- Lack of long term thinking within telcos - there are often too many tactical requirements to be fulfilled and the long term strategy never gets going (this is like Governments who have a four year terms not being able to get 20 year projects over the line - they're too worried about getting the day to day things patched up and then getting re-elected)
- Senior executives in Telcos that truly don't appreciate the benefits of standardisation - I am not sure if this is because executives come from a non-technical background or some other reason.
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  parlay andrew_larmour parlayx parlayrest wac oneapi larmour tmf gsma frameworx 3 Comments 3,419 Views
Further to my last post, it now looks like the WAC is completely dead and buried.
One thing that is creating a lot of chatter at the moment though is TelcoML (Telco Markup Language) - there it a lot of discussions about it on the TeleManagement Forum (TMF) community site and while I don't intend to get in a big discussion about TelcoML, I do want to talk about Telco standards in general.
The Telco standards that seem to take hold are the ones with strong engineering background - I am thinking of networking standards like SS7, INAP, CAMEL, SigTRAN etc, but the Telco standards focussed on the IT domain (like Parlay, ParlayX, OneAPI, ParlayREST and perhaps TelcoML) seem to struggle to get real penetration - sure standards are good - they make it easier and cheaper for Telcos to integrate and introduce new software; they make it easier for ISVs to build software that can be deployed at any telco. So, why don't they stick?
Why do we see a progression of standards that are well designed, have collaboration of a core set of telcos around the world (I'm thinking the WAC here) yet nothing comes of it. It we look at Parlay for example, sure CORBA is hard, so I get why it didn't take off, but ParlayX with web services is easy - pretty much every IDE in the world can build a SOAP request from the WSDL for that web Service - why didn't it take off? I've spoken to telcos all around the world about ParlayX, but it's rare to find one that is truly committed to the standard - sure the RFP's say must have ParlayX, but then after they implement the software (Telecom Web Services Server in IBM's case) they either continue to offer their previous in house developed interfaces for those network services and don't use ParlayX or they just don't follow through with their plans to expose the services externally: why did we bother? ParlayX stagnated for many years with little real adoption from Telcos. Along comes GSMA with OneAPI with the mantra 'ParlayX web services are too complicated still, lets simplify them and also provide a REST based interface'. No new services, just the same ones as ParlayX, but simplified. Yes, I responded to a lot of Requests For Proposal (RFP) asking for OneAPI support, but I have not seen one telco that has actually exposed those OneAPI interfaces to 3rd party developers as they originally intended. So, now, OneAPI doesn;t really exist any more and we have ParlayREST as a replacement. Will that get any more take up? I don't think so.
The TMF Frameworx seem to have more adoption, but they are the exception to the rule.
I am not really sure why Telco standards efforts have such a tough time of it, but I suspect that it comes down to:
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  bpm larmour andrew_larmour frameworx tmf businessagility telco telecom soa 2,046 Views
Why TMF Frameworx?
The TeleManagement Forum (TMF) have defined a set of four frameworks collectively known as Frameworx. The key frameworks that will deliver business value to the CSP are the Information Framework(SID) and the Process Framework (eTOM). Both of these can deliver increased business agility - which will reduce time to market and lower IT costs. In particular if a CSP is undertaking with the multiple major IT projects in the near term, TMF Frameworx alignment will ease the pain associated with those major projects.
Without a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), such as many CSP's have currently, there is no common integration layer, no common way to perform format transformations with that multiple systems can communicate correctly. A typical illustration of this point to point integration might look like the Illustration to the right:
Each of the orange ovals represents a transformation of information so that the two systems can understand each other - each of which must be developed and maintained independently. These transformations will typically be built with a range of different technologies and method, thus increasing the IT costs of integrating, maintaining such transformations, not to mention maintaining competency within the IT organisation.
A basic SOA environment introduces the concept of an Enterprise Service Bus which provides a common way to integrate systems together and a common way of building transformation of information model used by multiple systems. The Illustration below shows this basic Services Oriented Architecture - note that we still have the same number of transformations to build and maintain, but now they can be built using a common method, tools and skills.
If we now introduce a standard information model such as the SID from the TeleManagement Forum, we can reduce the number of transformation that need to be built and maintained to one per system as shown in the Illustration below. Ensuring that all the traffic across the ESB is SID aligned means that as the CSP changes systems (such as CRM or Billing) the effort required to integrate the new system into the environment is dramatically reduced. That will enable the introduction of new systems faster than could otherwise been achieved. It will also reduce the ongoing IT maintenance costs.
As I'm sure you're aware, most end to end business processes need to orchestrate multiple systems. If we take the next step and insulate those end to end business processes from the functions that are specific to the various end point systems using a standard Process Framework such as eTOM, then business process can be independent of systems such as CRM, Billing, Provisioning etc. That means that if those systems change in the future (as many CSPs are looking to do) the end to end business processes will not need to change - in fact the process will not even be aware that the end system has changed.
When changing (say) the CRM system, you will need to remap the eTOM business services to the specific native services and rebuild a single integration and a single transformation to/from the standard data model (SID). This is a significant reduction in effort required to introduce new systems into the CSP's environment. Additionally, if the CSP decide to take a phased approach to the migration of the CRM systems (as opposed to a big bang) the eTOM aligned business processes can dynamically select which of the two CRM systems should be used for this particular process instance.
What that means for the CSP.
Putting in place a robust integration and process orchestration environment that is aligned to TMF Frameworx should be the CSP's first priority; this will not only allow the subsequent major projects integration and migration efforts to be minimised, it will also reduce the time to market for new processes and product that the CSP might offer into the market.
Telekom Slovenia is a perfect example of this. When the Slovenian government forced Mobitel (Slovenia) and Telekom Slovenia to merge, having the alignment with the SID and eTOM within Mobitel allowed the merged organisation to meet the governments deadlines for the specific target KPIs:
When a CSP is undertaking multiple concurrent major IT replacement projects, there are a number of recommendations that IBM would make based on past observations with other CSPs that have also undertaken significant and multiple system replacement projects:
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  rim uae india telecom larmour encryption blackberry telco andrew andrew_larmour banned 7,857 Views
I know I have been lax in posting recently. I've had a lot of work on and I am sorry for not getting to the blog.
That said, over the past few weeks, I have been watching what seems to be a snowballing issue of governments spying on their citizens in the name of protection from terrorism. First cab off the rank was India a couple of years ago asking Research In Motion (RIM) for access to the data stream for Indian Blackberry users, then asking for the encryption keys. That went quiet until recently (1Jul10), the Indian Government again asked RIM for access to the Blackberry traffic and gave RIM 15 days to comply (See this post in Indian govt gives RIM, Skype 15 days notice, warns Google - Telecompaper). That has passed and the Indian government yesterday gave RIM a new deadline of 31Aug10 (See Indian govt gives 31 August deadline for BlackBerry solution - Telecompaper). In parallel, a number of other nations have asked their CSPs or RIM for access to the data sent via Blackberry devices.
First, was the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who will put a ban on Blackberry devices in place which will force the local Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to halt the service from 11Oct10. RIM are meeting with the UAE government, but who knows where that will lead with the Canadian government stepping in to defend it's Golden Hair Child - RIM. Following the UAE ban, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and more recently Indonesia have all said they will also consider a ban on RIM devices. As an interesting aside, I read an article a week ago (See UAE cellular carrier rolls out spyware as a 3G "update") that suggested that the UAE government sent all Etisalat Blackberry subscribers an email advising them to update their devices with a 'special update' - it turns out that the update was just a Trojan which in fact delivered a spyware application to the Blackberry devices to allow the government to monitor all the traffic! (wow!)
Much of the hubbub seems to be around the use of Blackberry Messenger, an Instant Messaging function similar to Lotus Sametime Mobile, but hosted by RIM themselves which allows all Blackberry users (even on different networks and telcos) to chat to each other via their devices.
I guess at this stage, it might be helpful to describe how RIM's service works. From a historical point of view, RIM were a pager company. Pagers need a Network Operations Centre (NOC) to act as a single point from which to send all the messages out to the pagers. That's where all the RIM contact centre staff sat and answered phones, typed messages into their internal systems and sent the messages out to the subscribers. RIM had the brilliant idea to make their pagers two way so that the person being paged could respond initially with just an acknowledgement that they had read the message, and then later with full text messages. That's the point at which the pagers gained QWERTY keyboards. From there, RIM made the leap in functionality to support emails as well as pager messages, after all, they had a full keyboard now, a well established NOC based delivery system and a return path via the NOC for messages sent from the device. The only thing that remained was a link into an enterprise email system. That's where the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) comes in. The BES sites inside the Enterprise network and connects to the Lotus Domino or MS Exchange servers and acts as a connection to the NOC in Canada (the home of RIM and the location of the RIm NOC). The connection from the device to the NOC is encrypted and from the NOC to the BES is encrypted. Because of that encryption, there is no way for a government such as India, UAE, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia or other to intercept the traffic over either of the links (to or from the NOC)
Last time I spoke to someone at RIM about this topology, they told me that RIM did not support putting the BES in the DMZ (where I would have put it) - since then, this situation may have changed.
Blackberry messenger traffic doesn't get to the BES, but instead it goes from the device up to the NOC and then back to the second Blackberry which means that non-enterprise subscribers also have access to the messenger service and this appears to be the crux of what the various governments are concerned about. Anybody, including a terrorist could buy a Blackberry phone and have access to the encrypted Blackberry messenger service without needing to connect up their device to a BES which explains why they don't seem to be chasing after the other VPN vendors (including IBM with Lotus Mobile Connect) to get access to the encrypted traffic between the device and the enterprise VPN server. Importantly, other VPN vendors typically don't have a NOC in the mix (apart from the USA based Good who have a very similar model to RIM). I guess the governments don't see the threat from the enterprise customers, but rather the individuals who buy Blackberry devices.
To illustrate how a VPN like Lotus Mobile Connect differs from the Blackberry topology above, have a look at the diagram below:
Lotus Mobile Connect topology
If we extend that thought a little more, a terrorist cell could set them selves up as a pseudo enterprise by deploying a traditional VPN solution in conjunction with an enterprise type instant messaging server and therefore avoid the ban on Blackberries. the VPN server and IM server could even be located in another country which would avoid the possibility of the government easily getting a court order to intercept traffic within the enterprise environment (on the other end of the VPN). It will be interesting to see if those governments try to extend the reach of their prying to this type of IM strategy...
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  telco telecom mobile_portal bharti andrew_larmour app_store airtel 3,016 Views
In just five months, Bharti Airtel's App store has had over 13 Million downloads. What a terrific example of a Telco App Store in action and (presumably) making money for the Telco. This article came across my screen this afternoon and given my previous posts about Bharti's App Store and carriers wanting to get into them (something I've seen all over Asia) to try and arrest some of the revenue bleeding to Apple (and to a lesser extent Google, Nokia and RIM) through single brand (phone) app stores.
http://www.telecompaper.com/news/printarticle.aspx?cid=742043 - Thursday 24 June 2010 | 03:29 AM CET, Telecompaper
The article is really brief, barely a footnote, but it does lay out some interesting facts:
Technorati Tags: app_store, bharti, airtel, telco, mobile_portal, andrew_larmour,
Airtel's App Central on a PC
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  videocall telco larmour apple video andrew iphone andrew_larmour telecom 3gpp facetime 4,540 Views
Since I penned my last post, I have done some more reading on Facetime and watch Steve Job's launch of Facetime. While I will happily admit that Apple have in fact used some standards within their Facetime Technology (Jobs lists H.264, AAC, SIP, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP, SRTP as all being used), I am somewhat bemused by the "standards" discussion that most of the media seem to be focusing on with regard to Facetime. Almost everyone that refers to compliance with standards is talking about interoperability with current PC based video chat capabilities - from the likes of Skype, MS Messenger, GTalk and others. Am I the only one that has noticed the iPhone 4 is not a PC and is in fact a mobile phone? Why is it that no one else is questioning interoperability with existing video chat capable mobile phones?
After thinking on this for a little while, I guess it might be that most of the media coverage about the iPhone 4 is coming from the USA - where is was launched. It's only natural. The problem with the US telecoms market is that it is not representative of the rest of the world - who has had video calling for ages and don't really use it. Perhaps it was the overflowing Apple coolaid fountain in the iPhone 4 launch that got the audience clapping when Jobs placed a video call, or perhaps it was just that they had never seen a video call before - I wasn't there so I cant be sure. Right now, the Facetime capability on the iPhone 4 is only for WiFi connections - which makes it pretty limiting. Apparently, there is no setup required, no buddylist, you just use the phone number to make a video call - which is the way video calling already works (see the screen dump of my phone to the right and the short video below), but the WiFi limitation on the iPhone 4 will mean that you have to guess when the recipient is WiFi connected. At least with the standard 3GPP video call, the networks are ubiquitous enough to pretty much guarantee that if the recipient is connected to a network, they can receive a video or at least a phone call. Job's didn't explain what would happen if the recipient was not WiFi connected - does it just make a voice call instead? I hope so.
I recall in 2003, Hutchison 3 launched their 3G network in Australia with much fan-fair. Video calls was a key part of the 3G launch in Australia for all of the telcos. This article from the 14Apr03 Sydney Morning Herald (on day before the first official 3G network in Australia) illustrates what I am talking about. The authors say that the network's "...main feature is that it makes video calling possible via mobile phone." Think about it for a second. That's from more than seven years ago and Australia was far from the first country to get a 3G network. A lifetime in today's technology evolution. Still the crowds clapped and cheered as Jobs made a Video call. If I had have been in the audience, I think I would have yawned at that point.
The other interesting thing that I noticed in job's speech as his swipe at the Telcos. He implied that they needed to get their networks in order to support video calls. Evidence from the rest of the world would suggest that is not the case - perhaps it is in the USA, or perhaps he is trying to deflect blame for not allowing Facetime over 3G connections away from Apple and back to the likes of AT&T who have copped a lot of flack over their alleged influence on Apple's Application store policies involving applications that could be seen to be competitive with services from AT&T. I am not sure how much stick AT&T deserve on that front, but it's pretty obvious from job's comment that he is not in love with carriers - and certainly from what I've seen, carriers are not in love with Apple. It might be interesting to see how long the relationship lasts. My guess is that as long as Apple devices continue to be popular, both parties will be forced to share the same bed.
On another related point, I have been searching the Internet to find what standards body Apple submitted Facetime to for certification - Jobs says in the launch that it will be done "tomorrow" - this could be marketing speak for 'in the future' or it could literally mean the day after he launched the iPhone 4. If anyone knows please let me know - I want to have a look into the way Facetime works.
Thanks very much to my colleague Geoff Nicholls for taking the Video Call in the video above.
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  microsoft andrew_larmour larmour cisco 3g-234m telco iphone h234 standards apple telecom 3gpp video 5,051 Views
Regarding this article: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9177819/Jobs_has_lofty_goal_for_iPhone_4_s_FaceTime_video_chat_with_open_standard
I came across this article today - Apple wanting to propose their new Facetime technology for video chat now that they finally have a camera on the front of their iPhone 4. I'm now on my second phone with a camera on the surface of the phone (that's at least four years that my phones have had video chat capabilities) which has not proved to be much more than a curiosity where Telcos have launched it around the world. I recall the first 3G network launch in Australia - for Hutchinson's '3' network - video chat was seen as the next big thing - the killer application, yet apart from featuring in some reality shows on the TV, very few people used it. I wonder why Steve Jobs thinks this will be any different. At least the video chat capabilities that are in the market already have a standard that they comply with which means that on my Nokia phone, I can have a video call with someone on a (say) Motorola phone. With Apple's Facetime, it's only iPhones 4 to iPhone 4 (which does not support a 4G network like LTE or WiMax I hasten to add). If Apple really is worried about standards as the Computerworld article suggests, then I have to ask why doesn't Apple make their software comply with existing 3GPP Video call standards instead of 'inventing their own'. If Apple were truly concerned about interoperability, that would have been a more sensible path.
According to Wikipedia, in Q2 2007 there were "... over 131 million UMTS users (and hence potential videophone users), on 134 networks in 59 countries.". Today, in 2010, I would feel very confident in doubling those figures given the rate at which UMTS networks (and more latterly, HSPA networks) have been deployed throughout the world. Of note is that the Chinese 3G standard (TD-SCDMA) also supports the same video call standard protocol. That protocol (3G-324M - See this article from commdesign.com for a great explanation of the protocol and it's history - from way back in 2003!) has been around for a while and yes, it was developed because the original UMTS networks couldn't support IPv6 or the low latency connectivity to provide a good quality video call over a purely IP infrastructure. But, things have changed with LTE gathering steam all around the world (110 telcos across 48 countries according to 3GPP) and mobile WiMax being deployed in the USA by Sprint and at a few other locations around the world (See WiMax Forum's April 2010 report - note that the majority of these WiMax deployments are not for mobile WiMax and as far as I know, Sprint are the first to be actively deploying WiMax enabled mobile phones as opposed to mobile broadband USB modems) so, perhaps it is time to revisit those video calling standards and update them with something that can take advantage of these faster networks. I think that would be a valid thing to do right now. If it were up to me, I would be looking at SIP based solutions and learning from the success that companies like Skype have had with their video calling (albeit only on PCs and with proprietary technology) - wouldn't it be great if you could video call anyone from any device?
I guess the thing that annoys me most about Apple's arrogance is to ignore the prior work in the field. Wouldn't it be better to make Facetime compatible with the hundreds of millions of handsets already deployed rather than introduce yet another incompatible technology and proclaim it as "... going to be a standard".
My 2c worth...
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  larmour vha vodafone andrew australia plan andrew_larmour network 3g optus telstra 3,405 Views
Here is the URL for this bookmark: http://apcmag.com/telstra-to-block-ipad-micro-sims-in-other-devices.htm
Interesting... in the rest of the world (and as I heard repeatedly last week at TeleManagement World in Nice, France) Telcos are suffering from all you can eat plans - particularly plans for devices like the iPhone which encourages users to be online all the time and to consume rich media like movies. I heard from a number of Telcos that teenagers are preferring to watch movies on their iPhones in their bedrooms rather than in the lounge room on the normal TV (not that they can always get access tot he same movies on the TV) - surely a larger screen will encourage more of that sort of behaviour. This is driving too much traffic on Telcos 3G networks with flat rate plans. Optus have also announced a similar all you can eat plan for their iPads.
At almost the same time, both Optus and VHA (Vodafone Hutchison Australia) have offered unlimited 3G plans for just AU$50. It makes me wonder if these Telcos in Australia are listening to other Telcos around the world. There's been a lot of press about AT&T's network problems associated with iPhone users. I know the world would be a perfect place if we learnt from everyone else's mistakes, but come on - you don't need to be a genius to see how this could damage their business. I guess they see this as a competitive pressure - if their rivals do it, then they have to as well - I had hoped that the Australian Telcos would be (jointly) a bit more sensible about it.
I do not have any Apple products and I'll admit to a bit of jealousy at an all you can eat plan for only AU$50 when I get about 1 Gb for a similar amount on my Nokia e71 - it doesn't seem fair that I get so much less for similar money on the same network - just because of the device I choose to use...
Andrew_Larmour 0300000243 Tags:  andrew_larmour impact impact2010 las_vegas #ibmimpact 2,447 Views
Well, Impact 2010 is over. It's been four and a half days of terrific content, catching up with other IBMers, customers and business partners. All of the Telco related sessions finished Wednesday so the last day and a half today, I have been concentrating on product updates to Business Process Management products. I went to a WebSphere Process Server V7 update yesterday and a WebShere Services Registry and Repository this morning. By far, the best session of the last two days was the final session which covered how to get started and be successful on your first BPM project. The presenter had lots of recommendations which made a lot of sense. Once the presentation is posted to the Impact collaboration site, I will summarise it (I didn't think to do it as the session ran as I did for the telco sessions - sorry!)
The WPS update had the BPM product Architect Eric Herness (BPM Chief Architect) along with Amy Dickson (WPS Product Manager) and Kevin Barker (WBI Architect) went through the many improvements that were introduced with WPS V7 as well as the improvements in WebSphere Integration Developer.
As I write this (on my phone) I am sitting downstairs in the Venitian waiting for the time to tick over before I head to the airport. Unfortunately, McCarran Airport (LAS) doesn't have an American Airlines lounge*, so I might as well wait here where I have free wifi and food as be at the airport. From there, I go to Los Angelies (LAX) and then finally home (after 15 or so hours in the air) to Melbourne.
Next week, I will be heading to the TeleManagement World in Nice, France so if I have wifi connections during the sessions, I will post from the sessions there as well. I hope you'll join me there or failing that, at least read about it here.
* The observant and well travelled among you will know that LAS does actually provide free wifi, but sitting at the airport is not as nice as sitting in the comfy chairs at the hotel....