The combination of communications-in-a-box and managed services might be the next buzzed-out thing if some industry players get their way. The newly formed Multi-Service Business Gateway (MSBG) Alliance, unveiled at Interop, aims to accelerate the development of converged systems for the SMB market, turning inside-out the existing router and a bunch-of-other-boxes scenario found in most SMB IT closets.
And what is an MSBG, you may ask? Essentially, it’s a modular, standards-based platform that carries voice and data services, aimed at SMBs and enterprise branch offices. What’s special is that it replaces all standalone PBXs, Internet access devices, firewalls and routers with a single device.
“It comes as no surprise that the typical enterprise, whether large or small, relies on a plethora of devices to gain access to voice and data resources,” said Nurhan Kepekci, director of sales and business development for the network and storage products group at MSBG Alliance co-founder LSI Inc. “Large business, SMBs and remote or branch offices often deal with disparate access appliances to ensure access to their communications capabilities.”
Voice, for example, requires a PBX or IP Centrex solution, while data will have its own separate access facilities, as will video and other enterprise communications services.
That’s where MSBGs come in. They combine voice, enterprise data, Internet access, firewall capabilities, security services, VPN operation and management, in addition to a variety of hosted or managed services from the carrier.
They also provide access to the WAN with multiple uplink choices and include an array of Ethernet LAN ports including PoE ports for VoIP terminals, surveillance cameras, remote wireless access points and other powered Ethernet devices. MSBGs also still support analog telephony systems.
Hence the term communications-in-a-box. Not only does that potentially mean that Cisco Systems Inc. needs to watch its back in its core business, but service providers can leverage MSBGs to deliver managed services (and the CPE) via VARs and other partners, like unified communications, high-speed connectivity and mobility. Plus, it reduces operating costs and management complexity across the board.
“Customer demand for multiple services consolidated into fewer devices at the Internet gateway is growing,” said Abner Germanow, director of enterprise networking research at IDC. “Reducing hardware footprint is a big first win and IDC expects new value to emerge from functions that operate more effectively together when paired on a common platform.”
That said, it’s still the early days. The market for MSBGs is just now beginning to emerge as manufacturers introduce router-based appliances and develop their marketing channels. Despite a lot of early attention, products are few and there are
also business issues. For instance, In-Stat says that the market will take a slow growth path as vendors run up against a large amount of installed voice and data infrastructure that is in-place and serving customer needs.
Enter the MSBG Alliance. The Alliance is focused on promoting, developing and delivering an industry-wide open systems and reference architecture to kick-start the uptake of MSBGs and put more options into the hands of VARs and service providers. Objectives include creating MSBG technology that addresses hot trends like security, unified communications, video, routing, WANs and mobility. Also, the Alliance aims to develop a portfolio for VARs and service providers that significantly reduces up-front R&D expense and improves time-to-market metrics.
Service providers and VARs certainly see the theoretical benefits. “The multiservice business gateway solution is the next logical step in the evolution in the telecommunications marketplace, and providers today need to deliver both voice and data services to capitalize on new opportunities and remain competitive,” explained Philippe Babin, PLM director at Mediatrix, one of the alliance members. This gives them an all-in-one way to do it.
“Managed business services represent a key growth opportunity for service providers,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at carrier Telus. “The MSBG Alliance and reference platform can help accelerate the delivery of managed services to business customers and will play an important role in defining next-generation solutions.”
According LSI’s internal research, the target customer group will soon see the upside as well. LSI predicts the MSBG market to grow at a healthy clip: at 30 percent per year until at least 2011. Meanwhile, attendant revenue is seen as climbing from a nominal $1 billion today to as much as $2.5 billion by 2011.
But what about the problem of the installed base? LSI’s Kepekci has an answer for that. “MSBGs can be deployed throughout the enterprise at all locations, whether at headquarters or in a remote or branch location,” he explained. “And because IP represents the future of the enterprise network (and for that matter, the future of most networks), and is the fundamental underpinning for the deployment of converged networks, MSBGs are designed to operate easily within that environment. They are also designed to be forgiving of legacy installations: Most modern MSBGs allow customers with traditional PBXs and in-place legacy telephony systems to connect, thus ensuring a graceful migration strategy that does not require a forklift upgrade as a way to enter the IP network domain.”
If the MSBG Alliance has anything to do with it, these messages and the technology to back it up should be in the hands of VARs and service providers sooner rather than later.
MSBG Alliance Members
Accton Technology Corp.
Accton Technology leverages software applications and an ASIC for computing and communications vendors. It collaborates with those strategic partners to design, develop and manufacture the resulting products.
Aricent is offers software services and products that enable communications equipment manufacturers, device manufacturers and service providers to improve time-to-revenue and maximize efficiency.
Delta Networks Inc.
DNI manufactures Ethernet switches, broadband access products, wireless adaptors and routers; services include product and manufacturing design and test engineering.
Dimark Technologies Inc.
Dimark develops standards-based WAN management products for wired and wireless voice, video and broadband providers that are licensed and serviced through a network of resellers, system integrators, ISVs and OEMs.
Domain Consulting Group Inc.
DCG focuses on predictive quantification of end-user decision-making. It uses that intelligence to objectively model and demonstrate the business potential of innovations in real markets.
Infineon Technologies AG
Infineon focuses on the three main areas: energy efficiency, communications and security. The company offers semiconductors and system solutions for automotive, industrial electronics, chip card, security, and wireline and wireless communication applications.
LSI provides silicon, systems and software technologies that enable products for the storage and networking markets.
Mediatrix develops and markets VoIP access devices, gateways and value-added software enhancements for the enterprise, SOHO and IP markets.
Nakina Systems Inc.
Nakina provides one platform to discover, manage and secure multi-vendor networks for network operators worldwide.
Nortel delivers technology for service provider and enterprise networks, to support multimedia and business-critical applications.
Telrad Networks Ltd.
Telrad develops carrier-grade communications equipment focused on bridging the TDM-IP divide, for Tier 1 and Tier 2 telecom vendors. It offers Carrier Ethernet CPE, a range of TDM-to-IP gateways, and equipment for NGN transition.
VIA Technologies Inc.
VIA is a fabless supplier of x86 processor platforms for the PC, client, ultra mobile and embedded markets.