The xTCA Ecosystem Conference I

1:00 PM -- So, is the open computing movement in telecom moving as fast as it might? Are the telecom equipment manufacturers (TEMs) making the most of the open platforms available to drive innovative solutions and services instead of building their own hardware, and lower-level software? There is definitely a lot of movement out there, but could it or should it be faster? Things always move more slowly than early predictions, but shouldn’t we be seeing an avalanche to open platforms in telco by now?

Maybe it is happening, but it’s not big news -- companies that save costs and get to market more quickly don’t always want to tell the world how they do it. But that’s only part of the story.

I think that there are two main reasons why things are not going as fast as they could be:

  • The TEMs are not changing as quickly as they should.
  • The vendors are not knocking down the perceived obstacles to adoption as well as they could.
We’ll get an inside view at the upcoming xTCA Ecosystems Conference as Nokia Networks is willing to talk, and will share its experiences using AdvancedTCA in its platforms. This may help us understand more clearly where there is traction and where there are still roadblocks to adoption.

Most of the TEMs management publicly supports the need for open platforms so they can use their remaining R&D dollars to focus on adding value at the top of the stack. But there still exist entrenched pockets in some of the TEMs that believe they can build it better themselves. They are often supported by the “BOM Cost” argument, whereby the bill-of-materials cost for their solution looks better than the cost of an equivalent open system from external vendors. Add to this the idea that they still have the “secret sauce” that they want to control, and you have the argument for continuing to “make” and not “buy.” These are the tools for the internal guerilla war against open systems within some of the TEMs.

These arguments would be easy to overcome if there were a complete set of interoperable building blocks sitting on the shelf waiting to be plugged together -- which is the ideal of open systems -- but, like most things, the reality is complicated.

So how can the industry help? A couple of obvious issues come to mind:

  • Interoperability among vendors is a critical component, and it does exist -- sort of, but there is a lot more to be done to make for a much more user-friendly integration experience.
  • The industry needs better examples and case studies of the savings to be had in operating and R&D expenses of open systems vs. the roll-your-own variety. Open systems may have higher BOM costs up front, but they should pay for themselves quickly due to reduced R&D and upgrade costs.
The industry is moving to address these issues -- and they may need to get a bit more aggressive.

All of these issues will be investigated and expanded upon at The xTCA Ecosystems Conference in Boston on September 23, by the TEMs, the vendors, and the industry organizations.

— Rob Davidson, Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to The xTCA Ecosystems Conference, the most comprehensive one-day event covering ATCA and related solutions including MicroTCA, AMC, off-the-shelf middleware, carrier-grade operating systems, and fully integrated systems. To be staged in Boston, September 23, collocated with the Embedded Systems Conference, the major East Coast systems show, which is run by our sister company, Tech Insights, admission is complimentary to all ESC 2009 Registrants. For more information, or to register, click here.

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