August 2007 | Volume 2 / Number 4
IMS Testing, Baited and Abated
By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis
Unlike earlier Plugfests, this one will deal with more complicated applications such as multimedia, IPTV, wireless functionality, security, SIM card integration, IPsec and video conferencing. This may be the first Plugfest where gear is actually certified by the IMS Forum, which means that the network components are certified for interoperability for specific applications. A certain vendor’s network element would be certified separately for multimedia, SMS, video conferencing, etc.
As it happens, Sonus Networks has also chosen the UNH-IOL as the debut test house for its new Interoperability Certification Program, an extension of its Open Service Partner Alliance (OSPA) program. Sonus provides the certification, and the lab performs the actual testing.
Mark Lunardoni, Director of Marketing Operations for Sonus (www.sonusnetworks.com), also spearheads Sonus’ Open Service Partner Alliance program, which brings together vendors to test and ultimately offer service providers end-to-end packet-based network solutions. OSPA’s goal is to “empower standards-based interoperability between applications, hardware vendors, and the Sonus product family”. A particularly important part of the Sonus OSPA is the OSPA Interoperability Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire’s UNH-IOL (News - Alert), where product interoperability and trial testing is done and complete solutions are ultimately produced. (For more on OSPA and its partners, go to http://ospa.sonusnet.com.)
“We do have many kinds of relationships with third parties,” says Lunardoni. “There’s actually a number of solutions that we provide based on our products and third-party products that are ‘repeatable’ solutions we sell regularly. There we do very proactive testing, such as testing of new releases. We have these items in our own support labs and we can reproduce issues that can occur at customer sites. So certainly one level of our OSPA is support of third-party products and our testing of them almost to the level of our own products before we send them out into the field.”
“In the larger world that we work in, there’s an ever-increasing range of different products out there,” says Lunardoni, “and we must demonstrate their interoperability with our own products. The market expects us to be ‘good citizens’ within the overall IMS vendor community and we do regular testing, sometimes in our own labs at the request of a customer if they want us to help them on a particular issues. Or, we can test at the UNH-IOL in New Hampshire, where we’ve set up a testbed of our equipment, and we’ve worked with their staff on testing scripts. We also provide them with technical assistance and we make it possible for anybody who needs to work in a Sonus environment to go there and have their equipment tested on our testbed. The UNH-IOL is an exciting place and I always like going up there and seeing their entrepreneurial spirit. They work with a number of consortia and host other events, just as the IMS Plugfests, in which we also participate.”
“Since every network is different, if you don’t know the specific customer’s environment,” says Lunardoni. “You can only do interoperability up to a certain point. Still, if you can do some level of interoperability testing and demonstrate that the functionality works in a Sonus environment, then you’re removing an awful lot of risk and are guaranteeing a short time-to-install for any deployment using
“As we look at the different tiers of our interoperability and partnership programs,” says Lunardoni, “at the top layer are the repeatable solutions that we treat as our own products, and we do a lot of interoperability testing in our own labs. Then there’s another set of products that may not be repeatable solutions, but they’re important to a particular customer in a particular application in a particular environment. We test those in our labs, working with the customer. Finally, we have our OSPA certification program, run through the UNH, where a vendor can actually go there and get their product certified against a generic set of tests, and anyone who completes the certification then can use our Sonus Powered logo and market themselves as being interoperable with us.”
Chad Hart, Product Marketing Manager of Empirix (News - Alert) (www.empirix.com) says, “Although, externally, it doesn’t appear that IMS is taking off, we’re certainly seeing of activity in the lab, which is typically a precursor to actual commercial deployment. IMS is really getting proved out in both equipment manufacturer labs and especially service provider labs. We’re particularly involved in interoperability testing. We participated in the MultiService Forum (News - Alert)’s (MSF’s) Global MSF Interoperability 2006 (GMI 2006) Event that brought together equipment suppliers with Tier 1 carriers such as BT, NTT, France Telecom and Verizon (News - Alert), to demonstrate practical implementations of IMS convergence and to address key interoperability issues. “
The Electric Automatic Acid Test
EdenTree Technologies (News - Alert) (www.edentreetech.com) isn’t really a test equipment company per se; they’re an automation solutions company that offers a modular lab management and test automation solution for network hardware and software labs which includes remote connectivity management, computer configuration automation, and asset management tools.
EdenTree’s Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing, Roberta Gonzalez, says, “We have many customers on the service provider side using our solution to help automate their testing of IMS and VoIP services and solutions. For example, the Cisco (News - Alert) softswitch group uses EdenTree solutions to automate testing in their Richardson, Texas labs. Their need is to test the entire IMS solution as well as of course the various products, such as Class 4 and 5 capable softswitch products and all of the other elements that Cisco brings to the network mix, both in the core and at the edge. They test the overall solutions at various stages, as well as the individual products. Of course, there are a bewildering number of tests one can perform: functional testing, capacity testing, interoperability testing, total solutions testing, you name it. These tests are done in various stages and by different groups at different labs situated in different geographic regions.”
“As far back as 2004 Cisco did some forward thinking about how they could do this massive testing more effectively,” says Gonzalez, “and in 2005 they began to implement some Layer 1 switching and lab management software from us at EdenTree that allowed them to take a variety of NTAs, ATAs, IADs and phones of all kinds and connect them to their softswitch network where they were testing the products’ functionality, capacity and so forth. Using
our solution, they could now create many different connections among all of those elements, easily and in an automated fashion
via software controls of the Layer 1 switching infrastructure sitting in the lab. This is very much the ‘flagship’ solution that EdenTree provides, in that it shows how our software establishes a
switching infrastructure that can be used in labs and particularly the labs of VoIP equipment manufacturers as well as triple play service providers.”
“Vendor customers of ours such as ADTRAN (News - Alert), Cisco, Ericsson, Sonus and our service provider customers such AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, all have a common goal of being able to do more complete testing in their respective labs in a more automated fashion,” says Gonzalez. “We’re absolutely seeing this idea explode in popularity, especially over the first six months of 2007. We don’t have to evangelize the concept anymore. Some of the other major testing companies are also embracing this automated testing concept. The testing equipment vendors recognize that, even though increased efficiency in the lab and increased automation of the lab may cannibalize some of their equipment sales, that’s counterbalanced by the value that they can bring to their customers with automated testing solutions. It’s a win for everybody.”
“IMS software delivers an unlimited number of multimedia and voice services across wireline and wireless networks,” says Gonzales. “The test equipment and ancillary devices for this tends to include various electronic equipment and computer-based applications from multiple vendors. In the case of software companies, they must deal with support for many kinds of computers, frequent new releases, heterogeneous test environments, and complex computer configurations. But once again, our new class of solutions can automate the computer setup process and can handle high-end UNIX, Linux, and Windows platforms. So, for both hardware
and software vendors, customized automated testing increases both lab productivity and product quality while at the same time reducing costs.”
So it looks like the “combinatorial explosion” of testing involved in establishing IMS worldwide will be relieved by those innovative testing companies that have risen to the occasion by automating the testing process.