Apparent Networks at VON on Sept. 12 will announce that it has signed an OEM deal with Nortel Networks to deliver greater visibility into problems affecting the quality of voice over IP calls in customer engagements.
Apparent Networks, which markets software that measures and diagnoses problems across networks that can affect the quality of VOIP calls, is working across multiple Nortel organizations to integrate its technology into Nortel products as well as services.
"They have partnered with us to use our technology to do pre-deployment assessments. Theyve agreed to a partnership to use our technology for their performance management software family. They are saying this is the first step in going into autonomic computing," said Irfhan Rajani, president and CEO at Apparent Networks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
As a part of the OEM deal, the two companies have already begun joint development on software that will allow Nortel to embed technology into Nortel VOIP products to give users visibility into the source of potential problems affecting VOIP call quality.
"We jointly worked on some code theyll use to make their products network aware," said Matthew Dion, vice president of marketing at Apparent Networks. "It puts our software on the customer premises so that [Nortel] technical support can access it remotely, managed services people can access it and even the customer themselves can access it."
Because VOIP traffic is more sensitive to network issues such as jitter, duplex conflicts and problems that may not affect other data applications, it can make a VOIP equipment vendor appear to be at fault, even though the problems may not emanate from their products.
"As a vendor, youre guilty until proven innocent, even though you dont have control over all factors [affecting network performance]," Dion said. "These problems manifest themselves as increased support costs, decreased customer retention and loss of revenue."
Nortel has an opportunity to better cement its relationship with its VOIP customers and reduce support costs by tapping into the embedded Apparent Networks technology for remote diagnostics that can pinpoint and document the source of problems.
At the same time, Nortel, which is moving "aggressively into the managed services business," can offer VOIP pre-deployment assessment services and ongoing monitoring services through its professional services organization, Dion said.
The relationship also fits into Nortels company-wide PVQM (Proactive Voice Quality Management) program to deliver enhanced quality of service across its product portfolio.
Longer term, Nortel and Apparent Networks are looking to create autonomic computing capabilities within Nortel products based on the Apparent Networks technology.
"The idea is that we can allow the software to be dynamically aware of whats going on in the network, which is important because networks arent static. If there is degradation on a path, the hardware can adapt to that," Dion said.
Beyond the specific Nortel/Apparent Networks relationship, the deal reflects the need for VOIP equipment suppliers and/or major enterprise management players to step up early to manage VOIP implementations as they are deployed—not as an afterthought, according to George Hamilton, research director at The Yankee Group in Boston, Mass.
"Management has always lagged behind deployment of new applications by 6 to 18 months. With real-time applications like voice and video over IP, you cant have that lag," he said.
"Either equipment vendors build in their own manageability or they partner tightly with enterprise management providers. Otherwise itll hold back adoption of VOIP when the manageability isnt there, because its difficult to manage as you scale it."
Hamilton believes the lack of VOIP-specific management tools from major enterprise management players has held back the market from broadly deploying VOIP across large enterprises.
But in a chicken and egg scenario, those management providers dont see the market growing fast enough to justify the development investment.
"So, who blinks? The (VOIP equipment) vendors, being on the front line, are saying, we have to do it," Hamilton said.