Alcatel-Lucent has joined the growing list of telecom equipment vendors rolling out service layer architecture solutions designed to help carriers and applications developers make better -- and more lucrative -- use of IP network infrastructure capabilities by tying services more closely into the network itself.
The Open API cloud service is a strong offer that other players will have to take seriously.
Tom Nolle, President, CIMI Corp.
The vast majority of wireless and wireline carriers want to expose some network capabilities to third parties and need more help from vendors, according to a new CIMI Corp. operator survey, in order to ensure the security of the application and the stability of the network. Solutions that help them do that will be a major vendor focus in the next 12 months.
As revenue-per-bit continues to drop and IP network investment remains high, telecom service providers are looking for ways to create new and innovative services quickly in order to compete with over-the-top (OTT) players like Google and avoid "transport only" status. The goal is to increase revenue by mashing up carrier network capabilities like location, presence and billing with a wide variety of third-party applications that can be delivered to customers across many service provider networks.
Two of Alcatel-Lucent's main competitors in the service layer architecture race -- Juniper Networks and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) -- have also announced solutions. Juniper's Junos Space uses a partner-developer strategy and has introduced a programmable chipset that enables fast network programming, while NSN relies on vast professional services capabilities to build individual service layer solutions rather than announcing tools for provider and app developer use. Alcatel-Lucent's solution appears to fall in between the other two vendors by combining tools and cloud services and bundling professional services. Cisco is notably lacking a service layer architecture strategy.
Today's network infrastructure isn't fully leveraged, so it's limited to driving vast amounts of traffic, and content and applications providers can only cross those networks to get to users, said Johnson Agogbua, vice president of Alcatel-Lucent's Global Application Enablement Solution. Instead, Alcatel-Lucent believes applications enablement requires exposure for real-time multimedia, content acquisition assurance and delivery, communications that enable mashups, and location and billing data.
Alcatel-Lucent's three-layer applications enablement strategy, which is designed to bind network and service capabilities more tightly, includes:
- Application Exposure Suite: Tools that make network assets available to application developers and content providers in a secure "exposure layer" environment that allows third parties to grab functionalities like billing, location or connection optimization to add to their applications.
- Open API Service: An Alcatel-Lucent cloud-based aggregation service available in selected markets for application developers and service providers where new services can be created and tested in a network environment. Controlled access to network capabilities through a Web portal allows developers to leverage enablers from multiple carriers in one place to reach a cross-carrier customer base. The service was designed to allow developers to easily incorporate network capabilities into their applications.
- Transformation Services: Alcatel-Lucent's professional services portfolio for a multivendor environment includes systems integration for network and service-layer operations management.
Alcatel-Lucent may have the most practical business approach to service layer architecture, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., and this may give the company a market advantage. "The Open API cloud-service is a strong offer that other players will have to take seriously," he said.
Operators have been injured by the fact that they have a hard time matching market opportunities to service development time, Nolle said. "Alcatel-Lucent is trying to give the operators a service layer that is as agile in terms of addressing as an over-the-top player has but binding it tightly to the network underneath, so the provider can present real differentiation."
Alcatel-Lucent is launching its Open API Service with 21 applications and several service providers testing the Open API environment, Agogbua said, with more announcements to follow in the coming months.