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IMS Analyst Corner

60 seconds with Duane Sword

IMS Magazine

Why did Empirix decide to target the IMS market?

Because that is where our customers needed us.

IMS promises to accelerate convergence in many dimensions and make “anything over IP” and “IP over everything” a reality. However, stratification of the transport layer, control/session plane, and applications creates unique challenges from a service quality assurance perspective, which falls squarely into Empirix’s space.

Empirix has deep domain in media-rich, stateful communications, specifically in voice-centric interactions
in wireless and wireline environments. Moreover, we were the first to offer SIP and H.323 back in the late 90s and the first to offer integrated real-time signaling and media call session correlation. Duane Sword is responsible for the Strategic Marketing, Product Policy, and Outbound Marketing for the suite of Hammer test solutions spanning contact centers, labs, operations and self service applications for Empirix.
Duane spoke to TMC about the evolution to IMS and Empirix’s role in helping make IMS a reality.

Before IMS became the latest catchy acronym that marketers could exploit, Empirix was intimately involved in the labs hands-on with proof-of-concept implementations of 3GPP release 5 functions and devices that laid the foundation for the IMS architecture that seems so obvious today. IMS is all about the applications and quality of services that enterprises and consumers can enjoy. This plays directly to where Empirix can contribute and succeed.

Please define the role that automated testing and monitoring plays in enabling service providers and their customers to reap the rewards of IMS.

Reducing time to market, and time to revenue… with quality, with confidence.

IMS is broad and its promise of “any media anywhere” is fantastic, but such ubiquity of service does imply tremendous complexity in reality. Essentially, whether you are an applications developer, an infrastructure vendor, an integrator, a service provider, or a
hosted applications provider, the severe competition drives outstanding technical and commercial demands.

Those that see test and quality assurance as a differentiator prioritize and invest early in test professionals, tools, and test plans. Automation in the feature test, load test, regression, and interoperability domains can assure baselining of quality and test coverage, but also maximize the talent of valuable resources for solving customer problems rather than configuring and interpreting results from traditional test instrumentation manually.

What are some of the pitfalls service providers need to be aware of when considering the move to IMS?

IMS is not a standard; it is reference architecture that defines functions within a three-layer architecture consisting of (1) the access/transport/device layer, (2) the control layer, and (3) the applications layer. As much as possible, existing standards, like SIP (define - news - alert), and Parlay, are incorporated into the architecture, which has resulted in remarkable progress. For an industry that took 12 years to standardize T1 and E1 and 15 years to standardize AIN, getting to the current IMS framework in 5 years is remarkable.

Still, many issues remain and standards have yet to address several key areas. These include defining common security elements and security aspects, such as handling of denial of service, topology hiding, and overload protection. Legal requirements for “lawful intercept” aren’t dealt with yet, nor are the “transcoding” approaches that will be necessary when going between wireline and wireless networks.

It’s already clear that the conformance and interoperability challenges with IMS will be huge. To date, there haven’t been any It’s already clear that
the conformance and interoperability challenges with IMS will be huge.
“interoperability” events or conformance test suites beyond those that existed with the existing protocols IMS adopted. The first such events are coming in mid-2006. As a result, most of the early trials have focused on a single vendor’s product line. But since no vendor covers everything and carriers are pushing for standardization, you should prepare for more interoperability testing.

How does Empirix help its customers make the transition to IMS?

By listening, by delivering, and by continuing to be active in the leading labs and deployed networks on the planet coupled with a very close engagement with the key alliances and forums. We have developed our own state machines, such that we do not rely on a third-party protocol stack, hence enabling us to offer rapid development cycles, which are extensible to vendor variants.
In performing IMS readiness tests in labs and operational networks, we’ve observed two main kinds of problems that delay deployment of IMS-enabled services: device interoperability and service interworking. These aren’t surprising; SIP interoperability alone is a big issue, and service interactions have troubled the telecom industry for decades and IMS brings integration to a whole new level. The good news is that there is reality to the promise of interoperability.

Done right, IMS should enable faster deployment of new, content-rich services for both consumer and enterprise customers. Done wrong, it can prevent NEMs and service providers from launching new products and services on time and wreak havoc on service facets.

The transition from today’s networking architecture to IMS is sure to be bumpy for some. Thorough interoperability, security, and performance testing should be a hallmark of good service rollouts.

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