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Optical/IP

Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy

Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc. today announced another twist in its softswitching strategy -- a new offering called the Surpass hiE9200 that is both an upgrade of its EWSD telephone switch and a replacement for the Surpass hiQ9200.

Siemens's latest press release on the subject is unfathomable. [Ed. note: I dunno. Als erstes Mitglied der Surpass-Familie verfügt Surpass hiE 9200 über alle Leistungsmerkmale der TDM-Vermittlungstechnik EWSD als auch über alle IP-basierten Dienste... Seems pretty clear to me.] But, in a nutshell, the company has come out with a hardware and software upgrade of its EWSD switch that enables its users to offer the same services over packet-based infrastructures as well as over their existing TDM networks.

The goal is to allow EWSD customers to start using voice over IP (VOIP) selectively -- for instance, to extend coverage -- while continuing to use TDM elsewhere. Potentially, this is a big deal because Siemens has a huge installed base of EWSD equipment, equivalent to 270 million lines, according to the company.

"To a large extent this is an installed base play," says Christof Wahl, president of Siemens ICN Carrier Networks. However there are instances where VOIP operators might want to use the hiE9200 to interconnect with existing TDM networks, he adds.

The hiE9200 comprises new blades for the EWSD plus a new version of EWSD software. This incorporates software from the hiQ9200, Siemen's homegrown softswitch, which is being discontinued. Carriers will be able to configure their hiE9200s to steer some calls over packet-based infrastructure and other calls over their existing TDM networks. The service feature sets will be identical.

Using packet rather than TDM infrastructure will deliver big savings in operating expenditure, according to Wahl. "Carriers will be able to get rid of whole planning departments dealing with traffic engineering," he says. They'll also be able to centralize a lot of operations, administration, and maintenance functions, realizing further savings in terms of staff and space requirements. As the hiE9200 operates in both environments, carriers can make the transition to packet at whatever pace suits them.

Siemens won't be marketing the hiE9200 in North America, because it doesn't support the service features used there. So the North American market will instead see the hiQ8000 originally developed by Unisphere (and before that, Castle Networks; see Unisphere Trips, Stumbles and Siemens in Softswitch Stew).

The hiQ8000 doesn't boast all the features of the hiE9200 and addresses a different market, one where the delivery of new offerings such as hosted voice services is more important.

Siemens says the hiE9200 is already in trials with carriers, one of which is Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM). The product will be rolled out in stages, starting in September, according to Wahl.

Other vendors claim to have similar developments underway -- that is, upgrades for their legacy telephone switches so they can work in TDM and packet networks, as well as standalone softswitches.

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) says it announced a "hybrid switch" upgrade for its Communications Server 2000 telephone switch at least six months ago and now has it working in an undisclosed number of customer networks. It claims to have the widest set of service features, addressing both the North American market and the rest of the world.

"There's a difference between trials and line deployments," notes Brian Day, Nortel's head of product marketing for wireline voice in EMEA. Day also points out that the devil is in the details with voice switches. For instance, when vendors roll out new developments they often stop supporting older features -- something that can end up landing carriers with unexpected extra bills for upgrading hardware.

Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) says it has some developments in trials that will enable carriers to upgrade their existing Alcatel 1000 telephone switches for dual use in packet and TDM environments. These developments haven't been announced yet but are likely to tap into a huge market. Alcatel has an installed based of 317 million telephone lines, serving 18 percent of the world's population, according to the company.

"The horsepower of [softswitch] technology is really happening on the broadband side anyhow," says Jean-Pierre Lartigue, vice president of business solutions for Alcatel's fixed network activities. In other words, the interesting developments in this field are really occuring in broadband, where carriers are looking to use softswitches to support multimedia services, not just voice. Alcatel already has a multimedia call controller that addresses this market, says Lartigue.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:47:27 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
Some may call the Seimens anouncement an indication that the whole idea of teh softswitch is dead. This is an attractive idea but presents a philosophical dilemma. Can something be dead if it was never alive?

The softswitch idea has been around for a very long time in various guises. A lot of compnanies wasted money on it when it was called CTI. They soo discovered that if they wanted an ACD system then they should just buy one. Then It arose in the CO world in the form of the AIN. Despite its name changes and its many promises, no one has ever found a real use for this idea.

CTI is dead. Softswitiches are dead. And may they long be so.

Perhaps the indistry will now spend the resources to develop and provide useful services instead of expecting the customers to program their switches for them.
dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:47:27 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
Some may call the Seimens anouncement an indication that the whole idea of teh softswitch is dead. This is an attractive idea but presents a philosophical dilemma. Can something be dead if it was never alive?

The softswitch idea has been around for a very long time in various guises. A lot of compnanies wasted money on it when it was called CTI. They soo discovered that if they wanted an ACD system then they should just buy one. Then It arose in the CO world in the form of the AIN. Despite its name changes and its many promises, no one has ever found a real use for this idea.

CTI is dead. Softswitiches are dead. And may they long be so.

Perhaps the indistry will now spend the resources to develop and provide useful services instead of expecting the customers to program their switches for them.
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 11:47:13 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy I strongly disagree. Softswitches/VOIP got off to a bumpy start but all new technologies go through a phase like this - one where everyone trying to figure out the right way of using it (and some folk start thinking it's all going to end in tears).

I think this development is a sign of the marketplace maturing. Siemens and other incumbent telephone switch makers have hit on a way that lets the big carriers introduce this stuff where it makes sense.

Softswitches are part of a big jigsaw puzzle that's being put together right now. It's all part of two big transitions - from circuit to packet infrastructure, and from narrowband to broadband. Softswitches are a key component in all of this.
dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:47:11 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
I strongly disagree. Softswitches/VOIP got off to a bumpy start but all new technologies go through a phase like this - one where everyone trying to figure out the right way of using it (and some folk start thinking it's all going to end in tears).


Well disagreement is part of life but softswitches are not a new idea trying to find its place. As I said in the original note, softswitches are the latest manifestation of an idea that is at least 20 years old. It didn't sell 20 years ago; it didn't sell 10 years ago; and it isn't selling now.

I recall the company I worked for developing a CTI platform. The biggest trouble with this platform and this will apply to the softswitch ideas like JAIN and Parlay is that it didn't solve any real problem that could not be solved more cheaply in some other way. It was simply a piece of middleware that got in the way of the application interacting with the switch. It tried to fit an idea of how generic applications would work to an idea of how a generic switching platform would work. Obviously this middleware simply became a roadblock that prevented either side from doing anything really novel or useful. Despite a huge investment in the product by and smug assertions from the developers that theirs was the wave of the future, there were negligible sales. The product was withdrawn from the market. The development group disbanded. The technology was found to be not useful in other applications. The entire effort was a total loss.

CTI had magazines dedicated to its technology. They always had glowing predictions of how CTI (read softswitch, read AIN, read Parlay, read JAIN, readGǪ) was going to transform the way services were produced. It never worked and never will work.

The oddest thing about this development was that despite their confident predictions the developers could never specify a product where their softswitch could excel. The always seemed to come back to the IVR/ACD application. When people wondered why customers would not just buy an ACD system, they were met with assertions that they just didnGÇÖt get it.

The Seimens announcement shows that they too have found this to be true. They have abandoned the softswitch idea and are now adapting the technology to a clearly identified problem where its design and implementation can be tailored to a specific set of requirements.

Softswitches constitute a tax on applications and systems that no one is or was willing to pay.

There are many useful applications that VoIP can excel at. There are many useful applications that are much better done with VoIP than with TDM. Softswitches failed in the TDM world and they are failing in the VoIP world. It VoIP is going to succeed than it had better abandon ideas that are old in the TDM world and never succeeded there. It should develop the applications that are best done with its particular attributes. Most especially of all, it should abandon the idea of softswitches which are bot not useful and not applications.
aswath 12/4/2012 | 11:47:09 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy One of the benefits of AIN in my opinion is: A service provider could develop a service concept, explore the market reaction in a cost effective manner before requiring a major and time consuming (from deployment point of view)development in the switch. I also think CLASS services use AIN extensively.

Aswath
aswath 12/4/2012 | 11:47:08 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy dljvjbsl wrote: There are many useful applications that VoIP can excel at. There are many useful applications that are much better done with VoIP than with TDM.

I have read in many places claims along these lines. I am unable to come up with many. Can you please provide some examples?

Thanks
Aswath
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 11:47:07 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy Let's just step back a bit here...

1. VOIP traffic is already growing rapidly:

- Vonage Reports Soaring VOIP Volumes
http://www.boardwatch.com/docu...

2. Some killer VOIP applications are on the horizon. For instance:

- Microsoft Hones Instant Message
http://www.boardwatch.com/docu...

3. The broadband operators (DSL, cable) are going to be shunting voice into IP packets, and the rollout of DSL is accelerating.

4. The next big thing in telecoms will probably be the convergence of fixed and mobile telephony, so folk have one phone number, directory etc. How will this be brought about? Using VOIP.

5. Carriers are saying the transition from circuit to packet centric telecom infrastructure *is* happening:

- VOIP Gets Carrier Vote
http://www.boardwatch.com/docu...

To my mind, this adds up to plenty of promise for VOIP.

I think the REAL question here is what role will telecom operators play?

The potential Microsoft killer app I referenced above is probably going to happen whether or not telecom operators deploy softswitches.

Someone the other day was pointing out that telecom operators have a poor record of cashing in on business opportunities related to telephony. They could have become call center operators, and didn't.
atmguy 12/4/2012 | 11:47:07 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
VOIP/Softswitch may be going thru initial transitions. But big question is whether technology pushing the market or vice versa...
dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:47:06 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
Let's just step back a bit here...

1. VOIP traffic is already growing rapidly:


All of this is true of VoIP but it has very little to do with softswitches.

As for the issue of the survival of the existing carriers and the existing telecom vendors with the coming of VoIP and its applications, in my mind this is very doubtful. The telecom vendors and carriers wasted the opportunity of ISDN 20 years ago. They are now wasting the opportunity of IP telephony for the same reasons. ]

As you pointed out, Microsoft is embracing the opportunity of IP telephony and in my opinion will undoubtedly replace many of the existing vendors. Some of them are now beginning to circle the drain and they do not know how to stop the process. They have to change but find it impossible to make the radical changes they need to make while still supporting their old products. Technology and customers do not care about their problems. New suppliers will emerge.
dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:47:05 PM
re: Siemens Shifts Softswitch Strategy
dljvjbsl wrote: There are many useful applications that VoIP can excel at. There are many useful applications that are much better done with VoIP than with TDM.

I have read in many places claims along these lines. I am unable to come up with many. Can you please provide some examples?


I am working on some of these new types of applications now. However these apps are part of our competitive advantage and so I cannot mention them. The Microsoft use of SIP is along these lines though and Dynamicsoft has some ineresting things on its website. Softswitches are among these.
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