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Aug/Sept 2008 | Volume 3/Number 4
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IMS Service Creation and Provisioning

By Richard "Zippy" Grigonis
One lure for network operators to migrate to IMS is the ease with which one can create and deploy new revenue-generating and churn-reducing service offerings. Although flexible and easy service creation may be possible in the IMS world, there are a multitude of creation paradigms one can follow to architect and implement IMS-based solutions, both for the operators themselves as well as third-party service developers. GUI Service Creation Environments, APIs and scripting languages are just a few possibilities. Given the leisurely pace of IMS adoption, the latest rage in the quick creation of services that can be delivered to multiple devices involves SDPs (Service Delivery Platforms) also called SDEs (ServiceDelivery Environments) as promoted by BEA Systems (now part of Oracle), IBM and Microsoft.

Oracle's Ty Wang, Senior Director of Product Marketing, says "What does Oracle bring to this equation? Well, first, we've definitely invested a great deal in communications software technology, not only with our developments over the past few years via some acquisitions, but also with the BEA acquisition and their WebLogic communications platform, we actually do feel we have a pretty solid technology base now to go after the market for the services layer."

"When we talk about service delivery with customers," says Wang, "we tend to use two terms: 'blend' and 'extend'. The 'blend' relates to service proliferation, and how you actually proliferate many services that blend many capabilities. Many developers would like to blend voice with messaging, video, presence and different capabilities. So, along that dimension, we've definitely gone to market with service creation tools, we've gone out with our application servers and our SIP [Session Initiation Protocol ] application servers and our service creation environments to build both SIP servlets as well as Web Services to make it easier to develop applications. We've also gone to market in exposing things such as charging to developers so that they can be more proactive in building such functionality into their applications."

"One might ask how we're doing in terms of the rest of the world," says Wang. "We judge the ability to 'blend' capabilities quickly, you can argue that Googles and the Facebooks of the world are still providing more powerful APIs and making it easier to create new services. But we're definitely looking at it in terms of exposing capabilities to developers so that they can more quickly do blending using things such as enablers. So, with the acquisition of BEA and what was their network gatekeeper product, we actually see the ability to expose the capabilities of legacy networks along with IMS networks in a more powerful fashion."

"You can also argue that it's all about service revenues and maintaining a close relationship with the customer," says Wang. "That's more around the 'extend' dimension with which we've seen most carriers struggle in terms of servicing their customers. This 'extend' dimension works like this, 'I've got this cool service, but how do I actually put this in my network?' I've got billing and revenue management systems, provisioning systems, and all kinds of policy and security functions that I must put into place so that I can migrate from a more trusted network to an untrusted network, which seems like what the world is moving toward."

"So, the carrier customers with which we work are wondering how they can actually embrace the third parties. That's where we see many of the trends concerning the implementation of IMS-type functionality before the core network evolution occurs. I think a lot of customers have associated IMS with a major 'network overhaul' and putting a layer on top of their existing core networks, and buying CSCFs, HSSs and things along those lines. Many of our customers are simply taking a more pragmatic approach, saying, 'Okay, if I really want to embrace these third parties, what am I doing about things such as policy, security, billing, charging models, and things like that?' Pragmatism has led our customers to use more standards-based IT software to approach the 'extend' dimension, since we spent a lot of time over the last few years worrying about the 'blend' dimension."

Oracle/BEA believes their SDP approach should simply be sufficiently modular to interface to OSSs and BSSs. Other players, such as IBM, are said to favor all-inclusive, approaches wherein OSS/BSS functionality is integrated into the SDP/SDE.

A Helping Hand

Oracle was wise to acquire BEA's technology, since it's used worldwide in conjunction with other development tools and environments. For example, Ericsson's Windows-based Service Development Studio (SDS) — part of Ericsson's IMS system offering — can be used to develop and do end-to-end testing of IMS applications, and the most recent versions (4.0 and higher) support BEA WebLogic SIP Server, enabling it to be used in the development of IMS client applications via its use as an IMS core network simulator (P-CSCF, S-CSCF, HSS, and DNS) with availability of service enablers (presence, group manager, push-to-talk, IMS messaging), plus user device and SIP-server emulators. SDS provides high-level APIs to hide device and network complexity for the designer and various templates and wizards for client and server-side development help the developer shorten project lead times.

SDS is based on the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE), loaded with such components as a visual network display with testing support using test agents and automated test framework; an IMS Client Platform (ICP), with pre-JSR 281 and IMS Service APIs; and a Symbian device emulator. SDS has been used for multiple IMS applications with concluding customer trials and demos. IMS clients developed using SDS consist of two separate downloadable parts: The Ericsson IMS Client Platform (ICP), and the IMS Client application developed with SDS. The client creation part of SDS supports application creation for initially open OS Symbian mobile phones (SonyEricsson P990, M600, etc.) and PCs with Windows OS. Future plans are to support other open operating systems, such as Windows Mobile and Linux Mobile, and to provide a network proxy-based Client Utility API to IMS-enable JME feature phones currently without SIP/IMS capabilities.

The server application creation part combines support for key telecom interfaces and protocols with standard Java and Internet-centric technologies. The Service Execution Environment (SEE) for the server side of the newly-developed IMS Service application is emulated in the SDS. It's a JSR 116 (SSA 1.0) standards-compliant SIP Application Server, as defined by the 3GPP, and consists of SIP and web (HTTP) components. Future server-side plans are to include support for SIP-AS compliant to JSR 289 (SSA 1.1), Media control support to JSR 309, and JEE support.

Even when running on a standard PC, SDS can also serve as a trial execution environment with limited capacity and scalability by connecting it directly to the trial IMS core system via the IMS Service Control (ISC) interface. This trial IMS core system could be at the customer's premises, a real network, or an externally hosted solution. For hosted solutions you can use Ericsson's Remote IMS (RIMS) lab or IMS expert center.

Recently, Ericsson performed live demonstrations of end-to-end mobile service creation using SIP and IMS using Java ME (Micro Edition) and Java EE (Enterprise Edition). It's now possible to develop a simple messaging application using low-level SIP communication APIs ( JSR-180 on the client side and JSR-289 on the server side). Ericsson has also demonstrated how to quickly develop an application for publishing videos recorded with a mobile phone on YouTube, using the IMS Service API ( JSR-281).

Just Add Water and…

The flagship product of Personeta (a company founded in 2000), is TappS NSC, a standards-based service creation and execution platform enabling service providers to rapidly implement converged services at far less cost than traditional telecom services. Right now TappS NSC is deployed at some major service providers worldwide where it's used to delivery a variety of highly-segmented converged communication services over legacy and packet-based infrastructures.

Given the increasing number of devices and the evolving nature of the IMS environment, service providers are demanding interoperable infrastructures that will ease the delivery of services worldwide. That's why Personeta has even partnered with HelloSoft , Inc., a provider of VoIP/IMS/VCC [Voice Call Continuity] technologies for wireline and wireless devices to collaborate on IMS/VCC initiatives so that service providers can easily develop and deliver enhanced voice, data, image and multimedia applications as fast as possible and at the lowest cost.

The HelloSoft/Personeta collaboration makes possible a Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) ecosystem, wherein the budding end-to-end IMS solutions are able to operate on various dualmode and multi-mode handset devices. Thus, devices enabled with HelloSoft's IMS/VCC client will now work with Personeta's TappS NSC Mobility Management infrastructure to deliver genuine mobile broadband capabilities such as video and VoIP.

There's still quite a bit of inertia for network operators, service providers and carriers to overcome, since the old SS7 infrastructure has been around for a long time. But given the advanced and terrific IMS SCE and SDP solutions that are now appearing, we can expect some further acceleration of IMS deployment and services creation.

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC's IP Communications Group.


HelloSoft (News - Alert)


Personeta (News - Alert)

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