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Heavy Reading Research

IMS & SDPs Must Work Together

Many in the telco space now see the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as the silver bullet for rolling out profitable new IP services; but IMS must work in concert with its cousin, the Service Delivery Platform (SDP), to support the whole IP services business. (See Acronym Olympics.)

That's the gist of a new Services Software Insider report titled "SDP and IMS: Perfect Together?"

Operators need to understand where the SDP and IMS overlap, how they can complement one another, and in which areas the SDP needs to support IMS alongside legacy function, the report says. (See Lucent Launches SDP .)

Generally, both the SDP and IMS concepts address the key issues facing telcos as they evolve from a circuit-switched voice world into an IP and multimedia world. Internet players like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) have shown a scary ability to quickly and cheaply roll out new services -- including IP-based communications services -- to a waiting worldwide customer base. Service providers need to learn to do that too or be relegated to the role of dumb-pipe dinosaur. (See EBay Buys Skype for $2.6B and Google Talks the Talk.)

In practice, the functionality and approach of IMS is different than that of SDPs. (See Guide to Telecom '05 Hype.)

"SDPs embody a set of business processes and IT systems for defining applications and the policies that apply to them, linking applications to rich subscriber profiles, enabling rapid application development, supporting third-party contributors, and orchestrating the way applications interact with each other and with business and operational systems," writes Caroline Chappell, the Services Software Insider analyst who penned the report.

By contrast, Chappell sees IMS as a set of operational processes and network-facing systems that control the way applications draw on network assets and resources. (See IMS Guide.)

Chappell suggests that IMS alone will not elevate carriers from the level of dumb-pipe provider. “A carrier that intends to remain a Layer 2 transport provider, adopting a utility business model, will need IMS to serve its customers, but it won't necessarily need an SDP,” she says.

“An operator with aspirations to become a service provider, however, will critically depend on a whole raft of processes and functions not yet tackled by IMS, but which can be implemented in the broader SDP." (See HR: SDPs Confuse Telcos and Macromedia, Cisco Push Telecom Apps.)

The major finding of the report, however, is that IMS and SDP elements must work together to perform key functions. The SDP, for example, must map to the subscriber policy control resources as they exist over several IMS network elements in order to correctly dole out and bill for services.

And the interrelation between the SDP and IMS is, of course, complex. "SDP and IMS: Perfect Together?" examines the conceptual and technological underpinnings of the two to determine exactly how they will be deployed in carrier networks, and why it will be important for network operators to include both in their long-term service delivery plans.

Light Reading's Services Software Insider is a new paid research service that tracks and evaluates the key industry and technology developments that will have the biggest impact on the services software market -- and by extension the entire telecom supply chain -- in the months and years ahead.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

SDP and IMS: Perfect Together?, a 19-page report in PDF format, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Services Software Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.

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