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VOIP services

AT&T Adopts Microsoft's SDP

CHICAGO – Supercomm 2005 – AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) today gave the service delivery platform (SDP) concept a massive boost by announcing a "strategic alliance" to develop new services for the carrier's business customers (see AT&T, Microsoft Form Alliance).

The two companies are to "develop innovative services in the areas of collaboration, messaging and communications services," says AT&T, using Microsoft's Connected Services Framework (CSF), the name for the software giant's SDP that it launched earlier this year (see Microsoft Intros FMC Solution). The collaboration will include the integration of AT&T's business VOIP service into the CSF, so giving the service Web-enabled functions such as click-to-dial.

"Today’s announcement is yet another milestone for AT&T’s strategy to deliver next-generation services atop our application-aware IP network," said AT&T CEO Dave Dorman in a prepared statement. "These services will enable enterprises to implement integrated collaboration, messaging, VOIP and conferencing services without the capital investment that locks them into solutions that are not future-proofed."

The announcement is another major endorsement for the SDP concept. A service delivery platform is an integrated set of software modules that, collectively, enable carriers to launch and manage potentially thousands of services to fixed and wireless customers alike, and is regarded as an important step towards true fixed/mobile convergence. Once integrated, an SDP enables an operator to provision, manage, and bill for services delivered across its network, whether those services are created by third parties or by the service provider itself.

Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell, author of a recent report on the emerging platform, notes that SDPs are "now being positioned as the critical enabler that will allow network operators to extract revenue" from the potentially inexhaustible number of niche services that third-party developers or the carriers themselves can develop for converged IP networks." (See SDPs: The Next Grand Design?.)

And AT&T is just one of a growing number of major carriers to have endorsed the SDP approach: BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), BCE Inc. (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) (better known as Bell Canada), and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) have already announced their SDP deployments (see Carriers Buy Into SDPs and Sprint Chases SDP Success).

AT&T also becomes the latest feather in Microsoft's SDP cap: It already boasts BT and Bell Canada as users of the CSF. But it's not the only major name from the IT world that is pushing the SDP concept hard in the telecom sector. Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) also has some big-name users of its Mobile E-services Server in Telefònica Mòviles SA and Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM).

Other major movers in the SDP sector include Accenture, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), and BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS), a founding member of the SDP Alliance (see Yet Another Industry Alliance).

And traditional telecom vendors are in on the act as well. Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) is pushing its Open Services Delivery Environment, while Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) has already announced Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., Telstra Corp., and Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA as users of its SDP (see Ericsson Lands Telstra Deal).

SDPs are set to be big news here at Supercomm this week. Today, Sprint is providing the keynote speaker at a day-long SDP conference organized by Light Reading: Service Delivery Platforms 2005.

And during the course of this week two of Microsoft's key SDP rivals are due to unveil their SDP strategies. Sun is set to announce its Open Services Delivery Platform Partner program for software and network equipment vendors, and unveil a component-oriented version of its SDP, called the Telecommunications Service Delivery Framework. Sun first launched its platform in 2003, but only now is it becoming available in a pick-and-mix format that allows service providers to choose the individual SDP elements that suit their particular needs.

In addition, BEA Systems is set to formally unveil its latest SDP element, its WebLogic Network Gatekeeper, a service coordinator based on a policy server that will help carriers manage services that need to use network resources such as location, messaging, and charging.

This follows BEA's February launch of its SDP, the WebLogic Communications Platform, and the first major element of that platform, the WebLogic SIP Server, which will also be demonstrated here at Supercomm this week.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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