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October 2007 | Volume 2 / Number 5
IMS Industry Perspective

The Need for IMS Enabler Innovation

By Mike McHugh
IMS enablers are feature-specific servers that provide Internet and communication services with productivity and community-enhancing features, such as instant messaging (IM), IP conferencing, presence/availability, location, group list management, gaming, and Web 2.0 type of value-added capabilities. IMS enablers are often times referred to as applications.

In order for new IMS services to flourish, it is very important for network operators to recruit, deploy, and manage a wide ecosystem of innovative, new IMS enablers/applications that can be created by in-house developers, SI partners, or by third-party ISV partners. These applications by themselves are not sufficient to generate a large volume of data consumption by end-user consumers. As a result, these so-called real-time communication and collaboration capabilities are being woven into existing Internet services and applications as core value-add capabilities.

Two use-cases exemplifying this type of integration include the addition of IM, presence/availability management (PAM) and VoIP features to Internet mail services, or the embedding of IM, PAM, and IP conferencing with enterprise knowledge worker collaboration suite product offerings. In these application use-cases, IM, PAM, VoIP and IP conferencing are not stand-alone applications, but are actually value-added, productivity enhancing features of existing end-user applications.

Another example is the use of mobile messaging and call control capabilities as IMS enablers at the IMS services layer. In this use case SMS, MMS, and call control capabilities are embedded into existing Internet services, or enterprise knowledge worker applications, such that a pre-configured business process may trigger a SMS, MMS, or call to one or more key decision-makers in a given business process workflow. This could be applied in the context of any vertical industry such as financial services, healthcare, homeland security, supply chain, transportation, or manufacturing.

The key to such IMS service innovation is the ability for operators to attract an ever-increasing and ever-innovating ecosystem of third-party IMS enablers. The innovative features and capabilities implemented in IMS enablers will become the uniquely differentiating service capabilities delivered by network operators over their IMS networks. To leverage these IMS enablers efficiently and cost-effectively, operators will need to implement an IMS Services Layer architecture. This architecture will allow IMS enablers to access, share and extend the features of the various other IMS enablers with the ultimate goal of delivering new innovation to IMS applications.

To this end, network operators must implement an IMS Services Layer strategy that involves opening their IMS service capabilities to third-party developers and ISVs, as well as implementing a policy-based approach to control which IMS enablers from which third parties can be accessed by other third-party developers/ISVs. Hence, the exposure of IMS network capabilities via open APIs, while maintaining the ability to control how third parties use and access various IMS Enablers, will become critical to the new IMS business model.

IMS network deployments and initial commercial service launches are beginning to happen in key communication markets in Europe and Asia, with the Americas soon to follow. As operators plan their future IMS services roadmap, there will be a critical need for the proliferation of new and innovative IMS enablers to provide the uniquely differentiating capabilities of new IMS services. To provide such capabilities, operators must first implement a converged IMS Services Layer to bridge the IT and telecom domains in terms of service creation, delivery, management and orchestration. And into this IMS Services Layer, operators must source a large ecosystem of third-party IMS enablers so the unique capabilities of the IMS network can be implemented as features and ultimately embedded into new and innovative IMS services.

Mike McHugh is vice president and general manager, BEA WebLogic Communications Platform, at BEA Systems. For more information, please visit the company online at

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