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September 08, 2011

The Cloud a Key Battlefield for Today's Service Providers: ITEXPO Speaker

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

A key topic of discussion at ITEXPO West 2011, set to kick off on Sept. 13 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, will be the role that service providers play in the ever-evolving consumer and enterprise markets.

In anticipation of the many keynotes and panel discussions that will touch on this topic, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) reached out to Chris Carabello, marketing director at Metaswitch Networks, to get his thoughts on the latest consumer and business trends, and how they are affecting wired, wireless and cable operators.

The mass adoption of mobile devices and Web services has dried up traditional revenue channels for many of today's service providers, forcing them to look to alternative sources to remain competitive, says Carabello.

Forward-thinking service providers have begun partnering with companies like Metaswitch Networks, a provider of scalable session control, media gateway and application/feature server solutions, to build out new integrated applications and next-gen voice services via the cloud, says Carabello.

These offerings can give operators the ability to open up new revenue streams and fight back against OTT providers that are threatening their business, he continued. Metaswitch helps customers migrate their services to the cloud, while still enabling them to own the access, support and billing relationships with their clients.

“This enables delivery of a more seamless experience than an apps-only cloud vendor can provide,” he added.

Carabello also filled Tehrani in on Metaswitch's strategy for helping service providers respond to the virtual workforce movement, which necessitates investing in applications that can pair mobile and desktop clients.

Metaswitch is looking forward to ITEXPO West 2011 to catch up with vendors, enterprises and current and prospective service provider customers to talk about the gradual migration to the cloud and the opportunities that the transition presents, says Carabello, who will be taking part in two presentations at the show: “How MNOs can Leverage a Cloud Platform to Deliver UC” and “A Competitive Edge: Hosted and Cloud Services Solutions for SMBs.”

The full interview is below.

How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?

Over the past few years, Metaswitch has been seeing an ever-increasing trend in smartphone use, especially for mobile business workers. In a recent survey we commissioned, we found that 95 percent of business employees use smartphones and 62 percent of businesses have employees that work from home. This requires service providers to deliver an even tighter integration of the communication experience, creating a consistent experience that encompasses both fixed and mobile devices across both their residential and business lives.

With these consumer and business trends, there has been a profound impact on service provider infrastructure. There has been massive growth and deployment of SIP and “smart” mobile endpoints. Along with the rapid movement of services into the cloud, service providers are also putting more of a focus on building upon a strong network foundation with the applications required to deliver optimal business user experience.

What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?

A perfect storm is forming around three disruptive and rapidly growing forces – the mobile broadband network, smartphones and cloud networks. The challenge for our industry is unifying these trends so that we may adapt our business models. In doing so, we must be flexible enough to rapidly deliver the applications customers demand and across multiple smart devices, while delivering a superior user experience. 

SIP-based architectures such as IMS and LTE (News - Alert) are being built to support the smartphone proliferation and SIP-based applications, such as IM and presence.   SIP signaling across an operator’s network will continue to grow rapidly as these exciting new applications multiply. A key challenge will be how best to manage this new SIP signaling traffic load in a cost effective manner - while at the same time ensuring security, service assurance and scalability.

How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?

At Metaswitch, we are on the front lines of supporting our customers’ migration of services to the cloud. Service providers can be at an advantage by owning the access, support and billing relationships with customers while integrating cloud applications into its network. This enables delivery of a more seamless experience than an apps-only cloud vendor can provide. For example, Metaswitch enables service providers to layer smart services on top of existing infrastructures with the CommPortal Communicator, which allows our customers to offer advanced features while also providing a reliable, managed and highly customizable voice service.

In order to accelerate our customers’ time to market while lowering capex, we have also been developing our own cloud-based services for both operators and mobile users. Our Thrutu (News - Alert) product, for example, gives carriers a way to bring new and creative services to their voice subscribers by letting users instantly share all manner of interactive content and media during a phone conversation.

What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?

Our customers are really looking for ways to continue to build revenue from their existing customer base and for ways Metaswitch can help them build services that can also increase revenue. They are asking these questions because their existing sources of their revenue, that they have built their businesses on, are now under siege. Our wireline customers are under siege from wireless displacement and OTT providers. OTT providers are also threatening the rest of our customer sets in the cable and wireless space. A certain segment of our customers are also facing possible regulatory changes. No matter what type of service provider our customer is, they are facing threats to their traditional revenue streams and are coming to us to find unique ways to compete.

New integrated applications, including voice services, delivered via the cloud and R&D, are the keys to enabling service providers to meet these challenges. Metaswitch is uniquely positioned to develop such applications that allow service providers to better compete, grow revenues and turn back the tide of churn and OTT threats.

As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility?  What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?

For many years now, companies have been moving towards a virtual workforce and we recognize the need to invest in applications that serve this purpose. There is a strong need for applications like softphones, such as our CommPortal Communicator, which is also able to twin a unified communications desktop client and a mobile client and fits it seamlessly together with a wired phone. Applications like this provide the end-user with a reliable communication avenue no matter where they are or where they may be traveling to.

One barrier to mobile adoption that we have seen is the blurring of the end user’s professional and personal lives to make them available to anyone at any time. Operators must find solutions to separate the various layers of a user’s identity, allowing them to customize their communication profile to their own needs. While the end goal should allow end users to place and receive calls and messages on all of their devices, it should be in their control whether that is their preference. Operators can deploy new unified communications tools that allow end users to control their numbers and messages to make their identity more efficient and personal. 

How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android (News - Alert) vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out?

As people continue to communicate it is evident that these operating systems are of value to almost everyone. It is up to the service providers to work with vendors so they can adapt to all of the different operating systems in order to make sure the network is flexible enough to integrate all operating systems. 

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West  in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?

Every year ITEXPO brings the greatest minds from vendors, service providers and the enterprise community all together in one place. I am looking forward to hearing first-hand experiences and recommendations from other industry experts.

No doubt that a huge focus of the show this year will be on cloud services. There will be a lot to learn and share about how vendors can help service providers in the cloud, but also how service providers can help their end-users by embracing cloud applications.

What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session and why should attendees be sure to attend?

Metaswitch works with all 700 of our customers on a regular basis, so we are very aware of the challenges and opportunities of service providers of all sizes and types. Session attendees should be ready to learn more about the opportunities for mobile network operators and how to gain SMB customers by delivering unique cloud services.

To find out more about Metaswitch, visit the company at ITEXPO West 2011. To be held Sept. 13-15 in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Chris Carabello, marketing director at Metaswitch, is speaking during “A Competitive Edge: Hosted and Cloud Services Solutions for SMBs”, and “How MNOs Can Leverage a Cloud Platform to Deliver UC.” Marc Matthews (News - Alert), director of Systems Engineering at Metaswitch, is speaking during “2018: The Death of the PSTN Keynote Luncheon Panel.” Don’t wait. Register now.

Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO… follow us on Twitter.




Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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