Network service layer may move to data center

Kate Gerwig
22 Sep 2010

The much-discussed network-based service layer that was supposed to make next-gen telecom service deployment fast and flexible may be on life support or even DOA before it ever takes hold, according to a new CIMI Corp. survey of global telecom carriers.

But wait -- service layer architecture was supposed to be the big payoff for operators transitioning to all-IP networks so they could break from using separate networks and systems to run different services.

Obviously the big-name network equipment vendors had a natural advantage for winning carriers' service delivery platform business.

While it's too early for final proclamations, the network-based service layer may be a total fail, with flexible service deployment capabilities moving into the data center rather than the network, which throws the advantage to IT vendors with solid server stories (think HP, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft).

For the past two years, service providers have been angry that vendors weren't listening to their needs for business transformation and service layer technology, and even more frustrating, failing to explain their high-level strategy rather than the individual pieces of the solution, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., who talked to us recently about CIMI's new survey results.

Carrier next-gen revenue strategies have generally been pinned to the service layer. More often than not these days, new services mean delivering content via a next-generation network services architecture integrated into operational support systems (OSS).

"What we see at the highest levels of management is a sharp and sudden focus on next-gen revenue strategies, which has been considered a service-layer activity by most operators," Nolle said

And there's the rub. Carrier support is fading because of a perceived lack of vendor tools to help realize the service layer vision. As an alternative, some operators have been building a bottom-up content strategy based on data center tools, servers, and server-side middleware, which mimics the strategies of over-the-top (OTT) competitors.

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