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IPso Facto... Mission ImpOSSible

Tue, 02/19/2008 - 7:00pm
Brian Santo, IP Capsule Editor & CED Magazine Editor

It's hard enough sizing content and applications for screens that differ vastly in size and handing off applications from one device type to another. But on top of that, service providers are going to have to figure out which subscribers can get what applications, from whom, and under what circumstances.

It seems a job for Jim Phelps and the IMF, should they choose to accept it. Instead, it'll fall largely on the people who create operations support systems (OSS) to figure that stuff out.

Some applications that come out of the convergence of communications, computing and consumer products may be brand new, but most are likely to be combinations of capabilities, observes Sigma Systems CTO Brian Cappellani. An example is caller ID on TV - neither is new; what's new is the combination.

Which means it is very likely that more convergence applications are going to come from third parties. There's no way any service provider is going to be able to keep up with all of that. The only option is to give third-party partners access to the OSS system. OSS, Cappellani says, is going to get pushed to the edge of the network.

MI-Team 

I played a round of
"The $50,000 Pyramid"
with Greg Morris (far left).
We lost.

OSS at the edge is where security, entitlements, permissions and policies are managed end to end. Cappellani described the idea in detail in a paper at ET '08, with the fanciful title "OSS at the Edge for Service and Application Enablement."

In a subsequent interview with CED, Cappellani says that where MSOs now have network policy, convergence is going to force a shift to session policy.

OSS at the edge will have to be a new layer in the network, abstract enough to be dealt with by third parties who may know nothing about cable networks. The ramification is that billing, credit checks and the sharing of demographic information will all have to be conducted on the fly.

Any single OSS/BSS vendor should be able to enable all that. The problem is that every provider would get a custom solution, which is exactly the opposite of what is necessary to make convergence work at all, let alone work well.

In the past, service providers could perhaps get away with relying on OSS/BSS providers to come up with all of the answers for OSS/BSS systems, but convergence is going to make that impossible.

Convergence might be two years off, more or less, Cappellani says, but the entire industry should put some thought into this now.

He didn't say that if the industry doesn't think about it now, OSS/BSS vendors might not be able to make it happen by themselves, but that was the implication.

And beyond simply making convergence work, there might be another benefit to OSS at the edge. When MSOs open their OSS/BSS systems to third parties, there might be a way to monetize their subscriber data, Cappellani theorizes.

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