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January 14, 2008

VoIP Test Solutions: A Look Back at 2007 and Ahead to 2008

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Senior Editor


The VoIP test solutions market experienced some changes during 2007, as the needs of service providers and operators continued to evolve along with network technologies. TMCnet got a chance to catch up with Keith Cobler (News - Alert), marketing manager at Tektronix’s network management division, to get some perspective on these changes.
 
TMCnet: How would you define "VoIP test solution," and how is that different, if indeed it is, from how the term might have been defined a year ago?
 
KC: VoIP test not only involves testing and monitoring VoIP deployments, but it also involves the functional and stress testing of VoIP elements that are deployed into the network. Tektronix (News - Alert) offers a wide breadth of products that can span the entire VoIP product life-cycle, starting with the VoIP equipment manufacturers in the lab, who focus on functional and load testing. From there the elements moves to the labs of the network operators, who are interested in functional and interoperability testing. Then, the elements move to network trial and full-scale deployment, where the emphasis shifts from element test to network-wide monitoring solutions.
 
TMCnet: What were some of the 2007 highlights for Tektronix?
 
KC: Tektronix made several new VoIP test announcements during the year. Among them, we introduced the newest release of our powerful, scalable Spectra2 test solution. Release 5.2 significantly enhances Spectra2 to provide a complete diagnostic test solution for network operators and equipment manufacturers developing platforms and service offerings in the increasingly complex communications environment for VoIP, IMS and converged networks.
 
We also announced the Unified Assurance Converged Networks (UACN) platform. UACN will initially focus on voice services delivered over IP next generation networks. The Orion Service Assurance for Voice Services will enable operators to measure the performance of voice services delivered to their customers, including determining uptake rates, failure rates and performance trends over time for specific target markets and sub-markets.
 
In addition, another new application to the UACN framework is the Interconnect Services module that allows extended visibility of voice service performance for calls that transit into or out of the operator’s network over IP next generation networks.
 
Tektronix also expanded its Active Assurance suite of VoIP monitoring solutions to include new active test probes and capabilities that enable service providers and cable companies to effectively deploy, monitor and maintain VoIP services for enterprise customers.
 
TMCnet: How do you place those highlights in the broader VoIP test solutions market?
 
KC: We are seeing our network operator customers migrate their networks to all-IP networks, with the first service being VoIP. In making these investments, they are looking for network monitoring solutions to not only handle VoIP services, but also video and data.
 
One important thing to note about this trend is that network operators are shifting their network monitoring strategies that focus on services and not on the network. As a result, they are requiring more flexible and cost effective solutions that address network-wide monitoring from the core to the customer premise.
 
TMCnet: If you had to pick one event or development that occurred during 2007 that had an impact on the VoIP test solutions market, what would it be?
 
KC: The move towards the delivery of multimedia services and the convergence of networks around IP. This has made network operators rethink their test and monitoring strategies such that they can ensure the overall end-to-end network quality of service, as well as the end-user’s quality of experience. For test and monitoring companies such as Tektronix, the need for testing multimedia services and networks has led to the development of new products and monitoring solutions that not only test VoIP, but also have the capability to handle data and video.
 
TMCnet: In terms of technology, what changes did you see during 2007 for the VoIP test solutions market?
 
KC: One change is the need to monitor end-to-end service performance. During 2007, this became more prevalent as competition in the the service delivery market heated up. Customers have further raised the bar on quality expectations.
 
The need for flexibility and scalability also increased during 2007. The industry saw a sharp increase in the number of test solutions that require both passive and active testing solutions. In addition to meeting the need to monitor a service across the entire network, the combination of passive and active monitoring gives network operators greater flexibility and a better cost-optimized approach.
 
TMCnet: In terms of business practices, what changes did you see during 2007 for the VoIP test solutions market?
 
KC: The most important change was the importance of convergence for test solutions. Test vendors seem to be getting ready for convergence with technologies such as IMS, and are looking to consolidate their test and monitoring solutions in order to better meet the needs of converged networks and services.
 
TMCnet: Looking broadly at all the customer feedback Tektronix received during 2007, what trends do you see emerging?
 
KC: Although IP convergence is the most logical and exciting step for communications, it can be daunting to network operators and service providers. Convergence (News - Alert) in telecom could mean convergence of technologies, convergence of services, convergence of infrastructure, convergence of voice, video and data.
 
Key to convergence is the importance of end-to-end service testing, which ties back to customer quality of experience. The ability to combine in a single suite active test and passive monitoring solutions gives network operators the flexibility and scalability they require, but in a cost-optimized approach. For example, Tektronix’ Unified Assurance for Converged Networks (UACN) enables service providers to evaluate true end-to-end service quality of VoIP services.
 
TMCnet: Looking ahead to 2008, what changes do you predict for the VoIP test solutions market—both in terms of technology and business practices?
 
KC: In 2008, we anticipate that a large percentage of VoIP testing requirements will be less of a standalone solution, but instead will be part of a multimedia test platform. From a test and monitoring perspective, there will continue to be consolidation in the industry as smaller test company solutions will be absorbed into larger ones. As a result, these broader solutions will address testing and monitoring of multimedia services.
 
To learn more about the ideas and solutions discussed in this article, please visit the VoIP Test Solutions channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by Tektronix.
 

Mark your calendars! Internet Telephony (News - Alert) Conference & EXPO—the first major IP communications event of the year—is just days away. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place in Miami Beach, FL, January 23–25, 2008. The EXPO will feature three valuable days of exhibits, conferences and networking that you won’t want to miss. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

 
Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.



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