Will the Telcos Solve Web 2.0 Integration Problems?

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The telecom industry is working to simplify integration for itself and make things easier for developers and other companies using SaaS and Web 2.0.


Essentially, the telcos hope to apply SOA's principles of reusability to the network, creating a service-oriented network. Right now, the telcos use PTSN and the Internet-each of which is a service-specific network. Their goal is one service-independent network, based on the IMS architecture.


In a series of articles that ran this month, Telephony Online explores this new initiative-why it's necessary, what the telcos hope to accomplish, how it could change the way we use traditional telecom services and the Internet, and how it could change Web 2.0 integration. The idea is that it would simplify integration for other companies, developers and government agencies - and quite possibly the SaaS market if the telecoms enter as SaaS players.


In addition to bridging the gap between traditional telecom services and Web 2.0/cloud offerings, this move would mean that the telcos could offer new SaaS-like services, including data storage or even billing services, ala Salesforce.com, according to the second piece in the series, "SON opens door to Web 2.0 sales."


But first, the telcos must work out integration problems between IMS and Web 2.0, and to do that, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions has created a new initiative, the Service-Oriented Networks Forum, or SON for short, explains the first part of the series. SON is charged with working out the applications environment and-perhaps more interestingly for you, dear reader - exposing network capabilities to the cloud as services. The article included this example of how these services could be put to use:


"...common examples of resources that might be reused include location information and presence. Two others are identity services and voice services. Through SON, a telco's voice service potentially could be pulled into a mashup that allows Facebook customers to converse by voice, or by SMS, depending on whether they are already talking on their mobile phones."


The group says it will focus on open standards for SON policy and data models, operational and business support systems and service delivery requirements. One of the goals is to reduce integration costs, according to Andrew White, director of NGN architecture at Qwest Communications, who told Telephony Online:


"We're not talking about standardizing the application that the end user sees themselves, but trying to get the point where if you go out and buy a contact database you can then buy or integrate with a software-as-a-service provider that uses contact data without spending six months and a million dollars on integration work."


In fact, another goal is to make the technologies-including VOIP - invisible to end users.


The last article focuses on the integration challenges the telcos' SON initiative faces at the development level. For instance, White points that out if two modules are developed on Eclipse, but by different companies, you can't be sure they'll work together-thus creating silos within silos.


But what should really excite companies using SaaS is the promise that SON will solve the Web 2.0 integration problem. Right now, the existing standards are low-level, White said, which means if you want services from different companies to talk, you've got to do the integration work. To date, this integration work has been a major concern for companies considering SaaS. IMS, on the other hand, addresses this issue with a "well-defined interaction environment," according to the article.


SON - possibly using the metadata-intends to solve this ongoing Web 2.0 integration challenge. Indeed, Mark A. Wegleitner, senior vice president of corporate technology at Verizon Communications and senior vice chairman of the ATIS Board, sounds pretty confident about it. The third article quotes him as saying, "It is certainly not clear that the Web 2.0 world is equipped to manage such data without the orchestration that SON brings to the table."


I don't know about "equipped," but it's certainly fair to say they haven't solved it on their own thus far.