November 26, 2009
The technology that enables carriers to partner with relative ease, and build value-added applications using multiple service building blocks, already exists, but the business case around that service creation process is still a work in progress.
Advances are being made, though, as BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), in partnership with vendors such as Comptel Corp. (Nasdaq, Helsinki: CTL1V) and Network Cadence, aim to show at next month’s Management World Americas event in Orlando.
That group of collaborators aims to show how Qwest’s transport services, BT's cloud computing capabilities, and hosted email services from Chinook Communications Inc. can be combined.
The demonstration is built around the TM Forum 's Product and Service Assembly (PSA) initiative, something that Axiom Systems (acquired by Comptel in April 2008) and BT have been involved with for some years. (See Comptel Snaps Up Axiom and PSA Wins OSS Catalyst Award.)
There’s nothing terribly new about the technology involved, Greg Scullard, Comptel's CTO office director, admitted in a pre-show interview.
"What’s been interesting is to see how we can essentially treat a lot of those... services that BT is offering to Qwest, or that Network Cadence is offering through Chinnook, in a federated catalog model," Scullard said. "That is something that Comptel has been championing."
This "federated catalog" approach would enable service providers to let customers order different IT-oriented services, in addition to transport, and then deliver those services by drawing on the abilities of partners without having to individually engineer one-to-one connections each time a new service was set up.
The Comptel man explained that, instead of using point-to-point integration to external systems, more dynamic architectures, enabled by the PSA developments, allow a service provider such as BT to expose its services to its partners. That then allows a partner such as Qwest to "very easily consume" BT's services "without having to do significant point-to-point interconnection," Scullard added.
For BT, this approach represents a better way to sell its cloud services, as it can bundle transport capacity from partners such as Qwest in areas where it doesn’t have network assets, noted Gary Bruce, principal researcher at BT.
There's also the opportunity to bundle all aspects of a given service and "white label" them, or even sell them on to others, he said.
But while the technology exists to enable such product development models, the associated business process issues still need to be resolved.
"What we want to do is to stream them together in kind of a business process-oriented way, and apply business process rules to those services," stated Bruce. That would result in a "value-add product with extra smarts, if you like," Bruce said. (Ed. note: What's not to like?]
For example, BT would like to guarantee it could migrate its cloud-based services to an alternative cloud infrastructure in the event of a network outage or problem, he said.
The biggest business process challenge is likely to exist between two service providers, or between companies not used to doing business this way, said Daniel Vacanti, director of technology at Network Cadence, which is providing software and systems integration for the demonstration.
"This is definitely not a technology problem," Vacanti said. "It’s more of a paradigm shift in thinking -- getting telecom companies to understand they now live in supply chain, whether they like it or not. They don’t own the end-to-end life cycle. Applications will be on the Internet, out of their control," he noted.
"What telecom service providers can bring are skills in consolidated ordering, fulfillment, and billing," stated Vacanti. "There is a place for them to play in that area."
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading
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