November 2007 | Volume 10/ Number 11
The State of Standards
By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis
Back in the late 1990s at a (now defunct) Computer Telephony Expo, a deranged homeless man somehow got into one of the conference sessions. When the Q&A session started, he jumped to his feet and yelled, “What we need are more standardized standards of standards!”
Many people in the audience, not knowing who he was, took a moment to profoundly mediate on the matter. One fellow said, “Yes, we need an over-arching standard to unite disparate, though related, standards.” Another chimed in with, “Standards have to interact too, don’t they? Maybe this should be a new layer on the OSI stack!”
The homeless man grabbed somebody’s laptop and left.
There are many standards. Here’s what’s happening with some of them. . .
Aktino (http://www.aktino.com) builds sophisticated carrier-class, multi-pair DSL modems (“bonded copper”) to get a bigger pipe so that service providers can offer more high-end business applications. This technology supports fiber-to-the-curb, Ethernet-over-copper or next-gen business access services.
Aktnio Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, Michail Tsatsanis, says, “In the DSL standards world, there have been two different lines of standards, for business and residential customers. In the business world, ISDN evolved into HDSL, HDSL2, SHDSL and other symmetric business services. It evolved from 128 Kbps to 2.3 megabits. In the residential space there are more recent standards, starting with ADSL in the 1990s. They started with an 8 Mbps modem. Then it progressed to ADSL2, then VDSL and now VDSL2, which is the only DSL standard that’s still being worked on by the standards groups. VDSL2 can support up to 100 Mbps symmetric service over very short loops, but it’s very flexible and the output degrades gracefully as the loop length increases.”
“VDSL2 standard may be able to cover both business and residential spaces,” says Tsatsanis. “When we started this company in 2003, we started with a clean sheet of paper and decided to design the best system, and so we used the latest standards technology, VDSL2. The gamble for us was that VDSL2 was perceived as a residential technology. We worked with the standards committees in 2006 to add the appropriate features to the VDSL2 standard so that it could support both residential and business access markets. We’ve had the support of AT&T, Bell Canada, and so on. The two separate business and residential networks will eventually merge into an IP platform that supports both applications over the same IP backbone, and the same copper-based VDSL2 technology.”
“Still, there’s been a debate among carriers regarding business access services,” says Tsatsanis. “Will Ethernet services run in the low megabit range - 2, 3 or 4 Mbps - or will they be 10 Mbps and above? If it’s going to be running at a low rate, older technologies will be able to deal with it. But if Ethernet services run to 10, 20, 40 or more megabits per second, then the old HDSL-based systems for business won’t be able to support them. Things haven’t moved quickly because it’s difficult to cannibalize the old T1 cash cow services; there’s not a lot of competition in that space. Swapping out traditional T1s for a low-Mbps Ethernet service at the same or less expensive rates, doesn’t make sense to carriers from a profit perspective.”
BEA Systems (http://www.beasys.com) is a major vendor or enterprise infrastructure software, such as their BEA Enterprise 360° which combines Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Business Process Management (BPM), and Enterprise Social Computing. The customers worldwide also rely on BEA AquaLogic, WebLogic, and Tuxedo product families to reduce IT complexity, leverage existing resources, improve costs and hatch new revenue streams with new services.
Eric Burger, Deputy CTO for the Telecommunications Market, says, “I was one of the contributors to VoiceXML [VXML, or Voice eXtended Markup Lanugage], the W3C’s standard XML format for specifying interactive voice dialogues between a human and a computer. And CCXML [Call Control XML] is all my fault, not from a technology perspective, but I did convince the W3C to do it. CCXML is the W3C standard markup language for controlling how phone calls are placed, answered, transfered, conferenced, and more. CCXML works with with VoiceXML to provide a standards and XML-based solution for any telephony application.] I did it for not entirely altruistic reasons: to keep call control out of VoiceXML. VoiceXML was a great idea for a declarative mark-up language that describes the user interface, instead of the old scripting languages. But then people wanted to do call control too, so you went from describing an interface to specifying applications logic, which does not go well with angle bracket notation, if you know what I mean. So I pushed for CCXML. And it’s now really quite interesting.”
“In the SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] and VoIP side of the world we’ve done a similar thing. We’ve started up an IETF working group called BLISS [Basic Level of Interoperability for SIP Services],” explains Burger
“I’m in the SIP Forum too,” says Burger. “And we run the SIPit SIP Interoperability Tests, where we find vendors who conform to SIP standards and yet their products still don’t talk to others. It’s not so much that ‘my phone won’t talk to your phone’, but when you want to put the phone call on hold and conference in a third party and do Music on Hold, and so forth, then that doesn’t tend to interoperate. That’s why we formed BLISS. It looks at how to make all of this advanced stuff play.”
Cbeyond Communications (http://www.cbeyond.net) is a voice and broadband managed service provider that exclusively serves small businesses. They have local, long distance and Internet packages, anytime account management and a VoIP platform to give small businesses affordable “big company communication tools”.
Chris Gatch, CTO of Cbeyond, says “We’ve worked with SIP from the beginning of our company. I’m also on the board of the SIP Forum. I arrived there as a result of my involvement with an initiative called SIPconnect, a project started several years ago to take the whole portfolio of low-level SIP standards and boil it down into a deployment guideline for seamless SIP trunking between IP-PBXs and VoIP service providers.”
The SIPconnect Interface Specification was launched by Cbeyond Communications in 2004 with support from Avaya, BroadSoft, Centrepoint Technologies, Cisco Systems, and Mitel.
“We got feedback that we should move the SIPconnect effort into an industry standards organization, which ended up being the SIP Forum as an official technical recommendation. It’s doing quite well there. Indeed, right now we’re focused on the whole SIP trunking initiative. We’ve made steady progress in terms of increasing compatibility and interoperability among service providers and customer PBXs, for the purpose of having them connecting natively via IP.”
The SCOPE Alliance
Emerson Network Power’s Embedded Computing Group (http://www.emersonembeddedcomputing.com) is a leading provider of communications technology for wireless, switching, signaling, optical networking, and other telecom infrastructure applications. Their WAN interfaces, CPU boards, network protocols and hardware/software subsystems utilize CompactPCI and AdvancedTCA form factors, and are used in SS7 signaling systems, signaling gateways, softswitches, wireless base station controllers, and DSLAMs.
Emerson’s Stuart Jamieson. Director of Industry Relations/ Architect, says, “I bet many of your readers have never heard of the SCOPE Alliance (http://www.scope-alliance.org). It’s an industry association that speeds the deployment of carrier-grade base platforms for service provider applications based on Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware and software building blocks, and to promote interoperability to better serve service providers and consumers. Emerson Network Power Embedded Computing joined SCOPE in September 2007 and we’ve announced the first product to comply with SCOPE - a SCOPE-compliant AdvancedTCA blade, known as the KAT4000S, which houses four AdvancedMC (Advanced Mezzanine Card) sites.”
The SA Forum and Friends
Asif Naseem is President and CEO of GoAhead Software (http://www.goahead.com) and President of the Service Availability Forum http://www.saforum.org), a consortium of industry communications and computing companies working together to develop and publish standard high availability middleware and management software interface specifications.
“The enterprise computing industry went from a completely vertically-integrated to a horizontal model, which has been successful,” says Naseem. “We see this trend in the telecom world as well. In a converging world, the service providers are moving their networks to a Service Oriented Architecture. They want a common backbone for all multimedia services, and to have a unified access network, regardless of what device at the other end of a call. There will be one control scheme for all services, and then obviously a service network that provides converged services independent of the access type or devices. We see this happening, and along with that there are increased pressures on providers’ suppliers to move to a similar structure on the equipment side.”
“We see a shift happening a lot more quickly within Tier 2s and 3s than Tier 1s. This is for obviosus reasons, Tier 1s have had vertical expertise and infrastructure for a long time. So there’s a lot of inertia there. There’s also a bit of skepticism over and concern over using standards-based COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) equipment. Does it really meet their requirements? Those two factors combined have slowed Tier-1 adoption a bit, but that trend is nevertheless happening. Intel and its partners have done a very good job with the hardware form factor standards and in rolling the equipment makers and service providers to move onto ATCA and ATCA-like platforms, and now comes MicroTCA. Companies such as Lucent Alcatel, Nokia and others that have traditionally either built their own hardware or have worked with proprietary suppliers such as Sun, HP and IBM, have in a big way begun to adopt ATCA standards.” IT
Richard “Zippy” Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group
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