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Aepona Expands for Telco 2.0 Assault

Ray Le Maistre
3/28/2008

Service delivery platform (SDP) specialist Aepona Ltd. is ramping up its North American operations on the back of an advanced Telco 2.0 deployment in Canada and the appointment of a new CEO. (See Aepona Names New CEO.)

The new man (for it is a 'he') at the helm is Al Snyder -- yes, the same 'Allen Snyder' who, during his brief stint as the CEO of Carrier Access, found a cash buyer in the form of Turin Networks Inc. (See Turin Bulks Up With Backhaul Buy and CACS 4 Sale.)

Snyder isn't new to AePona, though, as he's been a non-executive director since May 2006, though it's not known whether he hums the Paul Simon classic You Can Call Me Al during board meetings. (See Aepona Adds to Board.)

Snyder takes his new seat as AePona, which is headquartered in Belfast, U.K., near to its European Tier 1 carrier customers, opens its new office in Denver, Colorado, to house its newly-formed U.S. subsidiary.

That unit, AePona Inc., has been set up following a certain degree of success in North America, where the vendor is pushing itself as an SDP player that can help operators, including Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), open up their networks and take advantage of the Web service development world. (See Telcos Waffle on Web 2.0

And one of the carriers it's been working with has high praise for the specialist, which expanded its capabilities last year with the acquisition of Appium. (See Aepona & Appium: SDP Minnows Merge.)

Canadian operator Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) has been working with AePona for more than a year now, and the operator's director of services architecture, Shane Logan, says he struggled to find what he needed with another company. (See AePona Raises $10M, Wins Telus.)

"We spent about a year talking to other carriers and vendors about the topic of SDPs, and identified that our biggest pain point was that the applications we wanted to launch came from third parties. So we wanted to have external connectivity with a community of developers and make it an automated process, and set up a revenue share agreement," notes Logan in a recent conversation with Light Reading.

That process involves abstracting the network, so that developers can assess how they need to develop applications that the carrier can use, and then exposing the network to enable developers to directly interact with the network under tight security and policy conditions.

"We wanted to expose our networks to developers... But we struggled to find a solution. In terms of network abstraction, there were good vendors, but they tended to be weak on exposing the network, and vice versa. Finding a company that could do both was a challenge. We had six or seven vendors in our lab, and considered splitting the roles in two and integrating. But Aepona has knowledge of network abstraction and, through Parlay, of network exposure. That gives the control you need, including the security and policy management, and we're satisfied that the process will work," says Logan.

A year down the line and Logan says Telus is working with a small group of trusted partners to get its developer interface up to speed, and that the "big headaches were the billing interfaces and the user profiles. And the protocol mix has also been an issue... telcos need to move to IT protocols rather than telco protocols -- that's the way forward."

He also says the "partner portal that automates those processes has taken longer to develop than expected, and although the APIs are ready, the portal isn't. So far we have played with a few widgets for picture messaging and healthcare applications, but these have been internal processes just to prove that these things can work."

However, the seven trusted developer partners are "able to get onto our network in hours instead of days or weeks... but we're not yet open to the full untrusted world. Our focus this year is to see how we can get partners on board. A lot of developers complain about how difficult it is to connect with carriers, so the interest in what we're doing has been high."

And Logan wants to see other carriers take the difficult step towards an open network environment too. "We're a big believer in ecosystems -- other carriers need to jump on board. SDPs have, up to now, been largely focused on voice applications -- that's really Telco 1.5. Not many have got to Telco 2.0."

Logan notes that BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM), Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) and Sprint are among the other operators he knows that are working towards opening up their networks for Web services development. (See BT Inches Toward Telco 2.0.)

And it's possible that Logan might see others getting in on the act soon. According to AePona's marketing director, Michael Crossey, "there's been a lot more interest in the past few months in terms of Telco 2.0 especially for enterprise applications."

He says Orange (NYSE: FTE), an existing customer, is "putting together a strategy of opening up its network, and we expect to see something happening this year."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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