Tazz Shrinks, Shifts Strategy
The move shows how vulnerable specialist vendors are when they're relying on business from the market's biggest operators, which can take years to make their procurement decisions.
Tazz has been one of the leading specialists in the policy control sector during the past few years, and scored something of a coup by announcing an OEM deal with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) early in 2006. (See Cisco Tangos With Tazz, Tazz Pockets Another $6M, and Tazz Expands in Europe.)
But even that relationship and the emergence of policy management as a key element of major operators' plans haven't been enough to sustain Tazz.
Policy control is regarded as a vital component in the management and provisioning of services in converged next generation networks, with most major carriers either known to be, or believed to be, testing and trialing various policy control solutions. (See Policy Control Heats Up, Policy Control Is Key, and Broadband Policy Servers.)
It's also a vital piece of the puzzle for smaller carriers, mobile service providers, and cable operators: Other policy control specialists such as Camiant Inc. have thrived in markets where the deals might be smaller but the decisions are made more quickly. (See Camiant Wins Deal, Camiant Puts Video Policy Gear Into Play , and Startup Company Profile #4: Camiant Inc..)
But Tier 1 operator policy control procurement decisions have been pushed back, with many in the sector saying that policy control's role in carriers' IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) plans is the cause of many delays: IMS has proven something of a headache for carriers looking to implement converged service management and delivery platforms as they migrate to IP-based networks. (See Report: IMS Goes From Hero to Zero and The IMS Two-Step.)
Tazz CEO Gerry Goodman believes that the complex task of managing the migration from multiple networks to a converged architecture has slowed the market down. "Policy control decisions have taken longer in the Tier 1 carrier market... Carriers prefer a single solution not only for their various products [voice, video data], but also for their various access technologies [DSL, FTTx, wireless]. These factors have combined to slow down the decision making process since all of these functions must ultimately work together," notes Goodman.
Such delays hit small, specialist technology providers harder than the large, more diversified systems vendors.
Tazz is still operational, but has retained just 10 of its near 50 staff, and is now banking on licensing its technology to large equipment vendors and systems integrators.
CEO Gerry Goodman says the major carriers "only seem to be buying from a small number of major vendors and major systems integrators these days, so it's tough for small independent companies. We are looking to build relationships with the companies that the carriers are working with," and license Tazz's intellectual property to the big hitters.
"It's a different focus but it's one that's appropriate for the state of the market and our financial backing," says the CEO.
So "our new strategy dictates a channel expansion beyond our Cisco single channel approach. This being the case we will offer our IP and core product support to any and all of the companies interested in taking policy control to the next generation network space."
The Cisco relationship continues, though. "Our relationship with Cisco remains positive -- they have been a good partner. Much of our effort during the past two years has been conducted in concert with Cisco," though Goodman rejects rumors that Cisco turned down the chance to buy Tazz. "There haven't been any serious discussions about any acquisition."
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