The mission of a new collection of tools called the service layer architecture combines the telecom business model with the over-the-top (OTT) innovation model. Here the network's "services" -- which connect users and transport traffic -- are combined with customer identity, presence information and application tools to create a wide range of new experiences, including retail purchasing, finding restaurants, getting directions and delivering custom content.
How did this service layer architecture develop? For years, people have been saying that network operators need to move higher on the OSI stack, get into new services and offer the kind of innovation that OTT players like Google have provided. Telecom operators themselves agree with this, and they have agreed all along.
The issue is that there is a major difference between offering best-effort, ad-sponsored services on the internet and building stable, profitable network services that customers expect will be supported like all previous carrier services.
The kinds of services this service layer architecture will create remains unknown; the market will answer that question over time. How those services will be created within the service layer is unclear, too. Network operators have traditionally turned to equipment vendors to answer that question.
How to create the service layer may not be clear, but operators already know what they need from it. Their expectations, which have been developing over the last several years, will be the standard for judging service layer architecture offerings that vendors have already started to roll out. Operators' service layer requirements will be announced and revised over the next few years, but at this point, they can be summed up as follows:
- Ecosystem support
- Modular "orchestrated" components
- Differentiation in OTT services
- Vendor support