Telecom services architecture goes open source in IP networks

ExperiaSphere, a prototype for the first open telecom services architecture for next-gen IP networks, was designed to show that open source tools using a simple programming language can deliver flexible telecom services quickly and bridge the telecom and Web worlds.

With the goal of speeding service creation for telecom service providers in a converged IP network, CIMI Corporation has completed the Alpha-One prototype of its ExperiaSphere™ open source next-generation network (NGN) services architecture and is demonstrating it to telecom service providers and equipment vendors. Extreme Networks, the project's first open partner, is providing technical support and testing for connecting ExperiaSphere to its EPICenter management interface using industry-standard XML.

If you're talking about equipment with a 15-year-lifetime taking three years to standardize, that's fine. But if you have a six-month market, a three-year process is fatal.

Tom Nolle
Chief Strategist

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. and chief strategist for ExperiaSphere, announced last year the development of the Java toolkit that offers developers a way to create abstract service components, then tie them together to create services, applications and experience management.

The prototype is based on Java 2 Standard Edition and focuses on creating functional "atoms" (called "Experiams") that represent a specific service feature or behavior. The Experiams are composed into structures that represent services, and when activated, they control underlying service resources through standard APIs. The interfacing between Experiams and management systems or other outside processes is strictly compartmentalized from functional behavior, Nolle said, so any interface capable of exchanging the required data elements can be accommodated in any mission.

ExperiaSphere was designed for use in public and private networks, regardless of network technology. By linking components through APIs to equipment vendors' network management system products, the services can then be created on the network.

One of the main problems Nolle points to for next-generation converged IP networks is the amount of time it takes to go through the traditional telecom standards process. "If you're talking about equipment with a 15-year-lifetime taking three years to standardize, that's fine," he said. "But if you have a six-month market, a three-year process is fatal."

"This release illustrates that if you use open source tools, you can build services very flexibly right now," Nolle said. "You can anticipate standards, and when they come along, accommodate any standard interface from the IMF or ITU in about a week."

The need for a service-level architecture

The challenge that came along with IP network convergence is that the industry embarked on a technical shift without reflecting that shift at the service architecture level. Originally, IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) was supposed to be that service-level architecture, but IMS is based on session initiation protocol (SIP), and most usage today doesn't use SIP, Nolle explained.

ExperiaSphere provides an open-source service and service feature abstraction layer that fits between any service user and the set of network and computing resources needed to fulfill the service, whether they are one provider network or many networks, public infrastructure or private. It is compatible with any order source, including HTML, and with network-connections based IP, Ethernet, optical, ATM, frame relay, SIP, RTP or any other technology with a basic management API exposed. ExperiaSphere can build any IMS application, Nolle said, but it also goes beyond IMS in network technology and service flexibility.

ExperiaSphere is expected to enter the Alpha-Two phase in June to address a communications and collaboration model built around social relationships rather than phone numbers, Nolle said. The social communications relationship framework, named SocioPATH™, will address a model that is not based on telephone communications because the telephonic model no longer applies.

Extreme Networks offers technical support

Extreme Networks' EPICenter connection will support provisioning of Carrier Ethernet E-LINE, E-LAN and E-TREE services, as well as monitoring and management on a per-switch basis. "Carriers offering next-generation services will clearly benefit from this collaborative architecture," said Mark Showalter, Extreme Networks director of service provider marketing.

Extreme Networks recognizes that the value of equipment to a network operator is related to the extent to which that equipment can participate in a meaningful way in the generation of service creation and management, not just push bits around, Nolle said. More developers from around the world are getting involved with the ExperiaSphere prototype, and most major vendors are evaluating it in some way, he added.

Global service providers are also interested in ExperiaSphere's progress, particularly in its third-party access aspects. In fact, ExperiaSphere originated from work with international telecom carriers in early 2008, Nolle said. "Operators told us they were concerned that the standards in NGN services were developing too slowly to be useful, and were proving too complicated to be implemented," he said. "We launched ExperiaSphere to prove that it was possible to create robust service architectures from Web-oriented tools. We wanted to build what the Web community would have created if it had been tasked with creating IMS."

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