To recognize the critical role that operational and business support system companies play in this industry of ours, Light Reading this year introduced the Outstanding OSS/BSS Vendor category to its annual awards program, the Leading Lights. (See Leading Lights 2014: The Finalists.)
The category was created to recognize the back-office software systems vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud, and makes employees happy.
The submissions were more than impressive. Here are the seven companies that made the shortlist (in alphabetical order), and the key reasons why they made the cut:
It's hard not to say that Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), which won the Leading Lights award for Company of the Year (Public) in 2013, has gone from strength to strength in the past year. It has consistently reported record quarterly revenues and has been expanding and enhancing its service provider IT (SPIT) capabilities with the development of its CES suite, which incorporates OSS, BSS and policy management capabilities for all types of services. (See Amdocs Launches Updated CES Suite, Amdocs Reports Record Revenues in Fiscal Q2, and Amdocs Reports Fiscal Q1 .)
The most significant development of the past year -- which for the purposes of the Leading Lights means April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014 -- has been the acquisition of Actix and Celcite. From those deals Amdocs created its Network Solutions unit and then launched its Self Optimizing Networks (SON) software platform just ahead of Mobile World Congress. (See Amdocs Shines SON Acquisitions on RAN, Amdocs to Acquire Celcite, and Amdocs Dives Into Mobile SPIT Pool.)
"This network play puts us on the best path to capture the network optimization opportunity, and tap into new growth markets," noted Amdocs in its submission.
Having built itself a significant BSS business with China's three main operators, AsiaInfo Inc. (Nasdaq: ASIA) has for the past few years been working to establish itself on the international stage, taking on rivals such as Amdocs and Oracle with its Veris BSS suite, which can be deployed as a multi-tenant cloud system. In November 2013, a year after setting up commercial operations in Europe, it announced a deal with Telenor Denmark, where it is replacing more than a hundred existing systems with its Veris package. That transformation project is ongoing, and, if successful, could lead to further engagements with Telenor in Europe. (See AsiaInfo Scores Tier 1 Win in Europe and AsiaInfo Takes On BSS Giants in Europe.)
AsiaInfo-Linkage, which became a private company earlier this year, appeared somewhat ambitious with its plans to take on the established BSS giants in Europe, but the move appears to be paying off. (See AsiaInfo-Linkage Goes Private.)
Digital Route AB
DigitalRoute AB is the kind of company that many service provider IT specialists would like to be: It has been focused on delivering core back-office capabilities for years, enhancing its offering to reflect customer requirements, and building a solid and profitable business along the way. The core product in this case is MediationZone, a component-based system that provides process modelling and network configuration capabilities that help operators reduce their costs and improve time-to-market. It is deployed in more than 300 back offices globally.
Whereas mediation systems are traditionally designed for, and used, to process billing data, Digital Route's system can be used to process data for multiple use cases, a capability that looks increasingly important as service providers wake up to the potential of analytics. "Giving service providers the ability to understand and act on key information at network-, customer- and even session levels to increase performance and reduce churn has delivered added value in real-time," noted Digital Route in its submission.
Courtesy of its recent acquisition strategy, which has seen the Swedish giant buy Telcordia and ConceptWave during the past few years, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is now one of the biggest OSS/BSS vendors in the industry, and is ranked the number-one player in many service provider IT sectors, such as real-time charging and traditional network management systems. (See Ericsson Buys More OSS Smarts.)
As a result, "Ericsson considers OSS a key differentiator for the company," and has been using its many assets to create new offerings, such as Service Agility (OSS, BSS, APIs) system that has attracted major operator attention. (See CenturyLink Drives a Nail Into Osmine’s Coffin.)
Matrixx Software Inc.
Matrixx Software Inc. is a relative newcomer to the BSS sector, having been formed six years ago. While that means it has its work cut out to compete with entrenched vendors, it has also been able to take an "entirely different approach both architecturally and functionally to build something that would be fit-for-purpose for where communications service providers are going, rather than where they have been."
The company currently supports online charging, policy management, and pricing analytics on its real-time transaction processing platform, but can develop and add new capabilities to meet customer and market demand. Despite its newcomer status, Matrixx has secured a major European customer in Swisscom and has several more as yet unidentified customers going live in 2014. "Swisscom sees us as a partner that is helping it transform its business as it innovates in new ways, to expand and monetize mobile broadband services and move its business to real-time," noted the company in its submission.
Canadian BSS vendor Redknee Inc. (Toronto TSX: RKN) has transformed itself during the past year following the acquisition of Nokia Siemens Networks' BSS unit, which became part of Redknee in late March 2013. The past year has been the integration period, which can make or break an acquisition. (See Redknee Seals NSN Deal.) By all measures it has been a success in this case, with Redknee holding on to the NSN team and customers and transforming itself into one of the major players of the BSS sector, generating revenues of $72.4 million in the three months to the end of March 2014, compared with $11.8 million a year earlier.
The company's main offer is a real-time converged billing and customer care solution that addresses billing, charging with integrated policy, promotions, analytics and business intelligence and CRM, all from a single platform, which can be delivered in a cloud model, as software-as-a-service, or as an on-premises solution. Scalability is a key factor for Redknee: It says its system is supporting real-time charging for more than 100 million customers at one Tier 1 operator customer in Asia-Pacific.
The company now has more than 200 service provider customers and is adding to that number each quarter, as well as looking towards different industry verticals to grow its business. (See Redknee Lands BSS Deal with Telekom Austria.)
Tail-f Systems AB
Swedish upstart Tail-f Systems has long been telling the market that there's a different way to approach network management, pitching its Network Control System (NCS) as something that can "replace the bloated Service Provisioning & Activation layer in the OSS with more agile Network Service Orchestration. The concept behind network service orchestration is to decouple network services from specific network components, while automatically configuring the network according to the service specifications." In the past year the market has started to listen, as Tail-f's proposition fits neatly with the new way of thinking that has emerged as network operators consider their SDN and NFV strategies.
The Tail-f proposition is that its system can be easily deployed in multi-vendor environments, speeding up the process of launching new services and improving operational efficiencies, all without vendor lock-in. That proposition has won support from some of the largest Tier 1 operators in the world, including AT&T. Tail-f believes that the support from the US giant "is a great validation that networking is heading into a model-driven future. The ability to express the syntax, structure and semantics of network equipment and services in a data modeling language and separate them from the run-time platform opens up for radical change." (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape and Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)
The Leading Lights winners and 2014 Hall of Fame inductees will be unveiled at the Leading Lights awards dinner, to be held the evening of Tuesday, June 17 at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. (For more details, see Bumper Year for the Leading Lights Awards.)
Stick around on Wednesday for the second day of Light Reading's Big Telecom Event, taking place at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on June 17-18. (Details and the agenda are on our show site, Big Telecom Event.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading