Oracle Leads OSS News Charge

Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) has drawn on its vast software portfolio to develop a number of new software systems aimed squarely at carriers, including a new inventory management system that can interact with an operator's business processing and customer management systems.

The database giant's service provider-focused business, Oracle Communications, is just one of a number of telecom software firms -- including Actix Ltd. , Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), CA Technologies (Nasdaq: CA), Comverse Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSI), Evolving Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: EVOL), Iptivia Inc. , and Subex Ltd. -- that have unveiled new platforms, strategies, and customers during the past few days.

Oracle unifies and integrates
Oracle Communications' new resource management system is its Unified Inventory Management, a product that the company's VP of marketing, David Sharpley, insists is totally new, and not just an updated version of the M6 resource management tool that Oracle inherited when it acquired MetaSolv a year ago. (See Oracle Unveils New OSS, OSS Firms Shake Up Market, and Oracle Buys More OSS With MetaSolv.)

Sharpley says the new product is the first to be based on the Shared Information/Data (SID) model developed by the TM Forum , and has been developed to help manage a network's logical inventory, such as IP addresses, phone numbers, and applications, as well as the physical network.

The new software system, which has already been deployed by several operators in Asia/Pacific and Latin America, also has two advantages over rival inventory management systems from the likes of Amdocs and Telcordia Technologies Inc. , according to Sharpley. (See Who Makes What: OSS .)

First, it can employ data from existing, distributed systems, and create a unified view of the network and its services without having to engage in the costly and time-consuming process of migrating data into a centralized database.

Secondly, the Unified Inventory Management system can link up with Oracle's ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, providing a carrier with a single view of network resources and ongoing procurement and supply chain data. Similarly, it can also hook into Oracle's CRM (customer relationship management) system, which would help a carrier to automate service provisioning and activation.

"We're the only vendor that can link inventory, ERP, and CRM," boasts Sharpley, who adds that, while this extended business system integration "works best with our" business software systems, it can also be achieved with ERP and CRM products from other suppliers.

Though OSS Observer analyst Larry Goldman doesn't believe the new product provides a technical breakthrough in the inventory space, he does believe Oracle has "taken the right approach in viewing inventory with more of a federated model than a massive consolidation."

He also sees the new product as "a state-of-the-art inventory [platform] that is key to Oracle having a complete, integrated OSS/BSS system."

Goldman adds: "I think a lot of the value comes in integration with other Oracle systems, particularly the linkage of customer care with ordering and activation -- inventory is usually a key part of such systems. In addition, the linkage with ERP has a lot of potential value, but service providers are only starting to work in that area."

Oracle Communications has also just announced Hong Kong's City Telecom (HK) Ltd. as a new customer, and has just released a number of carrier-focused "Process Integration Packs" that pull together billing, CRM, and financial management capabilities. (See Oracle Integrates Its Packages.)

CA tackles device management
CA, one of a number of large software vendors that generate significant revenues from telecom service providers, has released its Mobile Device Management (MDM) system that, initially, is targeting the BlackBerry (a.k.a. CrackBerry) market. (See CA Manages BlackBerrys.)

Norman Rice, general manager of communications, media and entertainment at CA, says the company's mission is to "enable management of the mobile workforce, starting with the BlackBerry," and is aiming the MDM product at service providers as well as enterprise IT departments.

"Our approach is to serve the enterprise client. Whether we do that through their IT department or through the [mobile operator], we’re open to both… We're positioning to cover both avenues to market because we have current demand for both. Some clients prefer to manage these devices internally, others with the service provider."

The product launch is CA's latest move into the telecom market, following a number of acquisitions that have given the software and services giant an extensive carrier customer base, including Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Covad Communications Inc. , Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), and Verizon Enterprise Solutions . (See CA Makes Wily Acquisition, CA Targets Telcos With OSS, and CA Grabs Concord.)

Other recent news of note from the telecom software sector includes:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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