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Service Creation for Service Providers

By: Richard "Zippy" Grigonis

Thanks to such innovations as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Web Services and the panoply of items making up the world of Web 2.0 (or 3.0), service providers now have an array of modularized, productivity-enhancing techniques for creating new services. Rather than reinventing the wheel, service-independent logic modules can be assembled along with existing “converged” network product solutions. Thus, advanced IP Communications services can be rapidly developed and deployed. But which services will outshine the competition?

BEA (News - Alert) Systems, Inc. is a global leader in enterprise infrastructure software. BEA Enterprise 360° combines their product technologies, people, best practices, and a huge network of partners to create what BEA calls the Liquid Enterprise, a flexible adaptive environment that combines SOA, Business Process Management (BPM) and Enterprise Social Computing. BEA is famous for such products as BEA AquaLogic, WebLogic, and Tuxedo.

BEA’s Ken Lee (News - Alert), Director of Worldwide Marketing for the Communications Platform Division, says, “Service creation is a very important topic for all service providers as they move to an IP-based architectural foundation. BEA has been pretty consistent in what it has been doing over the past three or four years. As operators have evolved their legacy networks toward converged network architectures, they’ve consistently looked at an IP-based services layer. That’s a layer above the core network or session network where you find service creation, execution, orchestration and exposure. These are all ultimately needed under the label of a service delivery platform.”

“What’s critical is to have the core technical features and capabilities and to do two things with that,” says Lee. “Not only do you need to have those capabilities in terms of messaging, call control, presence, location, conferencing and so forth, but if you have those, you need to be able to ‘expose’ them to third parties and developers. The reason you want to do that is because you want service creation ‘proliferation’, if you will, within your ecosystem of application providers and content providers. Not all operators have enough engineers with the skill set or resources to create all of the services that they will need, because what everyone is looking for is not a single ‘killer app’ but a portfolio or ecosystem of services. Some will survive and be successful as a commercial service, others will not.”

“The architectural view that BEA has consistently proposed and has successfully implemented with many operators is one based on open industry standards, such as Java, SIP sevlets and Web Services,” says Lee. “Increasingly, they’re combining those attributes to serve the segment of their customer base interested in what Telecom Web 2.0 can do for them. The comprehensiveness of what you need here is pretty challenging, and I think that it has become obvious that vendors can supply this comprehensive combination of IT, web and telecom capabilities as a sort of a middleware application infrastructure, such as our WebLogic communications platform product family.”

“The crux of what BEA does in terms of service creation and service delivery centers around our WebLogic SIP application server and our service exposure and policy platform called WebLogic Network Gatekeeper,” says Lunk. “Both of them are critical to implementing service creation and execution. If you want to have a lot of service capabilities, you need an application server that can first and foremost implement those capabilities. It’s a multi-step process to realize service creation — its core has a sort of application ‘container’ or service container that will execute those capabilities, such as instant messaging, presence, conferencing, VoIP and call control. These are pieces of software that need to executive within a container, which increasingly needs to be a single converged container that can cut across and bridge IT, web and telecom protocols. As it happens, WebLogic SIP Server is that container foundation for all of the network operators that have implemented our products.”

“The second piece is that, if you have many of these capabilities, you need to be able to reuse and recompose these capabilities,” says Lunk. “You can’t build a silo every time you need new applications. You really need to use them horizontally. The way to do that, the way to allow one application to use features of other applications, can be found in the concept of SOA. And at the core of SOA is the universal language of Web Services. What you need here is not only a SIP IMS [IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert)] container, but a Web Services container, and you need that in a single architectural foundation. Again, WebLogic SIP Server and WebLogic Network Gatekeeper both have native Web Services containers.”

“So, from a service creation perspective, some operators and service providers go out and buy a Web Services container and buy another one for a SIP container and then have another one for a presence server and another one for a conference server — well, they can do that if they want to,” says Lunk. “But BEA offers an architectural alternative that says, ‘Look, in a single container, you get SIP, IMS and Web Services, and then when you’re ready to start orchestrating them, you can expose these new capabilities as Web Services. When you look at SOA components such as Enterprise Service Buses, and also Business Process Engines, and service repositories — these are all working high up in the OSI stack, and once you build out a lot of services, you need to orchestrate them and allow them to be discovered and registered.”

“Finally, you need to be able to have alternative business models — meaning that, as an operator, you can brand these services and roll them out to your core subscribers,” says Lunk, “but then you might want to build out a sort of a consumer portal community too. So not only do you have a branded service, you can have a sort of open community service and that’s where the Web 2.0 paradigm comes in, along with concepts such as mash-ups of various network and Internet capabilities, the ability to blog and Wiki, to be able to syndicate content, and also to enable user-created content. These aren’t big money-makers, but people find them interesting.”

“Service creation is essentially the ability to create new capabilities and then orchestrate those capabilities and then expose those capabilities to consumers as well as your core subscribers who will pay for those services,” says Lunk.

Man in the Middle

In order to quickly develop and deploy services, having solid middleware is a major consideration. One this “glue” is in place, other components can follow suit.

Take for example VoIP Logic (News - Alert) (, global provider of VoIP managed services and solutions enabling service providers to build and manage customized, flexible and scalable IP telephony rollouts. Their principal tool is the Cortex middleware system that enables service providers to provision and monitor service offerings on best-of-breed systems and provides their end-users with a single point of self-care. Cortex is a friendly software-based services creation environment in which providers can provision new users and design their requirements such as billing, CDRs, voicemail, DID management systems, etc. for a VoIP rollout, and then deploy the offering with minimal delay and expense. Cortex serves as a secure, unified system management portal from which all the components of a multi-system VoIP rollout can be controlled, and visible to all levels of an enterprise. Cortex even enables wholesale carrier technical support professionals to remotely monitor and service customer sites with a scalable, secure, customizable solution that leverages a client’s existing best practices.

The Art of the Transaction

Openet (News - Alert) is a well-known provider of event processing and transaction management solutions. The “Transactional Intelligence” of the company’s solutions extracts increased value from service provider networks, allowing for the rapid introduction of new services and reliable, cost-effective management of existing services. Openet focuses on delivering best-in-class network edge solutions and specialized engagement processes that create business value from network activity. Their clients include such service providers such as AT&T, British Telecom, Orange and Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless.

Mike Manzo, CMO of Openet, says, “We provide a transactional set of solutions that enable providers to monetize and personalize their services as well as control what’s happening on the network. We’re not explicitly a service provisioning or creation company, though we do have elements that perform some of those functions. However, in large part we work ‘downstream’.”

“There are a number of important angles to this subject,” says Manzo. “The first is the business process for actually creating and services and how it happens. Secondly, one should ask what’s important to carriers going forward about the services they offer and how they get created.”

“We see service creation criteria as morphing over time,” says Manzo. “There appears to be a great push by the operators to ensure that there’s greater level of control in their network to be able to monetize and personalize services as well as to be able to control what happens on the network. When I say ‘monetize’ I mean doing things such as real-time billing, tier-grade plans, in-session promotions of various capabilities. For example, ‘People who bought such-and-such item number one were also interested in item number two’. Then there’s upselling of network capabilities. We can give you a one-time bandwidth boost or enable QoS for an extra dollar or two. Then there’s enforcing credit limits. We’ve all seen the wonderful AT&T hubbub about the $87,000 iPhone (News - Alert) bills, because of the inability to enforce usage limits. And of course, there’s the matter of settlement with partners.”

“We see providers doing all of these kinds of things,” says Manzo. “We see loyalty programs being imposed. We see them giving a flexible self-care portal to end users that allows them to create their own usage limits — for themselves, for corporate employees, for children on family accounts and so forth — so that there’s a pretty robust ability to control how much of what service gets used, when, where and by whom. We see a great deal of work being done in flexible account types and billing plans. So, let’s say I’m a corporate user and but I want the ability to do more with my phone than my company authorizes me to do — in that case, let me have a second individual account that can be prepaid or postpaid, so I can do all the calling activities that my company won’t normally let me do.”

“All of these different use cases relate to an infrastructure that is much more flexible than it has been previously,” says Manzo. “It enables providers to allow a great level of personalization to the end user over how their account is designed and how their services are provisioned. It also allows them to control what’s happening in the network in real time. When creating services, these are all considerations. You’re out there creating a much more flexible set of services — this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model — and so the infrastructure needs to be easy to use and pre-integrated as well as enabling a great level of control over the network.”

“The specific solutions that all of these imply include more flexible balance management capabilities that prepaid platforms will allow, so they can come up with any type of balance for any type of account structure and payment plan,” says Manzo. “They also need a policy enforcement or policy decision infrastructure that allows them to, in real time, have transactional-based request-responses enabling access to services by end users and/or to allocate network resources on demand. Obviously, the charging and rating infrastructures should be able to do both voice and data charging in tier-grade plans, enable the configuration of MRCs, loyalty programs and things of that nature.”

It looks like it’s time that users let their service providers know what kinds of churn-reducing services they’d like to see in the marketplace. IT

Richard “Zippy” Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)’s IP Communications Group.


How to Launch a VoIP Service Provider

By: Micah Singer (News - Alert)

The frequency of services being introduced to the market that leverage VoIP technology is accelerating. The majority of the ‘killer’ Voice 2.0 applications use VoIP in concert with mobile networks and the traditional PSTN. So whether you are launching a standard consumer VoIP service, or a much more complex integrated, converged application, here are six simple “rules of thumb” as you prepare to launch (or re-launch):

1. The Team. It is of the utmost importance to ensure that a solid, experienced project manager is leading your team, who understands VoIP engineering and who has a clear plan for customer support services — which often is more time intensive than anticipated. Even when working with an outsourced provider, you will most likely want to keep technical understanding of the mission-critical systems in-house. If systems integration is required, then a person knowledgeable about your legacy systems should be on the team as well.

2. IP Network. If you choose to run your VoIP service over the public Internet, then you need a target customer base that technologically savvy (it’s not working because the DSL isn’t working!), as there is a limit to what customer service can do to remedy repeated problems. If you choose a pricey MPLS or private network, make sure it works as well as the PSTN and take your 100% uptime goal seriously.

3. Offer Logic and OSS. This is where the marketing magic meets the technology. To be successful, it is essential to develop a pricing and marketing strategy that can be supported by your underlying systems, and presented and managed by all actors — end-user, group manager, customer service, management — with proper access and control. End-user customers will not tolerate underperforming Web applications.

4. Billing/Payment. BSS — Business Support Systems — billing and collections integration with the overall management infrastructure allows scalability, but is often expensive when you first start out. Many carriers start with a very easy flat rate model with no moving parts, which is most likely your best option (unless you invest some time and money in a flexible system that can anticipate changes you might need to make).

5. Keep it Running. Your team and your network of outsourced partners, including collocation facilities hardware vendors and system vendors, and the ability of your in-house technical staff to access information and alerts in a timely manner, are crucial. It is smart to keep customer support speaking with engineering internally, and to be very structured in upgrading to new software versions on core systems (have a rollback plan, for instance).

6. Make it Sizzle. There are lots of really innovative and useful ideas out there for service providers — one number, click-to-call, ad-supported VoIP, voicemail-to-text, voicemail to email, etc. — come up with your idea. Many of the current crop of Voice 2.0 service providers are recycling older technology integrated into some newer systems. What this means is the technology integration to make it sizzle might be within your budget. IT

Micah Singer is CEO of VoIP Logic (, a global provider of VoIP managed services and solutions. The company enables telecommunications service providers worldwide to build and manage customized, flexible and scalable IP telephony rollouts. From VoIP managed services to its award-winning Cortex® middleware system, VoIP Logic provides a comprehensive set of on-demand solutions for service providers looking to use VoIP technology.


The following companies were mentioned in this article:

BEA Systems (

Openet (

VoIP Logic (


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