Telephony Battle: Open Vs. Proprietary

Silicon Valley is fast moving into the world of telephony, and it is dragging the contest between open and proprietary code along with it.

Silicon Valley is fast moving into the world of telephony, and it is dragging the contest between open and proprietary code along with it.

Next week at Supercomm, the annual telephony conference and expo in Chicago, IT will show a higher profile than ever before. Standards advocates will champion open architecture as a way for carriers to reduce network operating costs and complexity, while proprietary software makers will tout ease of use.

Sun Microsystems Inc. will promote its IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) strategy, which is designed to help service providers deliver traditional voice services less expensively over an IP platform. Java not only can help reduce networking costs but also can speed the creation of new services, said David Orain, director of telecom strategy at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read Guy Kewneys take on IMS.

Sun will launch the Open Service Delivery Platform Solutions Program, which will bring together partners to develop IP-based applications. The program will generate a catalog of applications with open interfaces, making it easy for carriers to integrate new services rapidly, Orain said.

Telephone companies are steadily becoming more serious about open-source systems, said Mark Spencer, president of Digium Inc., in Huntsville, Ala. Digium, the creator of Asterisk, an open-source PBX, as well as gateways, media servers and application servers, this week will roll out an echo cancellation card that allows for some processing to be offloaded.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about the first major open-source community concentrating on VOIP technology.

Key motivations for carriers to embrace open-source software include a desire to wrest control from equipment makers over the infrastructure and to interoperate more freely among themselves, said Brian Sharwood, an analyst with The SeaBoard Group, a research and consulting firm in Toronto. With proprietary software, carriers have less visibility into the network, making it harder to respond quickly to customer needs.

"Providers are scared and trying to get to the next level [of service delivery]," Sharwood said. "They want to make their networks do all sorts of fun and fancy things. They need to see how things flow. They actually need to see the code."

Microsoft Corp. will dive into the heart of voice communications this week by way of an agreement with Sylantro Systems Corp. to develop and deliver VOIP (voice over IP) applications for hosted service providers. The companies will integrate Sylantros Feature Server software with Microsofts Live Communications Server, creating an all-inclusive system for voice communications, instant messaging and collaboration.

"Our strategy is to be a company supplying a key number of [IP-based] services and providing service delivery platform functionality," said Michael OHara, general manager of the service provider business in Microsofts Communications Sector.

Microsofts foray into voice communications will likely drive the Redmond, Wash., company to market more standards-based components, Sharwood said.

However, open-source applications that touch end users will likely lag considerably behind open architecture in the core, Sharwood said. "When it gets onto the desktop for the customer, that may be a solution for Microsoft or someone else who knows how to make it easy to use," he said.

In addition, Lucent Technologies Inc., of Murray Hill, N.J., will unveil a suite of hosted applications for service providers to quickly provision carrier-class VOIP services without high costs. The suite will include the hosted IP PBX solution with Mobile Extensions, which extends PBX features to mobile phones.

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