Oracle Comes Calling in the Telecom Space

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2006-04-18

Oracle Comes Calling in the Telecom Space

Oracle came to talk telecom, and aside from a few throwaway comments about open source, execs did just that, outlining the companys first foray into a vertical market for its middleware.

To that end, Oracle on April 18 announced yet another acquisition: This time, its Net4Call, a Norway-based provider of Parlay and SLEE (Service Logic Execution Environment) technology.

Oracle execs also outlined a roadmap for a comprehensive, standards-based SDP (Services Delivery Platform) for the telecommunications industry.

Parlay constitutes open, technology-independent APIs that enable the development of applications that operate across converged networks.

The APIs integrate Internet multimedia networks and IN (intelligent networks) with IT applications via a secure, measured and billable interface and has been widely deployed in telecoms networks globally.

Regarding its Net4Call acquisition, Oracle released a statement that said the company plans to continue support and development of Net4Calls product line within this new telecom roadmap.

Oracles SDP is "planned to enable communications service providers, network operators, and system integrators to evolve current silo-based network investments into a service oriented architecture and shrink time and cost to deploy new services on existing and next-generation communications IP networks," Oracles release states.

The SDP is also aimed at enterprises that are building next-generation voice-enabled and mobile applications, Oracle President Charles Phillips said in a conference for media and analysts.

In addition, its designed to help operators leverage investments in their current infrastructure to exploit new technologies such as VOIP (voice over IP), IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and Presence.

Oracles telecom roadmap builds on other, earlier acquisitions in this space. Oracle snapped up HotSip, a provider of SIP and IMS platforms, in February.

HotSip provides telecommunications infrastructure software through a J2EE/SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) application server, as well as applications that enable messaging, telephony and conferencing capabilities.

Next Page: Oracles telco creds.

Oracles Telco Creds

Another telecom credit Oracle can claim is that it also now owns TimesTen, which Oracle purchased in June 2005.

The in-memory database is a standard in the telecom industry, where lightning-fast data replication is a necessity.

Regardless of the recent acquisitions, however, the "why" behind the telecom roadmap boils down to Oracles venerable track record in this space to date, Phillips said.

"We already have a lot of relationships in the industry," he said. "[Telecom companies] know us well and have used our database for many, many years."

Oracles aim is to now push telecom and enterprise customers toward speeding up provisioning, adopting standards more quickly and shifting to an IP-based network, he said.

To do that, customers have two choices: Go with Oracle, whose applications and/or infrastructure software is in use by 90 percent of telcos worldwide, or go with an unknown, Phillips said.

Oracle Senior Vice President of Server Technologies Development Thomas Kurian said that the SDP is aimed at solving three issues facing telecom providers and carriers today.

The first is the need to rapidly create and deliver new services, including voice services such as VOIP, Virtual PBX and conferencing; data services such as e-mail push, messaging and IMS; and mobile services, including mobile content delivery.

The second issue in the telecom space is the push to exploit network convergence.

Telecom players are looking to offer all services over a converged IP network.

They need to move from highly specialized systems and software to a standards-based SDP, Kurian said, and they need to employ SOA (service-oriented architecture) to develop new services and integrate with existing systems and packaged software.

The third issue in the telecom space is to leverage existing investments, Kurian said, such as investments in OSS (Operational Support Systems), including Provisioning, and BSS (Business Support Systems), including Billing.

Pieces of the SDP that are available today include IMS support. The SPD includes the industrys leading SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Application Server, Presence Server, Proxy Registrar and Location for what Oracle claims is a complete, IMS-ready infrastructure. Oracle acquired this SIP infrastructure in the HotSip buy.

Also available now is support for legacy networks. The Oracle SDP includes a programming environment that extends J2EE for asynchronous, event-based programming that Oracle says is crucial to support and leverage legacy telecom networks. Oracle SDP supports Java API Parlay X Web Services standards, thanks to the Net4Call acquisition.

Another piece thats available now is a network adaptation layer. Oracle SDP provides a set of adapters to connect to existing network elements and telecommunications equipment, enabling service providers to quickly roll out new services. The SDP also now has a messaging component, allowing facilities to access content from mobile devices across a variety of protocols, including SMS and MMS.

Finally, Oracle currently has available carrier-grade communication infrastructure such as Oracle Database 10g, RAC (Real Application Clusters) and the TimesTen In-Memory Database.

Plans for future functionality include call control and charging facilities; device management and device repository; and a suite of services such as mobile content delivery, VOIP and virtual PBX.

During the question and answer session following the conference call, Phillips and Kurian were asked how open source fits into Oracles overall strategy in the middleware space. Phillips answered by reiterating what CEO Larry Ellison said in a recent interview with the Financial Times, in which Ellison said that Oracle has been pondering acquiring an open-source vendor such as Red Hat or Novell in order to control its own stack, operating system and all.

"We view open source as a friend of ours: something that in the past has been helpful to us in bringing us new users and in training new users we might not have otherwise reached and who, over time, become Oracle customers," Phillips said.

"[But] we dont believe in paying ridiculous prices if, at the end of the day, you dont own the intellectual property" behind such an acquisition as Red Hat or Novell, he said.

One analyst told eWEEK that Red Hat and Novell are, indeed, too pricey for what Oracle would get, but that Ubuntu or Mandriva would make a very smart acquisition target.

At any rate, Phillips said that the industry can expect to see more things happening in the open-source space as Oracles strategy evolves. "Well have more to say," he said. "But were increasingly interested in open source as a way of reaching more customers we cant [reach] today."

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

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