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IMS Magazine logo
Oct/Nov 2008 | Volume 3/Number 5
Featured Articles

Operations Support Systems and IMS

By Richard "Zippy" Grigonis
We all know that the IMS architecture enables carriers and service providers to quickly and inexpensively bring forth new and exciting revenue-generating services for their customers. Still, while it’s terrific to be able to ‘de-silo’ applications, there’s the whole matter of what Operations Support Systems (OSS)/billing and Service Development Platforms (SDPs) actually play well with IMS.

One company that has long focused on the OSS challenge is Clarity International, a global OSS business process automation company that provides a pre-integrated product and database that streamlines the elements of OSS into a single suite. Inventory, Fulfillment and Assurance applications link to a single SID based database, enabling real-time executive visibility of the network’s impact on revenues and customer experience. Clarity manages over 120 million subscribers globally in Tier 1 incumbent and next-generation telcos. Clarity’s products are network and service neutral, driven by configurable templates and workflows, which help telcos cut time-to-market for new services by two-thirds.





Tony Kalcina, Clarity’s CEO, says, “The vision of Clarity International as an OSS company is based on our belief that the old ‘silo’ method of developing and deploying services was too restrictive. Providers spend too much time, effort and money. So we determined that we could solve this in a unified manner. We deliver to the market a modular yet unified capability that allows for the automation of the processes of fulfillment and assurance. To some extent our vision was pretty much matching the vision of what IMS and related forums wanted to do with OSS. Our thinking in moving forward is that we believe the ultimate end game is the empowerment and simplification of the complexity of the network to the subscriber — the end-customer. So we feel that the ultimate endgame is to give the subscriber the ability to self-manage his or her own telecom infrastructure in terms of what was ordered and how they tread their own telecom environment.”

“As a company, we’ve told our customers, mostly in emerging markets, to automate their fulfillment and assurance with a unified database and unified real-time engine that can work with various modules of functionality,” says Kalcina. “We’re moving closer to the ideal, to the point where we’re creating self-service infrastructures that basically drive the fulfillment and assurance engine. So we see the whole thing as a sort of service delivery factory, and we see the implementation, whether it be with one unified product or a compliant suite of building blocks, to evolve toward that level of subscriber empowerment. That alone has a lot of implications in terms of how we dovetail legacy technologies with the latest technologies. In the process we encounter a lot of hype but we can achieve an average sum total improvement in the industry, and I see companies heading toward adopting more unified, automated, self-service infrastructure.”

Jon Wells, an OSS Consultant at Clarity, says, “One angle is the simplification that the OSS approach brings generally to the table, and another angle looks at what IMS actually means for OSS simplification more specifically. One thing we see is that the elements of our product share the rhetoric around IMS. It will actually simplify service delivery to the extent that the VOSS becomes a very thin layer. So you have IMS suggesting a general simplification. When you look at what IMS is today, you can see already relatively simple services that are almost trying to emulate some of the legacy services such as voice and also emulate some of the NGN services, such as IPTV. In those types of scenarios, the role for the OSS is a bit simplified. But when you look at IMS in its widest sense, it can do things such as link together multiple service components and deliver them in flexible and innovative ways. In such situations the pressure point will come back onto the OSS, because it no longer becomes just a case of provisioning the IMS service in the HSS [Home Subscriber Server], the subscriber repository for IMS. There will appear the need to actually provision many other technology components to deliver these potentially more complicated services.”

“The same is also true for the assurance side,” says Wells. “Instead of just having to do some simple monitoring at the IMS layer, it’s also going to be important to do monitoring and such things at the applications server layer and also the network layer, in order to bring back a kind of consolidated view of what’s happening with the IMS services. One of the ambitions of IMS is thus to simplify the OSS. What we at Clarity believe is that as IMS starts to develop and delivers what it really can do, then it will take a unified OSS to make sense of many of the complexities that will be exposed in the course of provisioning and assurance.”

The Oracle of OSS

Many think of Oracle in terms of their powerful database products, but over the years Oracle also has built up an Oracle Communications division that offers packaged software solutions for the communications industry. They deliver end-to-end support for everything from service creation, offer management, and order orchestration, through provisioning and service delivery, to billing, revenue assurance, and reporting. Indeed, Oracle has a surprising array of enterprise and carriergrade software applications, middleware, database technology, and decision-support tools for the communications industry. It can leverage the technologies of PeopleSoft, Siebel, Portal Software, MetaSolv, TimesTen, and others. Providers armed with Oracle’s portfolio can rapidly create, market, sell, fulfill, deliver, and bill for next-generation services and content, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, slash operating costs in both the business and the network, and improve management reporting and control.

Oracle Communications’ Leonard Sheahan, Senior Director of Product Marketing, says, “My background is in the OSS space. IMS has undergone very slow adoption in the telecom industry. I’ve observed that a number of operators have taken migratory steps toward the IMS service architecture. They have deployed some of the benefits of IMS, such as a Session Initiation Protocol-based network. So they get some of the benefits of the packet-based infrastructure on the all-IP core network. However, they haven’t gone ‘whole hog’ if you will, to make the capital investment to deploy a full IMS network in many cases.”

“I’d also say that the operators that have actually moved into the IMS world have done so in a sort of hybrid approach,” says Sheahan, “where they have an existing network. Take one large incumbent carrier in North America we know of that has an existing IP-based network, over which they provide SIP signaling. They also have a number of application servers. So, they’re getting some of the benefits of IMS in terms of rapid application development and applications availability to their customers, but they have not transitioned as yet to a full IMS infrastructure. They have plans to do so and they also have plans to converge their fixed and mobile onto the same network, which is part of the boon for this particular large operator, which also owns a mobile arm and two or three different incumbent ‘LEC’ divisions, if you will. They also have a large IPTV deployment going on. For such companies, IMS offers the convergence they’re looking for, to help do their consolidation internally as well. Therefore, the company is really migrating toward IMS on a gradual basis, initially installing the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ components, and then at some point in time they’ll get around to doing the full cutover. But it’s really a large undertaking.”

“Another example from Europe is a very significant mobile operator that has deployed GSM, GPRS and UMTS services,” says Sheahan. “In early 2007 they started deploying IMS components in their network. They’re looking to transition customers gradually from their existing UMTS over onto the IMS segment. But it’s a very small proportion of their customers. In time, they will begin to transition customers across in larger numbers. Right now, however, they haven’t fully deployed the full IMS network to cover the entire geographic region, and so forth.”

“Much has been written about IMS and the hype has been out there for quite a while,” says Sheahan. “We’ve seen a few proper, bona fide deployments, such as Korea Telecom, but most of the other operators are only edging their way toward IMS.”

When the world finally moves to IMS, Oracle Communications will be ready. Recently they announced availability of their Oracle Communications Converged Application Server 4.0 (formerly called BEA WebLogic SIP Server), a key component of the recently released Oracle Communications Service Delivery product portfolio. It’s a converged web/communications application development and deployment platform, designed so that network operators, Network Equipment Providers (NEP), systems integrators and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can develop, deliver and operate real-time, multimedia communications services. The Communications Converged Application Server combines Internet and communications capabilities with the kind of carrier-grade high availability, performance, scalability and reliability needed for service creation and execution environments involving next-gen service delivery platforms.

Oracle had a leading role in the development of the latest SIP Servlet 1.1 specification, Java Specification Request ( JSR) 289, through the Java Community Process ( JCP). JSR 289 introduces a new application router so that app developers can quickly devise money-making services that converge familiar web-based, real-time communications applications into specific, end-user services, spanning existing business and operations support systems (BSS/OSS). Indeed, the Oracle Communications Converged Application Server is said to be the first commercial SIP/ IMS application compliant with the JSR 289 standard. IMS may not be taking off quite as quickly as many would like, but vendors are ready to supply network operators and providers with advanced OSS and Billing platforms.

 

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

Companie's Mentioned in this Article:

Clarity International
www.clarity.com

Oracle  (News - Alert)
www.oracle.com

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