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).

At run-time, when the app is executed, the orca.js coding enables a connection between the JavaScript running in the WebRTC browser of the client device and a set of transport libraries deployed by the service provider's network that in turn link to their APIs.

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

TTDCorp 8/22/2013 | 9:21:57 AM
Reconciling IMS and SOA Hello Carol,  I am not seeing ORCA solutions in SOA, likewise I am not seeing IMS in Wireline OSS solutions at the moment.  (at least in tier one initiatives).  I am missing something in the ATIS migration path?
Cellco 7/30/2013 | 7:04:28 PM
re: Killer Apps Meet Killer Whale: ORCA Opens Up Do you see the API tools exposed to only business partners or do you see this exposed to internal departments building OTT homes for subscribed businesses and consumers in competition to Alianza? I do not see the tools as an offering to Broadview, AireSpring, or conversion of the wholesale subscribers (formerly CLECs).
MordyK 7/26/2013 | 5:53:27 AM
re: Killer Apps Meet Killer Whale: ORCA Opens Up I think this is an extremely interesting thing to watch. it appears as though they've created a JavaScript based development interface to the IMS portion of the core, which means that if the carriers get out of their own way we might see some interesting app developments. If this succeeds we might also see the carriers recognize more opportunities in their core and RAN.
Sarah Thomas 7/25/2013 | 6:12:46 PM
re: Killer Apps Meet Killer Whale: ORCA Opens Up How is this different than the GSMA's OneAPI initiative? That seems pretty promising too, although I haven't heard much about it since their initial launch...the first API use case was going to be a single-sign on type service using the phone number.
Ray Le Maistre 7/25/2013 | 5:53:18 PM
re: Killer Apps Meet Killer Whale: ORCA Opens Up I really hope this is the answer to the 'write once' conundrum.... the telcos don't need any more 'air' between themselves and developers.
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