IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love

Open-source fever is coming to the telco voice world, as Metaswitch Networks is gathering support to create a freely available version of core IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) code, a move that could help intensify competition among equipment vendors.

Project Clearwater, as it's called, will focus on the concept of hosting IMS functions in the cloud, according to one source briefed on the idea. So, it's not just vanilla IMS that's being discussed here.

Analysts tell Light Reading that Metaswitch is doing the rounds this week, briefing them in advance of a launch sometime in May. That means the Clearwater announcement could line up with one of a few industry conferences that could conceivably have some IMS relevance: Interop (week of May 6), Management World (week of May 13) or CTIA (week of May 20).

The core functions that would become open-source as part of Project Clearwater, according to a document obtained by Light Reading, are: Breakout Gateway Control Function (BGCF); Interrogating Call Center Control Function (I-CSCF); Proxy-CSCF (P-CSCF); Serving-CSCF (S-CSCF); and Multimedia Telephony Service Telephone Application Server (MMTel TAS).

There's already an open-source IMS project being developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS). Imaginatively called the Open IMS Core, it seems to cover the same territory as Project Clearwater -- but with the key exception that it's not intended to produce a commercial product.

Still, FOKUS has spawned an open-source SIP server called Kamailio, which is being used by ng-Voice GmbH in Germany.

Clearwater has no relationship to OpenDaylight, the open-source project for software-defined networking (SDN). But their goals are similar: to produce open-source versions of common software that all competitors would need. (See What OpenDaylight Really Wants to Do.)

The result would be automatic commoditization of certain functions, but it also means vendors will spend less time duplicating their efforts on software that (according to some, anyway) is just not that special.

Clearwater, then, would certainly be a boost to future competitors that haven't developed any IMS code, or possibly to the mid-sized vendors such as Genband Inc. and Metaswitch.

One key factor to watch is whether Clearwater can attract the bigger and well established competitors, such as Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson AB.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Dredgie 5/15/2013 | 2:42:03 AM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love Checking out the Project Clearwater site, they are now claiming 2c/s/y based on current AWS pricing and performance expectations (ref. Technical / Performance). But there is actually a little Clearwater Deployment Sizing spreadsheet where you can plug-in the details of your favorite data center provider and see what your own personalized price would be: http://www.projectclearwater.o...
philharvey 5/10/2013 | 4:45:09 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love Sarah, I wonder what Mr. Nandlall would say now that the details behind Project Clearwater are out there. The carriers looking at it now aren't looking for romance. They're looking to unlock themselves from vendors with proprietary hardware and slow innovation cycles.
MordyK 5/6/2013 | 2:11:07 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love I wonder if Alcatel-Lucent open sourcing some of the core network such as IMS would be the solution to their financial and market problems as well as a jumpstart for innovation in the entire telco sector.
Gabriel Brown 5/2/2013 | 7:59:02 AM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love
Huawei -- already a Top 3 IMS vendor

Amazon -- possible in some form, perhaps related to Kindle; more likely a developer using Amazon Cloud

IBM -- possible. I think they're more in the ecosystem and enabler business with PureSystems and PureFlex, etc. But yes, maybe as an enabler

HP -- don't know

Oracle -- just acquired Acme Packet

Calix -- don't know, but first reaction: very doubtful

My guess is for this type of software to get picked-up and integrated by cloud-based comms providers of various kinds. Metaswitch had a cool presentation at MWC showing IMS on Amazon EC2 where it claimed it could achieve something like 7 cents per year per sub.

IMS software is being re-written for the cloud so that state, storage, transaction, and OA&M modules can scale independently.

So I think that's the direction.
^ip4g^ 5/2/2013 | 7:25:32 AM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love What is happening on Focus anyways !?
And what happened to IMS Tech Fest and stuff !
brookseven 5/1/2013 | 10:46:38 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love Anybody...if you are not in the IMS business and wanted to be...lets say (for the sake of controversy) Huawei. They get a copy of this IMS Open Source and poof they shorten their time to market by a whole lot.

That is the point of open source in the IT space. It is not just Joe Bob who uses it...its Amazon, IBM, HP, Oracle, etc. It is just a way of getting into a space without having to develop a major function from scratch.

As to who would really do it? No idea. You are right that small telcos can not develop their own. But let's say I am Calix and serve lots of T2/T3 US Telcos. I want to sell them more stuff. Well, now in short order I can be in the IMS business.


PS - It is NOT the telcos that buy the consulting. Its the developers.
Sarah Thomas 5/1/2013 | 5:51:08 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love I asked Dr. Vish Nandlall, Ericsson's CTO of North America, about this, and he said he hadn't heard of Clearwater, but also didn't seem too interested in it. He said Ericsson created its own open-source program around IMS about 5 year ago. He's all for creating an ecosystem around IMS, but said that operators have to be very careful in exposing their core services.

Dr. Nandlall said, "There's a lot of romance ariound open source, but at the end of the
day, it's not what drives the revenue."
Gabriel Brown 5/1/2013 | 2:36:14 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love I get that part. What type of company would take this on and buy consulting services from, say, Metaswitch?

Big telcos want big vendors for IMS. Small telcos can't develop their own.
Craig Matsumoto 5/1/2013 | 2:35:14 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love Here's Tom Nolle's take (CIMI Corp. analyst, and one of the people who helped me out with the story) -

brookseven 5/1/2013 | 2:13:06 PM
re: IMS Gets Some Open-Source Love Gabriel,

The idea of Open Source is always to get developers to pay for consulting. Once you have adopted an Open Project, you have to customize/integrate/expand upon it. To do so many times requires knowledge that can be bought more easily than it can be made, especially at the start.

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