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Publisher's Outlook
August 2001

Rich Tehrani

Media Servers: Enabling Enhanced Services


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Third Time's The Charm!
>Introducing Planet PDA

Even the most casual reader of this magazine can understand the importance that carriers of all types place on enhanced services. Enhanced services represent perhaps the major reason for building out next-generation infrastructure. Why? Because these services will generate revenue, attract and retain new and existing
customers, and increase profit margins -- delivering pretty much all that a carrier needs to survive.

Efficient, strategic deployment of enhanced services will allow carriers to differentiate themselves from their competition. By providing high-value, creative bundles of services to their customers, carriers will be able to increase market share, increase revenue and profits, and most importantly, grow their business. Some reports have estimated that enhanced services will grow into a $7 billion industry by 2003. With that kind of market at stake, it's easy to understand the lure of providing enhanced services.

But what are the elements that need to be brought together in a next-generation network in order to provide the foundation for offering these enhanced services? On the access side of things, we see elements such as softswitches and media gateways. These devices are primarily responsible for call control, interoperability between the circuit-switched world of the PSTN and next-generation packet-based IP networks, and signaling functions.

The media gateway plays the role of translator between the circuit-switched and packet-based networks, converting various media using such functions as encoding and decoding, packetization of compressed voice, etc... This is also where one finds functions such as echo cancellation, jitter management, silence suppression, and so on.

The softswitch itself performs the call control functions as well as providing support for administration, accounting, and signaling. Using open APIs and standards such as SIP, MGCP, and so on, the softswitch communicates with the media gateway and an application server to determine what happens to a call.

The application server works in concert with a media server to provide those media-intensive functions that cannot efficiently be handled by the media gateway. Here, the responsibilities are split as well, with the application server providing the processing logic while the media server handles the actual media processing. By integrating all of these elements, carriers can deploy a complete solution and offer applications such as IVR (interactive voice response), conferencing, media streaming, and more.

NMS Communications
NMS Communications has been a player in the media server space for a while now. They recently unveiled a new version of their PacketMedia IP media server platform. Among the enhancements lauded in the recent release are increased port density, added features for high-performance mixed media processing, and expanded multiprotocol communications. NMS is promoting the PacketMedia platform as "versatile and powerful," allowing IP voice to be used for exciting enhanced services: Streaming audio to the phone, voice activated dialing, voice Web services, wireless Web access, voice browsing, IP conferencing... you get the point.

The platform supports up to 240 universal ports per board (or 300 voice ports per board), as well as expanded support for communications protocols including MGCP, Megaco (H.248), SIP, and vXML. PacketMedia relies on dedicated DSP resources to handle the media processing for applications such as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, conferencing, simultaneous play/record, native IP IVR, and more.

IP Unity
Milpitas, CA-based IP Unity's scalable carrier-class hardware and software-based applications delivery platform is designed to integrate multiple voice, data, and Web-centric applications, to allow service providers and portals to quickly develop and deploy unique communication services over packet and traditional networks. Among the keys to IP Unity's platform is a massive DSP-intensive media-processing engine. The IP Unity Harmony6000 solution delivers the media processing power required for providing multiple services and applications over a single, scalable platform.

The company recently announced an agreement with SpeechWorks, under which Speechworks will provide speech recognition and text-to-speech for IP Unity's Harmony6000 Media Server. IP Unity will integrate SpeechWorks speech recognition and Speechify text-to-speech engines into the media server platform. The resulting speech-enabled platform will allow service providers to host
revenue-generating, "sticky" services, such as unified messaging, auto attendant, intelligent call routing, voice portal, and conference bridging.

Convedia's CMS-6000 Media Server is a carrier-class Internet and IP telephony-enhanced services media processor. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Convedia also offers two development tools designed to allow third-party software developers to quickly and easily integrate the CMS-6000 into their product offerings:

  • The Media Server Emulator (MSE) -- a developer tool designed to accelerate the integration of the CMS-6000 with service logic resident in softswitches and application servers; and
  • The Media Server Controller (MSC) -- a tool which provides a high-level C++ application programming interface that can optionally be used to control the service building blocks of the CMS-6000.

In recent news, Convedia has announced a relationship with Syndeo, makers of the Syion 426, a line-side, carrier-class Class 5 softswitch. The joint development project will result in the complete integration of Syndeo's Syion 426 with Convedia's CMS-6000.

The integration effort will occur in two phases: Class 5 announcement server and interactive voice response (IVR) functionality will be available first, to be followed by multimedia conferencing and advanced audio server capabilities as defined by the PacketCable specification available by the end of the third quarter. Ultimately, the solution will also offer such advanced features as text-to-speech conversion, automatic speech recognition, and other integrated video/multimedia services.

SnowShore Networks
Which brings us to the newest entrant in the media server space: SnowShore Networks. The company is led by a notable team of packet voice technology experts, including president/CEO Joel Hughes, co-founder of ViaDSP and DSP Software Engineering and former vice president of business development at Natural MicroSystems. A quick perusal of SnowShore's Web site does little to belie the impression that this company has just recently launched (May 29, to be exact). The company expects to have their media servers generally available by early 2002, but the buzz that surrounds this startup is impressive. This is clearly a player to watch in the coming months.

So there you have it. It's still early in the curve, but the signs certainly do seem promising. As companies such as the ones mentioned in this article continue to break new ground, partnering, beta-testing their products in live carrier networks, working out the kinks, and so on, the goal of delivering IP enhanced services on the scale needed by carriers will quickly become a reality.

[ Return To The August 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Third Time's The Charm!
Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO, San Diego 2001

[ Go Right to: Current List Of Exhibitors ]

TMC is proud to announce the triumphant return of Internet Telephony Conference and EXPO to the fabulous Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA. This year's conference (October 3-5) marks the third installment of the popular and well-regarded conference and EXPO at one of Southern California's landmark locations. This focused and mature event provides the ideal setting for learning what you need to know to grow your business as well as ample networking opportunities to expand your database of influential industry players.

Another compelling reason to attend this show is ConvergeNET, a live, on-site network that acts as an interoperability proving ground for many vendors, in which they can showcase IP telephony standards compliance. The network is comprised of gateways, gatekeepers, IP telephony clients, and even billing software, and is designed to showcase how well products from multiple vendors can work together.

With five ConvergeNET events to our credit, TMC has the experience to facilitate a stellar display of interoperability, based on the latest protocols and operating environments. Even if exhibitors cannot get their products to work together, the events have proven valuable in determining why certain products don't work together, and what vendors can do to address those issues.

Are you interested in kicking back and relaxing with some wine and cheese? Or maybe you'd just like a chance to talk to your business partners and make potential strategic alliances in a relaxed atmosphere? Then our nightly networking receptions are the place for you. Set on the Hotel Del's beautiful outdoor patios overlooking the Pacific, the receptions offer the perfect opportunity to meet your peers and talk about the latest developments in the industry, while enjoying tasty cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

With some of the biggest names in the Internet telephony industry exhibiting, not to mention one of the most beautiful locations on Earth, Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO will offer dynamic opportunities for you and your business. Also, we're aware of the current situation plaguing our economy. As such, we're offering some very good deals on conference registration. If you and your colleagues sign up now (or any time before September 1, 2001) you'll be able to take advantage of incredible deals, possibly worth up to $1,000! So don't delay -- sign up now to get in on some of the best networking and educational opportunities around! For more information, visit our Web site, or call 800-243-6002.

[ Return To The August 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Introducing Planet PDA
TMC Offers A New Event To Educate Businesses -- Portable Computing Devices and PDAs to Extend the Enterprise

In keeping with the TMC tradition of constantly evolving and creating new events where there is a market need, I am proud to announce our newest event: Planet PDA. Officially titled, "Planet PDA: The Global Summit on Handheld Productivity Solutions," the event will be held December 4-6, 2001 at the Sands Convention and Expo Center in Las Vegas.

This new conference and exhibition is focused on educating businesses about the productivity increase they can realize by implementing a handheld computing strategy in their organization. While you may not realize it, the next explosion in communications technology is taking place right now in the form of handheld computing. Corporate executives and MIS management need a focused forum to learn about and compare new products -- and to gather research to make intelligent decisions about incorporating handheld devices into their computing infrastructure.

The mobile workforce -- those employees requiring some form of remote access to corporate information -- is growing every day. Industry research firms predict that by the end of 2005, nearly one billion handheld devices will have been sold. The increased productivity these employees can achieve extends beyond simple scheduling and e-mail access.

The conference sessions have been designed to educate corporate executives and MIS management on how to increase productivity by utilizing handheld devices for managing staff, field force automation, and increasing employee productivity. Attendees will discover how to integrate applications, maintain security, develop wireless connectivity solutions, and hear case studies of how companies have successfully implemented handheld devices into their enterprise.

For complete conference information, please call Hilary Inman at 203-852-6800, ext. 146.

Or, if youre interested in speaking opportunities at Planet PDA please contact John Gatens at 203-852-6800 ext. 271.

[ Return To The August 2001 Table Of Contents ]

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