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Policy + charging

NetSocket Tries Mission Impossible

A new player has emerged in the IP session and resource management sector, claiming that its technology "makes the impossible possible."

Clearly the team at Plano, Texas-based NetSocket , which has the "overarching goal of improving the quality of emerging network services such as voice (VOIP) and video (IPTV) as they are transported [over IP networks]," doesn't lack confidence.

But the startup will need more than bullish marketing if it's to succeed in a sector that has already sent two resource management specialists, Operax and Tazz Networks, to the vendor graveyard.

That others have failed to build a business from helping carriers manage their IP resources and services doesn't appear to be a concern to the new entrant, though. Quite the opposite, in fact: NetSocket recently completed the acquisition of Operax's assets, for an undisclosed sum, to add to its in-house developments.

NetSocket believes Operax's policy control-based resource management expertise will help speed up the development of its all-encompassing IP service assurance proposition, and give the company a base (and a handful of staff) in Europe at Operax's site in Luleå, Sweden.

The "impossible task" that NetSocket's trying to make possible is the ability to view IP sessions in real time and map them to the underlying network resources. Having that integrated view could allow carriers to preempt any impending service degradation issues and reallocate resources where necessary.

Part of the company's proposition is its in-house creation called Session2Topology, the tool that provides the all-important real-time information about how IP sessions are traversing the network. That information is then used to perform tasks such as session admission control and bandwidth management with policy control.

But with the demise of Tazz and Operax still fresh, does NetSocket stand much of a chance of making it? In a recent report, Policy Control & DPI: The New Broadband Imperative, Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie notes that because of the "complexity of the technology, business case, and vendor scene, purchasing cycles can be very long, ranging from six to 24 months, or even longer in some cases. This is tough in particular for the many specialists in the field, making revenues lumpy and perhaps encouraging further consolidation over the coming year or two."

However, Finnie also notes that of the 100-plus service providers he polled for views on policy control, the vast majority "believe they need to more intelligently control access to network resources, applications, and subscribers, so interest in policy in general has grown strongly over the past two to three years... The policy area has great promise as a means for service providers to add value to (and extract from) their IP-derived service offerings. If it fulfils that promise, it will become a core element in all networks, and the policy business will quickly become a multibilliondollar market opportunity."

So NetSocket's timing might be fortuitous. The experience of the team at the helm might help, too.

Core IP experience
The team behind the Session2Topology development has some history in IP service control, as many of them worked together at IP router vendor Chiaro, one of the many companies that tried, and failed, to compete with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) in the core network. (See No Tomorrow for Chiaro and The Core Was Rotten for Startups.)

NetSocket's founders -– CEO Ken Lewis, VP of marketing and products Carey Parker, and chief network architect Eric Brendel –- were all at Chiaro, as were chief software architect Lance Visser and director of engineering Steve Yao.

In addition to the former Chiaro crew, there's also a pocket of ex-Netrake staffers on board at NetSocket. Among those who have a history at the session border controller vendor (now part of AudioCodes Ltd. (Nasdaq: AUDC)) are VP of worldwide sales Terry Orosco, CFO John Curreri, and VP of technology operations Shashi Kanth.

Of the senior management team, only director of product management Swapan Nandi, a former Nortel Networks Ltd. staffer, doesn't have a Chiaro or Netrake background.

While NetSocket's financial status is unknown, it appears that Washington Capital Ventures , Sevin Rosen Funds , and Silver Creek Ventures stumped up some initial funding at the beginning of this year.

NetSocket couldn't be reached for futher details, although according to a statement on the company's Website, it does look like it's planning to be more vocal about its strategy and how it will utilize the Operax assets, before year end.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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