Friday 9 November 2007

Moving towards IP Convergence

IP Convergence implies the carriage of different types of traffic such as voice, video, data, and images over a single network. The integrated network is based on the Internet Protocol (IP).
The reason I am talking about this is because of the way things are moving; everything converging to IP based core. Most network operators and enterprises need to understand how to rapidly transform or evolve their wireless, wireline or enterprise networks into all-IP backbones quickly and effectively to stay competitive and differentiate themselves. This “IP transformation” brings with it an array of communications, applications, service delivery and network challenges.
As service providers and enterprises take steps to plan and manage their IP transformation efforts, they are confronted by fundamental changes IP has impacted on the technology landscape. Convergence is happening at a rapid rate — IT systems, networks, services and applications are blending together. The ability to integrate different platforms, applications, content, and services from a variety of vendors has become essential not only to improve costs, but also to enhance network reliability, security, and efficiency.

Service providers and enterprises need to differentiate to compete better, add new subscribers, and offer new advanced communications services and applications. For service providers, it means providing customers the services they want, when they want them, from anywhere they are, while consistently delivering a higher quality of experience. For enterprises, it may imply lowering network costs by providing new value and extending the lifecycle of existing network assets.
Services transformation: As shifting demands, greater expectations, and the emphasis on the user experience continue to reshape today’s market, the ability to adjust to new conditions and rapidly take advantage of emerging opportunities is more important than ever.

For carriers, this means being able to review current service offerings and expand or tailor them accordingly. Here are a few examples:
· Migrating from a new standalone service like IPTV and adding mobile TV and VoIP to create a triple-play offer;
· Migrating from fixed VoIP and adding mobility via Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC); and
· Utilizing IMS to move toward a Service Delivery Environment (SDE), thus enabling access to which with the right underpinnings can be seamlessly blended together in a controlled and sophisticated manner to create a new, compelling experience that assures users service delivery.
For enterprises, service transformation could mean enabling new IP-PBX services with advanced mobile technologies. The business case for service transformation must be clear from the beginning. Organizations should not disregard the continued usefulness and reliability of any legacy deployment in place. If in fact the legacy service is out of date or its functionality no longer suits the needs of the organization, then the cost of maintaining it could be a motivating factor for service transformation.
Network transformation: Traditional service providers need to transform their legacy network environment to IP to support innovation and lower their operating expenses. This can be a daunting task. Take for example the implication of moving to distributed architectures, such as IMS, which allow an unprecedented level of vendor diversity. This new level of flexibility opens the door to an unprecedented level of flexibility in solution architectures and introduces the need for extensive interoperability testing that many carriers are finding cannot be left to vendors to sort out on their own.
For traditional operators, a move to IP also entails the planning and management of the migration of millions of customer lines. Likewise, enterprises continue to use IP to converge and transform their networks, adding capabilities that greatly enhance their ability to reduce costs and increase functionality. However, the way employees communicate is growing more complex. They use a range of voice communications like desk phones in the office, mobile phones in their pockets, and IP phone services like GoogleTalk or Skype on their laptops. They use voicemail, e-mail and text messaging, as well as presence- enabled IM. They access Web content and private intranet information. And they do all of this from multiple end-points through different access technologies — from within an enterprise, at home, or remotely.
Business transformation: With market forces and industry trends undergoing disruptive change, leading carrier organizations need an ever greater “transformation tool box” to help navigate the environment to create a new vision for the business, develop the step-by-step roadmap to realize that vision, build the business case to justify investments and identify the operations models that support the business going forward.
Meanwhile, enterprises are rapidly evolving their business models to increase their overall agility to respond better to market conditions. Given mergers, acquisitions, industry consolidation, and shareholder expectations, enterprises will be under continuous pressure to devise new ways to outperform their competitors.
The benefits of IP Convergence:

1. Excellent support for multimedia applications. Improved connectivity means that devices can be assigned specific tasks; the number of devices required is less which makes installation, deployment, and learning an easier task.

2. A converged IP network is a single platform on which interoperable devices can be run in innovative ways. Since IP is an open standard, it is vendor independent and this helps in fostering interoperability and improving network efficiency in terms of time and cost. The ambit of IP convergence encompasses networks, devices, and different technologies and systems that can be operated on a unified infrastructure.

3. A converged IP network is easier to manage because of the uniform setup in which the system resources operate. Training users is easy.

4. An enterprise can achieve flexibility in terms of moulding its communication patterns to its management practices. This is a dynamic process that can be continually improved with collaboration from network partners. What this results in is the right information to the right person at the right time leading to improved decision making.

5. IP networks have proven to be remarkably scalable and this has been one of the prime reasons that even large enterprises have gone ahead with implementing IP. Applications that run on IP networks are available all over the world; in fact most new business applications include inbuilt IP support.

6. An IP convergent network is capable of making use of the developments in class of service differentiation and QoS-based routing. This leads to better utilization of resources and also allows for capacity redundancy to take care of an increase in the number of users.

7. A uniform environment requires fewer components in the network. Smoother maintenance and management result from this and in turn lead to improved processes. Affordable deployment results from the elimination of multiple networks operating in parallel and manageability improves. In a converged environment, fewer platforms need to be tested and gateways between networks are eliminated.

8. Business applications have different tolerance levels for transit delays, dropped packets, and error rates. IP architecture is capable of handling these so that the QoS reflects the requirements of the different applications.

9. Device integration has the potential to simplify end-to-end security management and at the same time make it more robust. Continuous development is taking place in field of security for IP data communication.
10. A converged IP network offers a business tremendous cost savings in terms of hardware and space utilization. It opens up more markets that can be reached, more products that can be introduced, increases employee productivity and mobility, and enables even smaller companies to compete with larger ones because of faster information relay.


Unknown said...

Great article. Do you have any idea which companies are leading the way and likely to benefit from this progressive movement?

Zahid Ghadialy said...

Hi Anthony,

Its difficult to single out few companies because effectively everyone i moving in that direction. IP Specialist companies like Cisco are leading the way ofcourse but then everyone is contributing. Companies like Alcatel-Lucent who have traditionally been in Telecoms are now a big player in IPTV and so is BT who are much better known for their Fixed infrastructure.

You would have also heard of '3' offering a Skypephone which is based on VoIP and other such news which show how seriously people are thinking about moving in the IP domain.

Finally when IMS starts rolling out everywhere (right now a lot of operators and Network providers are reluctant on IMS and are playing a waiting game) things will move much faster as there will be complete control over the way billing can be done and that will allow people to launch new services based on IP.


Zahid Ghadialy said...

On related topic there is a good article in Telecommunications Online:

(Part I of II) Alcatel-Lucent packages wireless packets

(Part II of II) Alcatel-Lucent packages wireless packets

Unknown said...

Hi Zahid,

Thanks for the follow up. I'll be checking out those articles. This is an interesting topic that I plan to follow. Keep up the great blog :-)