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Operators Cut AlcaLu Out of API Equation

Sarah Thomas

Alcatel-Lucent has been pursuing application enablement as a top-down initiative from the CEO since 2009, but the market has changed in the past four years, and the vendor is finding it no longer has a role -- or a business model -- for helping operators expose their application programming interfaces (APIs).

In fact, Alcatel-Lucent isn't playing the role of intermediary between operators and developers at all any more. As part of its reorganization, it sold off the API repository it acquired in 2010, ProgrammableWeb, to MuleSoft, noting that its operator customers would rather see it embed its own APIs into its platforms like IMS and SDN than work to expose their own. (See AlcaLu Sells Off its API Repository.)

Cassidy, Shield, VP of marketing for Alcatel-Lucent's platforms business division, says part of the reason AlcaLu changed its strategy was that it was only focusing on telecom, a narrow focus which hurt it as its competitors like Apigee Corp. and Layer 7 Technologies Inc. targeted multiple industries. He says the company knew it would never be a leader in API management while only focusing on one industry vertical.

"On top of that, we heard from customers that API management was important, critical to success, but we don't necessarily need to get it from you, Alcatel-Lucent," Shield adds.

Instead, operators are tackling the API market on their own through industry-wide initiatives like the GSMA's OneAPI and through their own innovation centers and developer programs. Whether or not that has been successful, however, is up for debate. Even Shield admits that innovation labs are typically more for operators to acquire technology for their own business initiatives than to give developers unfettered access to their network APIs.

"Despite the talk of open innovation, we've been moderately successful at best," Shield says, adding that the majority of revenue and investment still goes into building networks as operators struggle to find a business model for APIs.

"The operator issue is not that they don’t want to engage with developers, they just haven't figured out the business model," Shield continues. "Technically, there isn't an issue at all. It's about what services will be launched; what's in it for me?"

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
5/6/2013 | 9:07:21 PM
re: Operators Cut AlcaLu Out of API Equation
Sarah, At first I thought your comment regarding carrier finding a business model was limited to wireline and telco in particular but as I work on carrier network architecture across all verticals (cell, cable, sat, telephone, internet); it is true, they all are are struggling with a go to mass-market app. One internal group says customer treat complex apps as intriguing but fail to create take-up which is true. Another group wants the API vendor to be a customer seeking access to the customer base, essentially another revenue stream (like they use to treat ISPs and cell operators).

AT&T did just post 7 developer positions in mid April. Let's see what happens next fall.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/6/2013 | 2:57:10 PM
re: Operators Cut AlcaLu Out of API Equation
Of course! I think APIs are hotter than ever right now, however, it's become clear that operators role in APIs is anything but clear. It seems to me they've moved away from APIs and helping developers (if they ever really did that) to building services they can monetize and charge consumers for. I wonder how much longer their Innovation Labs will stay open for...
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/6/2013 | 2:08:39 PM
re: Operators Cut AlcaLu Out of API Equation
Good to see you still going string on the topic :)

As we've discussed just exposing API's is not enough anymore, but MNO's need to invest in creating a deeper development environment with capabilities that are beyond anything available elsewhere.
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