Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors

Faced with a complex, and costly, operational nightmare at the edge of their networks, carriers are set to deploy a new breed of access-independent gateway (AIG) that can manage traffic to and from multiple fixed and wireless networks, according to a new Heavy Reading report, "Access-Independent Gateways: The Edge of Next-Generation Networks."

The concept of a converged edge gateway suitable for multiple session and policy management tasks has long been on carrier wish lists. So far, though, operators have had little choice but to deploy an increasing number of single-access gateways -- edge routers and B-RASs in the wireline world, and GGSNs, PDSNs, ASN gateways, and WiFi gateways in the wireless world -- for each of their fixed and wireless networks. That strategy has not only created operational issues, but is now holding back the development and deployment of unified, access-independent services.

Until now. Reacting to carrier demands, vendors have been launching access-independent gateways (AIGs) for wireline networks that support enterprise and residential broadband users, and for wireless networks supporting cellular, WiMax, and WiFi access networks.

And the sector is ready to go a step further, too, according to the report. New chipset designs and standards roadmaps are enabling vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to offer converged AIGs.

According to report author Patrick Donegan, even if operators decide not to use such gateways to support multiple access networks from the same node, simply being able to use the same platform in different access networks would help cut operational costs. "There is also a lot of cost-saving potential in loading each AIG with session and policy management features that otherwise must be deployed on bespoke platforms," notes the Heavy Reading senior analyst.

Donegan believes Cisco is best placed to take advantage of initial carrier interest in converged AIGs courtesy of a blade called the Service and Application Module for IP. Built for Cisco's 7600 router, the module breaks down some of the resource-sharing barriers inherent in the mature router. This strategy has already attracted a wireless data gateway customer in Norway. But the IP giant will face a strong challenge from rivals that have developed AIG platforms from scratch, such as Huawei, with its ME60 (unveiled as far back as 2005), and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s Redback, with its SmartEdge developments. (See Huawei Unveils God Box.)

The market for such gateways will grow slowly. Carriers have to overcome their reluctance to trust new multifunctional products, and then have to overcome the traditional reluctance of wireline and wireless operations teams to work together. Donegan believes that, even by 2011, only 15 percent of all gateways installed globally will be converged AIGs, and only some of those will be used to manage traffic from both wireline and wireless access networks.

As operators continue to migrate toward all-IP networks, though, demand for such gateways is set to grow, especially as carriers learn of the potential opex savings and service delivery enhancements (video delivery to multiple access networks, for example) that AIGs can deliver.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

joosh22 12/5/2012 | 4:09:42 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors ..mmm...I think it is ok that we (this industry) reinvent ourselves by adding new terms or new acronyms, but at least, let-¶s be a bit *consistent*.
AIG is defined as Access Independent Gateway. ok, sounds appealing, may make sense. But then we see on the article saying:
"Until now. Reacting to carrier demands, vendors have been launching access-independent gateways (AIGs) for wireline networks that support enterprise and residential broadband users, and for wireless networks supporting cellular, WiMax, and WiFi access networks."

So...Wireline AIG? Wireless AIG? Isn-¶t the AIG supposed to be **access independent**??? or is dependent or is independent, but not both, but you cannot say vendors have launched AIGs for wireline networks, that is just a no sense. Just for reference, it would be good if you guys review the report itself, there are quite a few of these...

All this is fine, some publicity to some vendors etc, but pls, be consistent.

By the way, Redback SmartEdge an AIG??? come one guys...
pdonegan67 12/5/2012 | 4:09:39 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors In reply to josh22, thanks for the feedback. As regards some of the definitions, there are gateways out there that can support a variety of wireless access networks but donG«÷t support wireline access networks. The Starent ST16 and ST40 spring to mind. And then there are several wireline routers that can support a mix of enterprise and consumer broadband access networks but donG«÷t currently support wireless access networks. And there are also a number of gateway platforms now being positioned to support both wireline and wireless access networks.

I came to the conclusion that lumping them all into a uniform G«ˇAIGG«÷ category alone isnG«÷t entirely helpful, hence the additional sub-categorization into Wireless AIGs, Wireline AIGs and Converged AIGs. This is an emerging product space and a complex one, including from an industry product branding perspective. Heavy Reading is playing a lead role in helping to define it. We may not have all the answers but we think we have more than most.

Regarding the SmartEdge, it already supports enterprise and consumer wireline subscribers and is also capable of supporting WiMAX subscribers today, though Redback hasn't made a lot of noise about it. More importantly, at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ericsson demonstrated how the SmartEdge technology is re-used in its Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) portfolio for 4G LTE. This also forms part of EricssonG«÷s Converged AIG product strategy for wireline and wireless access networks.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 4:09:38 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors donegain67:
Two questions. One, as access devices converge from a zillion legacy interfaces onto a single Ethernet and browser-based format, does the function of these aggregation devices not fundamentally simplify, making this a good time to re-architect the edge and just blow off the old stuff?

Secondly, SONS management is talking up a $20M effort to re-emerge in 2010 as a broad based session management box vendor. Are they seeing the same trend as you?
lostinlight 12/5/2012 | 4:09:33 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors is what we need
pdonegan67 12/5/2012 | 4:09:32 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors material girl: I don't know that convergance at the level of the transport interface is the main story here, or even the largest part of it. As the report outlines, this product space is about base technology enabling both a seismic break in gateway system capacity as a whole as well as great flexibility in the allocation of system resources between control and bearer planes. Carriers are loathe to "blow old stuff".

I don't know SONS management but it all depends what's meant by "Session Management". There are already several vendors on the market that I would define as dedicated Session and Policy Management players. One potential challenge is to arrive at convergence of Session and Policy management protocols across access networks. A second is to deliver convergence of basic gateway functionalities as well as Session and Policy Management functionality in the same AIG device.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:09:31 PM
re: Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors

I think you also miss that the protocol suite for mobility makes running a pure IP over Ethernet as one can on the wireline side a challenge.

So, on the wireline side, some DSL networks are moving from PPPoE to DHCP/802.1x. That is more similar to cable, but not exactly the same.

Both of those are separate from Enterprise issues where you end up with IP VPNs for remote users. So, depending on what you are talking about there is little convergence today - even if we are all running Ethernet and IP.

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