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Next Generation Messaging:

Understanding the Market Drivers and Managing in a Changing Environment

By Steve Toft, EMC Corporation

 


Faced with globalization, a shifting marketplace, and regulatory and competitive pressures, todays telecommunication carriers must continually differentiate products and services to increase the average revenue per user (ARPU) and actual margin per user (AMPU), all while improving customer retention rates. Next generation messaging (NGM) services offer carriers an opportunity to dramatically differentiate themselves from competitors and to target offerings toward specific market sectors. However, as traditional voice mail systems evolve into IP-based next generation messaging systems, carriers also experience a tremendous amount of digital data growth that must be managed and stored for customers. As a result, carriers will need to dramatically enhance their information management and storage technology to support the systems capabilities while improving the efficiency of customer-facing business activities, such as billing and customer service.

Trends Towards Next Generation Messaging
The next generation messaging evolution will assimilate all other message types to enable users to send a compound message without really knowing or caring about the capabilities of the recipient. So, when one user sends a message to another, the message will be groomed by the network so it can be delivered to a device irrespective of the client type. The network may also be able to add value elements, such as predictions based on past behaviors, current location, or even link to calendar sensitive issues, such as travel schedules or holidays. In that scenario, the network is pivotal in making decisions concerning format delivery, timing, and all other message parameters. In other words, the network continues to add value.

However, this presents some challenges. The growing trend of implementing IP-based communication at the core of the network will affect functions and operations at the edge of the network. Consequently, all message format and presentation could be handled on a peer-to-peer thick-client basis, ultimately eroding the need for network-based components and gateways. In addition, the advent of the IP network breaks down boundaries between what is mobile and what is fixed line.

The carrier then has to manage the transition towards convergence while still adding value above and beyond the capabilities of a client-based communications service.

The ability of the network, particularly the mobile network, to add presence, location, and preference information, while offering a guaranteed storage location for sensitive and valued data, should be central in the network-centric value proposition.

NGM and Content Storage
In addition to evolving messaging technologies, telecom operators will require other technology enhancements to drive revenue. The explosive growth of customer digital media in the form of photos and music files will be a potential area of revenue generation, both as a value-added service, as well as with additional bandwidth utilization.

For instance, offering online photo albums and music facilities requires back-up and storage as well as other capabilities such as sharing, printing, jukebox, and more. It is unlikely that NGM content stores and my photo, my music, and my video will exist in isolation. Rather, a customer receiving a complex message may well elect to store components of the message in different ways, moving a photo to the online album, for example. Similarly, the online stores will offer the user a rich choice of data to compose and enhance their messages.

Challenges
Todays IP-based voice mail systems typically plan for one to ten MB per user. This is a function of the volume and relatively transient nature of the data with a typical voice mail being held for three days. However, a trend towards rich data will result in both an increase in data volumes and likely, an increase in the duration for which messages are held. Future messaging systems will typically have a requirement of 10100MB per user. However, as noted above, adding the online photo/music/video store to the environment could well drive storage requirements to the multi-GB level. This will likely increase memory capabilities of the network storage devices used to access the messaging system.

While the ability to handle data volume alone is important in the storage layer, the input/output performance of the system is also a critical factor. This can be seen in the requirements for todays voice mail systems. Clearly, as the volume of data increases, this factor becomes even more important, particularly when the real-time nature of messaging is considered.




In summary, todays messaging systems are transactional in their nature. However, the trend is towards a system with both transactional and bulk storage characteristics. Designing a right cost architecture to support such systems will be critical to their success.

Information Management
The volume of data to be stored is only one element when considering the storage and content management requirements for next-generation messaging.

The message illustrated in Figure 1 is clear. As the carrier progresses to handling more and more personally orientated data, not only do the volumes increase, but the value attached to data also increases significantly. Carriers will have to guarantee this data will not be lost and can be retrieved in the case of disaster, and give a concrete guarantee covering the integrity of the information stored on behalf of their customers.

An information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy utilizing tiered storage and information management will securely and cost-efficiently manage the storage of information while offering high input/output performance. To intelligently manage information through its lifecycle, carriers will establish processes and procedures for moving data to the appropriate tier of storage based on the changing value of information and archive less pertinent data more cost effectively. For example, the complex messages proposed above will comprise a number of components including video, text, and voice. It may be possible to best guess which of these elements are of most value to the customer. A received message could be treated as an object by the messaging system and its components held in different storage areas depending on its characteristics.

Voice would need to be held on high-performance storage to ensure its availability for playback, whereas images may be placed on in near line mode in anticipation of archiving and/or to guarantee integrity. It may well be that each component is then subject to separate information management rules throughout its lifecycle. In another variation, it may well be that all messages are managed according to standard lifecycle management rules unless the customer intervenes. For example, the customer may wish to add a message containing images to their online photo album. Or, it may well be possible to offer the user options against discrete components of the message. As this would have priority over the automatic information management rules, some form of charging could be appropriate.

What To Plan For In A Next Generation Messaging System
There are several distinct value propositions that carriers should be pursuing:

Partner with a vendor who offers superior price/performance characteristic when implementing the tiered storage necessary to support next generation messaging. Dont look only at acquisition costs, but consider the total cost of ownership of those systems, including maintenance and staffing.

Seek a partner who enables NGM by providing data storage security allowing carriers to gain the trust of the customer in handling data of high personal value.

Find a partner whose applications and infrastructure are able to utilize a superset of the telecoms storage layer functionality.

Select a partner who can assist the carrier in conducting a cost-based analysis of the complete NGM solution.

Look for market leading ability to implement tiered storage layers that enable cost efficiency in message handling to drive down the system TCO through smart information handling techniques and while offering users new storage options (automated or manual).

As more carriers embrace next generation messaging as a critical service offering, they will need to brace their IT infrastructure to handle the increased data growth the service will generate. Each of the above value propositions has a direct cost impact on message transportation, storage and content manipulation. In an automated environment, determining the right architecture and determining the storage cost base to feed into the business plan will be complex, but could maximize the performance of the next generation messaging architecture, as well as improve the efficiency of customer-facing business activities. IT

Steve Toft is EMC Corporations ISV and Alliance Manager for Telecommunications Business Development. For more information, please visit the company online at www.emc.com.

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