Cisco Focuses on Convergence

Imagine transferring a video-on-demand order from the television to a Sony PSP for an airplane ride, or the ability to download music only once, but being able to stream it through a home theater, mobile device or PC at a whim. Compelling services like this are what service providers are banking on for future revenue but enabling the anytime, anywhere, any-device world takes planning and an understanding of what convergence that industry buzzword really means.

Thats the message behind the Cisco Systems Inc.-sponsored three-session forum on nextgeneration IP networking at the COMPTEL PLUS Fall Convention & EXPO.

Each of todays three sessions will tackle an architectural layer: network, service or applications convergence. Part education, part industry trending, the sessions will feature speakers from Cisco and other market leaders to provide explanations, analysis and case studies of what service providers need to do to successfully implement an IP next-generation convergence strategy.

Its time for service providers, particularly those competing against large incumbents in cable and telecom, to begin strategizing, said track moderator Vic Northrup, vice president of U.S. service provider operations for Cisco. Yes, you have to collapse your networks and offer innovative services, he said. But you have to do it more nimbly and at a lower cost to challenge the incumbents and supercarriers out there. In the future, providers will be defined not by access type, but by the services they offer.

According to Infonetics Research, competition will remain fierce as the industry as a whole looks to upgrade networks and enable service flexibility worldwide spending on equipment will grow 33 percent to $143.5 billion in 2009. The service provider next-gen voice and IMS market will double by 2009, driven by the move to IMS and by fixed-mobile convergence, while the IPTV equipment market will see a dramatic compound annual growth rate of 99 percent.

That all means providers need to move quickly to gain the first-mover advantage.

Three major trends are driving the growth were seeing in the telecom and datacom market, said Jeff Wilson, principal analyst at Infonetics. People worldwide are communicating over networks and the Internet via broadband. Carriers are moving to a single converged data network incorporating voice and video along with traditional data. And mobile and fixed wireline networks of data, voice and video are converging.

The first step on the road map for service providers wanting to stay in the game is network convergence: the focus of Ciscos first session. By eliminating separate networks for voice/data, wired/wireless and TDM/IP, and instead running multiple types of traffic on one IP backbone, a provider can lower its total cost of ownership for the network as well as reduce opex. A single network also serves as the basis for the next-generation, any-to-any world.

Its important to look past next year and into the next five, said Northrup. You have to be positioned for how customer demands change, and the network architecture will need to meet that.

Paul Brittain, director of systems engineering at MetaSwitch, and Mike Koons, senior director of systems engineers at Cisco, will discuss service provider strategies for implementing this layer.

The second session will cover the service convergence layer, which enables end users to tap into applications regardless of access method (DSL, say, or 3G wireless). It also determines how endpoints should be treated, what kind of traffic is flowing, how that traffic should be billed based on retail and interconnect policies, and other tasks. Chris Pond, president at Network Insight, and Mike Sonnier, distinguished systems engineer at Cisco, will talk about how such service continuity across multiple networks can be achieved, and why its a differentiator in the market that builds customer loyalty and increases customer retention.

The third installment in the track will look at applications convergence. Everyone knows about VoIP, but the ability to mash up and blend other types of siloes, like video and data (IPTV) or video, voice and wireless (portable video conferencing) translates into innovative service offerings with real end-user appeal. The trick is doing this cost effectively and with the right engineering. Glen Lang, CEO at Connexion Technologies; Brooks Robinson, CMO at Cbeyond Communications; and Matthew Squire, CTO at Hatteras Networks, will provide some guidelines.

By converging on all these layers, providers can bring multiple applications to multiple access technologies at a low cost, and will have the flexibility to innovate faster as the market demands it, said Northrup. We look at the network as a platform, and providers need to map the NGN architecture to commercial enterprise and consumer needs. How will you deliver the right services, support them and interact with your customer? That will be the differentiator.

Cisco Systems Inc.

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