxes is probably the closest thing to a final exam many of us will have to deal with — years after we leave school.
But what if there were real-time software that could monitor income coming in, investments, mortgages, etc and would just do your taxes 24×7 for you throughout the year. It would be great. You would know where you stand at a moment’s notice. No more scrambling to write checks for large sums at year’s end because you were unprepared. We would place this solution in the category of personal financial management software.
With your permission I would like to segue ungracefully into the service provider market.
Consider today’s service provider dealing with customers in a more and more complicated world. For example imagine a VoIP provider who must determine when a call was initiated, when it traversed through a session border controller and at what point it left the IP network and ended up in the hands of another service provider. This service provider has to figure out the duration of the call, where the call went and determine how much to charge the consumer and pay the other service provider(s).
Wouldn’t it be great if there was software out there that could handle these IP transactions? Well, thankfully there is and as you might expect you can call this category of solutions IP Transaction Management.
I caught up with Primal Solutions recently and had a chance to speak with them about their IP Transaction Management Platform IP Correlytics. One area of our conversation worth repeating s how communications transactions today involve more and more partners. Perhaps a single content provider or a group of content providers and distribution partners are involved in the more complicated transactions of the day. In fact service providers have to grapple with an ever-increasing array of IP transaction management details and headaches.
Primal Solutions feels they are in a great position to be a thought leader in this space as they handle one-third of VoIP transactions in the US at the moment. It just so happens one of their customers is Time Warner Cable so that pretty much sums up their market share claims.
They also handle municipal WiFi and EarthLink is one of their customers in this space. They tell me they can handle any transaction and provide usage analysis. I spent a great deal of time talking with them about municipal (muni) WiFi and the company feels very strongly that it is crucial these providers find a sustainable revenue model or networks will be built out with minimal capability.
One of the ways of generating revenue in this category is by offering tiered service and another is to allow for and charge for other broadband users on your network. So as a muni WiFi provider you may allow AOL customers on your network and charge AOL a roaming fee. AOL would in turn charge their customers for the ability to use this network when they roam into the area.
So getting back to the world of IP communications — the company tracks anything that touches the CDR — the SBC, SIP proxy, policy management, peering partners, EMI feeds from a Sprint, Level 3 etc. In addition, they track content partners, ring tones, and all the transaction information. They stitch it all together and give a unified view of what happened to the phone call. They track it temporally — you can see the switch touched the call at this point, the SIP proxy was touched at another point, etc. Using this information you can see where there may be latency in the network and you can set up thresholds and averages and if desired can be notified of problems.
One of the reasons this solution was developed is that service provider partners often would send bills 60 days after a transaction and the original provider would have to stitch back what happened and ensure they were charging the customer correctly. This is essential because rates for services are not in the VoIP provider’s control and change without much notice.
The company feels service providers need to grab every component and pull it into transaction archive and in doing so guarantee you aren’t losing anything. Their tagline is "No IP Transaction Left behind," and they fell this is exactly what they do as they ensure you don’t lose anything.
In many service providers, humans do the reconciliation and because of this it isn’t easy to track whole transactions across partners. Many problems pop up when your systems aren’t automated.
A boost to their business has been regulations like Sarbox and others that require insight into data and auditablity. In addition there are legal and CALEA issues that are solved by having an effective record of all IP transactions.
Obviously the archive of data we are talking about is huge and as such the company provides web services allowing you easier access to the data. Many of today’s billing systems are very complicated and they will interface with many of these current systems nicely.
If you are planning to sell to enterprise customers or currently do, the company’s software can read input from a testing system such as one from Empirix or Spirent and record it with the call data. This allows you to have recourse with another provider who isn’t providing service levels they promised. It also allows you to give detailed quality data to customers as needed.
More and more companies are telling me that VoIP providers are losing tens if not hundreds of million dollars a year because of billing errors. Some estimates say the problem will balloon to a billion dollars by 2008 or 2009. I wouldn’t be too surprised if this were the case. And my friends, between you and me, that number will buy a very nice number of woohoo ads.
Another area the company helps with is mobile selectors as the rates international operators charge for mobile calls varies frequently. If you aren’t on top of this problem you can find yourself in trouble very quickly. To clarify, some countries have mobile operators who change rates more frequently and erratically than you would think possible. Generally you learn about these changes much too late to recoup lost revenue as your prices need to adjust accordingly.
So now for the sales pitch. If you aren’t sold yet the company could seal the deal for the following reason. Service providers really need to adapt quickly — this is why they need solutions like this. My take is companies will do well to manage the life of IP sessions and if the Primal Solutions becomes the dominant player in this space, perhaps we can ask them nicely to spin off a division focusing on personal income tax. April 15th always seems to be just around the corner.