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IMS

Look, Aint Bea! They Convergin!

Fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) specialist Convergin will today announce IT giant BEA Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BEAS) as its latest technology and sales partner in the carrier service convergence space.

Partnerships with big-name companies that carriers trust are vital for specialist startups such as Convergin, which has focused on the development of Service Capability Interaction Manager (SCIM) capabilities.

The SCIM is a service mediation function that handles the interaction between services in the applications plane of an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) domain, and is one of the vital service delivery components in an IMS architecture. (See Convergin Offers Convergence and IMS Guide.)

And it's an important function, according to Heavy Reading analyst at large, Caroline Chappell. "The SCIM deals with issues that were never satisfactorily resolved in the IN [intelligent networks] world, such as how the service logic handles an initial user request trigger and temporarily hands control over to another service, as well as what the arbitration mechanism is between services competing for control over a session," she notes in her report, "Service Orchestration: The Key to Telco SOA."

But with IMS at such an early stage, Convergin has also developed pre-IMS service mediation and protocol conversion capabilities that enable carriers to use their existing infrastructures, such as IN servers and HLRs (home location registers), alongside next-generation SIP-based service platforms, so both legacy and new services can be delivered across both old and new service delivery platforms without any need to rewrite applications or replace legacy platforms.

This process is known as service orchestration, or service brokering. (See Service Orchestration.)

Such systems are regarded as vital in carrier migration strategies as they start to deploy converged SIP-based service architectures, and they enable operators to launch services such as fixed/mobile convergence voice using dualmode GSM/WiFi handsets before they deploy a full IMS architecture. (See Convergin Claims FMC First.)

These legacy/NGN convergence capabilities are at the heart of Convergin's partnership with BEA. The two firms are integrating Convergin's Accolade Wireless Convergence Server (WCS) with BEA's WebLogic SIP server, a combination that, in theory, would allow mobile and fixed operators to retain their existing service portfolios and add new SIP-based services that could then be offered to their current as well as new customers.

"With our SCIM, BEA can help carriers deliver these services over the core network and in legacy domains," says Convergin's CEO, Ayal Itzkovitz.

BEA is also one of the leading Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) vendors, which is good news for Convergin, as there is increasing consensus within the industry that Web services interfaces will provide the most efficient link between disparate systems and services. The interaction between the Web services interfaces needs to be controlled and managed, though, which is the job of the service orchestration tools. (See Service Orchestration: Who Will Lead?)

"BEA is a major SOA player, and everyone's looking at IMS being implemented using service-oriented architecture," states Itzkovitz, who says the two companies are already "working together in some customer-related activities," though he wouldn't elaborate.

That sounds as if the two firms are pitching jointly, as carriers trawl the vendor market for the NGN capabilities. "We're seeing a lot of Tier 1 RFPs [request for proposals]," with the SCIM becoming more prominent in the stated requirements, says Itzkovitz.

And to get anywhere with the large operators, Convergin needs relationships with bigger companies that have some clout with the carriers. The Israeli company's focus is on developing partnership channels and becoming part of the IMS pitch of those larger vendors.

While BEA is Convergin's first big IT partner, the company already has a reseller deal with Tekelec that has generated new business, and it has engaged in interoperability and development work with Nortel Networks Ltd. , says the CEO. Convergin has worked closely with Nortel at its Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) deployment. (See Tekelec Taps Convergin, Mirs Deploys Tekelec, and Convergin Goes Tropical.)

In total, Convergin is deployed in 12 networks, and has just finalized a "large deployment in Brazil. We also have some Tier 1 trials in the U.S." with mobile operators, claims Itzkovitz.

So who is Convergin having to see off to win the SCIM and service orchestration business that's out there? Itzkovitz says there are a number of players that are claiming SCIM functionality, but he considers Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Leapstone Systems Inc. his toughest rivals. AlcaLu has a product called the Lucent Service Broker that it "has been promoting heavily;" and Leapstone's CCE serviceBroker product was used in the recent 2006 Global MultiService Forum Interoperability (GMI) event. (See Lucent Storms VON and Tier 1 SPs Trial IMS.)

The competition is wider than that, though, as other IT giants such as HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), as well as specialists like Aepona Ltd. and jNetX Inc. tout their service orchestration capabilities.

Despite such significant competition, Convergin is winning new business and will double its revenues this year compared with 2005, and break through the $10 million mark, says Itzkovitz. The Herzliya, Israel-based company has about 40 on staff and has undertaken only one round of funding of "a few million dollars," says Itzkovitz, with MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) as the lead investor.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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