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OSS

Cramer Cracks at NetCracker

Last week, Cramer Systems Ltd. , one of the leading vendors in today's increasingly important inventory management systems sector, announced a new engagement with a major European carrier, Telia Company . (See Cramer Wins at TeliaSonera.)

The war of words surrounding the deployment indicates that Cramer feels increasingly threatened by a firm other than its traditional rival, Telcordia Technologies Inc. It's also sign of just how troublesome OSS matters can be for a carrier.

For the past few years carriers, including the likes of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and many others, have been stressing the pivotal role that inventory management is playing as they look to consolidate their networks and back offices and increase the efficiency and reliability of their provisioning processes. That has resulted in some major deals and some sector consolidation. (See BT Awards Monster OSS Deal, Comptel Enhances Its OSS , and Telcordia Shells Out at Last.)

It has also resulted in increasing activity for the likes of MetaSolv Software Inc. (Nasdaq: MSLV) and Netcracker Technology Corp. , and it's the latter firm that's starting to nip at Cramer's heels. NetCracker announced itself as a serious contender when beating Cramer to win a deal at Orange (NYSE: FTE) late last year. (See OSS Firms Shake Up Market and Report: OSS Minnows Have Muscle.)

So when integrator Wipro Ltd. decided to deploy Cramer's inventory system to manage TeliaSonera's SDH and PDH networks, the OSS firm was quick to tell Light Reading it will displace NetCracker in the process.

Cramer's marketing chief, Jon Craton, says the "business objective is to replace a patchwork of legacy systems, some decades old, that have yet to be retired," the same job for which NetCracker was chosen, he says. "The business requirement that was being addressed in 2003 still needs to be addressed today."

A quick history check shows that's right, as Wipro initially announced NetCracker as its inventory selection for the very same job three years ago. (See Wipro Wins TeliaSonera OSS Deal.) Martin Sundblad, program manager for Wipro at TeliaSonera, confirms that NetCracker's technology was initially chosen to replace the carrier's home-grown databases, but that the vendor's software "never went into production." Why? "I have to refer you to TeliaSonera. The decision to bring OSS into production lies with the carrier, not with us," says Sundblad, who adds that "the scope of the project remains unchanged."

So what has been happening for the past three years? And why wasn't NetCracker's system deployed? NetCracker says TeliaSonera's chief network officer, Claes Nycander, is the only man who can comment on its back-office issues, but the carrier refuses to make him available for comment.

After a three-year slippage, though, the carrier wants to speed things up, and Sundblad says the Cramer system is set to go into production in the third quarter of this year.

So is NetCracker on the defensive about all this? Not a bit of it. The vendor's newly appointed head of strategy, Sanjay Mewada, notes that his new employer was selected by Wipro but never had a direct relationship with the carrier and has "never been installed, in production, or operational at TeliaSonera." (See NetCracker Hires Yankee Analyst.)

And he adds that NetCracker no longer has a relationship with Wipro either. "In view of our fast growth across Europe, Asia, and North America, we have had to pare down marginal systems integrator relationships and focus on a handful of strategic global systems integrators. Wipro did not make the list, and we terminated that relationship." KERPOW!

Then, in an email response to questions, he turns to Cramer. "If Cramer has indeed been selected by TeliaSonera, then we offer our congratulations on a new win, not for replacement of an existing, let alone NetCracker, system." But, adds Mewada, "for the record, we have indeed replaced Cramer at Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), and that was an actual implementation of Cramer, not some software that could have been lying on the shelf." THWAK!

Cramer's Craton tells a different story and stresses his company doesn't include Telus among its total of 120 operator engagements. "It was a proof-of-concept trial, and we don't count those. We were never deployed at Telus," says Craton. "We did a pilot but it never reached commercial deployment."

All this signifies how desperate these companies are to be seen as the inventory system provider of choice, as once the software is actually installed and running commercially it's a source of recurring license revenue for the vendor that's deployed and a long and painful process for any carrier wanting to swap it out. Carriers are expected to make some tough back-office calls in the coming year or two, so these kinds of exchanges will only get more lively.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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