Optical/IP Networks

Alcatel-Lucent Puts Its APIs to Work

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) has been talking about its application enablement strategy since 2009, but it just now feels it has enough operators on board to take it to the next level with the launch of a new consulting and professionals service practice built around application programming interfaces (APIs). (See AlcaLu Turns Apps Broker.)

AlcaLu unveiled its new division, alongside a methodology for opening APIs faster and more simply, on Thursday, drawing on its 2010 acquisition of API online repository ProgrammableWeb. (See AlcaLu Buys Some API Smarts.)

While high-profile groups like the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) have tried to standardize the API process and failed, operators in general have become much more open to sharing their network APIs with developers in the past few years. The problem is that they haven't become much easier to work with. (See Wave Goodbye to WAC.)

Laura Merling, SVP of application enablement at Alcatel-Lucent, says that group is aimed at changing that by helping operators build a go-to-market strategy and streamline the creation, deployment and management of their network-based services. She says operators need to turn their business into a platform-as-a-service for internal development as much as they do to attract more third-party developers.

And, AlcaLu has built a strong connection to the developer community that should synch the two groups up. The vendor is promising operators and developers that it'll make it faster to get up and running, which both can start making money on new services faster.

"Ultimately revenues is one way they'll measure success, but it's like number six on a list of seven. It's not the top thing," Merling says. "The top thing is delivering services quicker."

Defragging the cross-platform movement
Alcatel-Lucent isn't the only one working on APIs. The GSM Association (GSMA) has its own OneAPI initiative, for example, and took over the WAC's programs and initiatives. Another API vendor, Apigee Corp. , took on the now defunct group's technology assets with the same goal of making it easier to expose network assets across carriers. (See WAC Folds, Apigee Buys Tech and Apigee Raises $20M for API Expansion.)

One way Merling says it's addressing fragmentation (in this market ironically built around ending app fragmentation) is by working with operators at whatever stage they're in. With its new practice, they'll have the choice of signing on for AlcaLu's definition (business strategy), design (API creation) or deployment services, or some combo therein.

And, Merling says, sure there's fragmentation but the wireless operators are already beginning to work with each other. For example, AlcaLu recently announced a partnership among Salt SA , SFR and Bouygues Telecom for YouConnect, a French app to simplify access to the mobile Web. And, a similar cross-carrier initiative for a global app store of sorts among AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Verizon Wireless and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) should launch in Beta form next month. (See AlcaLu, French Carriers Launch YouConnect and Vodafone Leads Open Global App-Store Push .) Merling wouldn't reveal who else AlcaLu is working with, but she says it's a safe bet that if a company is an AlcaLu customer for Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment, it's probably exploring apps enablement with the vendor as well. (See AlcaLu Pitches Single-Vendor LTE.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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