The term "next gen" gets thrown around like it's no big deal; flip a switch and service providers all over the world will be running IP networks that are open to third-party partners, yet completely secure when it comes to network operations and support systems (OSS).
Not so fast. Telcos have been in the business of providing ubiquitous voice communications for more than 100 years. That's a century, people -- and that's a long time to work out the kinks in any system. Now that traditional wireline voice services are in deep decline, the pressure to increase revenue per bit and decrease network operations costs at the same time puts telecom service providers at a high-stakes turning-point in their histories, and they don't have time for missteps.
Service providers need to straddle the traditional telecom, Web 2.0 and IT worlds now. And depending on their technology decisions – and the platforms available from equipment vendors – they will become: a) dumb pipe commodity players; b) higher-end services facilitators; or c) full content players going up against the likes of over-the-top players like Google, eBay and Facebook.
How will all of this happen? Enter service delivery platforms (SDPs), those emerging reusable platform network components. SDPs are supposed to help carriers create and deliver flexible services quickly, and to any device. SDPs are also supposed to help third-party partners create and deliver services over these next-gen IP networks, which is a 180-degree change in how the business of telecom gets done. Then there's the issue of whether these new platforms will be able to scale services hundreds of thousands of users without affecting network performance.
Equipment and IT vendors are feeling the pressure from their service provider customers about what to buy and whether they'll get the benefits they need from it. So far, the telecom provider world isn't dazzled. CIMI Corp. President Tom Nolle offers SearchTelecom.com commentary this week in Telecom operators need vendor help to justify new investment benefits as they move forward with their next-gen networks.
Nolle looks at the visions and products coming out of the big three: Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco and Juniper. He opens a discussion on whether the traditional standards-setting process will slow the industry down at this critical juncture and questions whether vendors will be willing to step ahead of the standards bodies, take a risk and give service providers something to help them compete.
For more on customer-facing services issues, check out our Telecom Insights report on Service delivery best practices: Translating customer needs into network services.