Convergence Grips Gateway Vendors
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