Killer Apps Meet Killer Whale: ORCA Opens Up
A new approach to opening up core network services to application developers and paving the way for network operators to monetize apps is now available for testing from the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). The organization is saying it will be faster to market than previous efforts because it requires less change on the network side.
The key to this new approach, launched under the guise of Project ORCA for Open Real-Time Communications APIs, is that it uses a bit of generic client-side software, called orca.js, as part of a two-stage process. All the app developer has to worry about is incorporating the orca.js code into its application programming interface (API).
The service providers do have to do their part by providing the transport libraries and gateways, says Jim McEachern, who does technology development for ATIS, but those are much easier processes than the heavy lifting required for other initiatives to develop a single open API for all service providers.
"This is a two-stage process, and you get something that is truly 'write once, run anywhere,' but at the same time, at run time, is linked to the appropriate libraries and is perfectly optimized for the service provider you are in at that moment," he says.
Application developers can use this approach to incorporate high-quality voice or video calls into their apps, because orca.js enables end-to-end signaling for real-time communications, while masking the complexity of that process. Service providers have already invested in these capabilities through their IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) deployments.
The whole process builds on WebRTC, which is still a work in progress itself, McEachern points out, but the app developer will be shielded from future changes in the WebRTC specs.
Orca.js is ready for use in service provider developer programs or foundries and AT&T Inc. is expected to be among the first on board. McEachern expects to see it tested in labs and hackathons this year with the initial deployments coming in 2014, if all goes well.
ORCA is actually part of a Device Solutions Initiative the ATIS is launching this fall. It's starting with basic APIs around call-control but will be adding functionality, McEachern says, all targeted at allowing WebRTC running in HTML-5 browsers to leverage network capabilities that service providers already have.
The broader Device Solutions Initiative "will provide a framework that will encompass ORCA but also have other projects that use the same basic techniques -- a client-side API that links to network-facing APIs as run-time options in areas other than WebRTC," he says.
Machine-to-machine communications in one other-such area, according to McEachern.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading