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August 14, 2008

Touchstone Technologies: Service Provider Success Hinges on Accurate Monitoring and Testing

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

It’s a fact: providing the highest quality product or service can mean the difference between success or failure in the highly competitive communications technology market. Ensuring high quality requires monitoring and testing solutions to ensure that service level agreements (SLAs) can be met.
Given the importance of quality in communications services, companies like Touchstone (News - Alert) Techologies are likely to see strong growth in the years to come. Mark Stacy, the company’s CEO and CTO, will be on hand at ITEXPO West 2008 next month, presenting a session titled “Addressing the Challenges of SLA Monitoring and Remote Diagnostics.”
I caught up with Stacy to get his perspective on the competitive communications industry and find out more about the ITEXPO session.
RT: What has been Touchstone’s biggest achievement in 2008 so far?
MS: So far this year, Touchstone has seen its new IP communications monitoring solution for service level agreements (SLAs), Net Observer, proven in an extended field trial and ready to go into production as a target architecture for a major Tier 1 carrier. 
We have won industry awards for our product’s accuracy in quantifying network metrics in a head-to-head competition. We have also significantly enhanced the capabilities and feature set of our popular WinSIP Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) testing solution.
RT: What can we expect to see for from Touchstone during the next 12 months?
MS: We are continuing to advance our products capabilities and are focusing quite extensively on diagnostic capabilities. We believe that with the move from laboratory environments to actual deployments, people are beginning to realize the benefits, if not the necessity, of performing pre-deployment,  implementation, and post-deployment testing to ensure the robustness and stability of the platforms and services they deliver.  After all, we are talking about businesses lifeblood; communications.
RT: How do you see the communications market evolving?
MS: I personally believe that we will continue to see devices that blur the lines between personal, business, and recreational use of all aspects of a converged IP-based network.  With the current state of cellular phones, devices provide Internet, e-mail, and telephony services in a very small footprint. I think that the natural convergence of services on IP-based communications will only enhance that experience as we begin to see the appearance of multi-mode (WiFi (News - Alert) and 3G) devices that will enhance the user experience. 
I also believe that at home, more and more services will be delivered to set-top boxes, which again will blur the lines between entertainment and personal communications. During the next ten years, I fully expect to see a fully “converged device” introduced that will deliver on-demand content, personal videoconferencing, and integrate Web services possibly in ways we haven’t even conceived of yet.
RT: What company made the biggest contribution to communications this year?
MS: Many of our customers that come to mind who have excellent quality products that I personally enjoy. Ditech Networks’ Packet Loss Concealment algorithm definitely merits mention. Grandstream Networks has an awesome product line that we use in our labs to test video telephony. However, the single biggest “wow” came when I was at the Cisco (News - Alert) campus and saw the various permutations of the company’s telepresence system — truly spectacular.
RT: How has Google changed the communications industry?
MS: Products aside, which by the way are outstanding, I believe that Larry and Sergey have completely changed the rules of engagement. I respect them for their high moral ground (read: neutrality) and their quest to deliver the best user experience in spite of what would be considered “normal” business practices (research over profits). I also applaud them for their ability to keep a campus-like atmosphere while simultaneously managing the frenetic pace at which Google has grown.
RT: How about Apple?
MS: The iPhone is very cool, as are most Apple products. The problem I see is the inability of Apple’s management pull off smooth product launches. You would have thought that by now that they would have learned their lessons…
RT: What mobile phone(s) do you use?
MS: I’m currently using a three-year-old LG 8100. I’m really going to hate to give that phone up, it’s been rock solid and sounds great.
RT: Who do you think will win in the battle between Apple and Research in Motion (News - Alert) (RIM)?
MS: It’s really too early to tell, and it might result in a tie. Apple will probably win the younger demographic and RIM will continue to be the staple for true “road warriors.”
RT: What do you think the communications market might look like in five years?
MS: Convergence will continue to blur the lines between services (Web, phone, video).
RT: What will attendees learn about in your session at ITEXPO this September?
MS: Our session will provide attendees with insights into the monitoring and diagnostic aspects of converged networks. We will focus specifically on the state of SLAs today, what essential components need to be considered for the future, and how heuristics can be incorporated into a network monitoring strategy for improving overall quality.
RT: What type of attendees do you think should come to your session?
MS: I would suggest that senior network architects, CIOs, CTOs, product and service managers, and anyone else who is curious about what constitutes not only an effective SLA, but also how to diagnose and troubleshoot large-scale communications networks, should attend.
RT: Why should customers choose Touchstone’s solutions?
MS: Our products provide state-of-the-art solutions at an excellent price point and we take exceptional pride in our service both pre and post sale. Best of all, they are 100 percent software-based so that you can easily download them and try them in your environment to see if they suit your needs.
RT: Please make one surprising prediction for 2009.
MS: Google buys Yahoo! (first half) and begins negotiations with Time-Warner (second half); Microsoft (News - Alert) stock plummets.
Learn more about Touchstone Technologies, Inc., at Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO will take place in Los Angeles, California, September 16-18, 2008, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Visit Touchstone at booth #526 in the exhibit hall. Don’t wait. Register now!

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

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