Collecting from the cloud

Susana Schwartz
05 Feb 2010

Making it happen

The concepts of "dynamic business modeling" or "service-based applications" basically mean billing systems will change as they need to. Essential processes, services and billing should be open to accommodate, for example, a new definition for a recurring charge, or a re-definition of what a dispute process is, or a rejection or acceptance of any business services that the billing platform provides.

Today, truly dynamic, usage-based pricing doesn't really exist, but there is movement in that direction. "The work that started with VM Ware and Amazon revolve around virtualization and elastic computing involving a 'cloud instance,' into which you can put services. That is a starting point for developing clouds," says Simo Isomäki, VP of Comptel's dynamic OSS solutions.

The business models are static in that you pay per instance, or per hour of usage. But Isomäki is optimistic that once the fulfillment side of the operator processes as well as mediation, charging and billing processes are more closely integrated, CSPs will move to dynamically allocate resources based on real-time usage information.

The next phase of cloud billing will be enabling enterprises to pay for only the usage they use, which means on-demand or use-capacity charging/billing where customers are charged exactly for the usage through per-second charging.

"You could get to one-tenth of a cent per second of usage with cloud infrastructure, and you can pay a premium to dynamically change through a 'turbo button capacity' where extra capacity is allotted for the time necessary by finding the resources to make that happen," says Isomäki, who has been working on billing and fulfillment for such capabilities through TM Forum's Catalyst Program. "Once you put an actual service in the cloud, you enrich fulfillment if you connect it with the charging or billing principles. You want it tightly coupled in terms of what an SP would want to offer. You also want real-time monitoring for enterprises to get capacity as they need it and to remove it when they don't."

Today, prepaid charging can be deeply integrated in telecom equipment. Real-time, online charging involves active charging/billing functions, but today, they are not designed for accommodating the SaaS or cloud charging principles. The network signaling and proprietary interfaces to the telecom domain are simply not equipped for the cloud world.

According to Isomi, traditional charging (network charging based on IN) is distinct from modern-day applications that are more software based and real-time in nature. "There are a lot of vendors like us that have built software that extends from mediation for convergent charging, which will enable real-time and online capabilities, to be combined with batch into one software piece," he believes.


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