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Monday, August 14, 2006

IMS as a service framework - credible or crazy?

We read a very useful analysis by a leading IMS architect recently. It started by saying:

"The eventual value of IMS will be tightly linked to the number, variety and stickiness of services it will support, as well as its ability to accommodate various business models.”

In this month's IMS Insider Report (available to subscribers here), and as preparation for the IMS Services industry Brainstorm on 4-5 Oct, we interrogate the effectiveness of IMS to support service creation and delivery.

We start by asking the questions that today are normally ignored: What user problem is IMS solving? Is there one? And is it the only way of solving it? Is an elegant technical architecture necessary or sufficient to create a successful business model?

Here's a summary of our analysis:

- COST REDUCTION: IMS is a good solution to POTS replacement and cost reduction for other existing and about-to-be-deployed services (eg. PoC, IM, videosharing, IP PBX, etc). "Good enough" is good enough!

- SERVICE DELIVERY: Asking how good IMS is as a at supporting service delivery is asking the wrong question: telcos aren't strong enough in this space to compete against Internet players in the long term.

- PREMIUM PRICING: There's no premium pricing from services that can be deployed equally well on P2P architectures. Telcos don't have enough of a lock on the customer to prevent alternative distribution systems evolving.

- ARCHITECTURE: Tightly coupling so much of the value of profile, AAA, and network awareness into session control is an architectural mistake.

- DEVELOPERS: IMS needs to find ways of releasing that value without assuming the world's developer community will bend to the telco will.

- SIP: There's nothing wrong with SIP, but it's not very important to the business problem at hand. Other tools like web services and transactional messaging may be more appropriate to some of the technical problems.

- ECOSYSTEM: Architectural elegance is nice, but Windows still won out against Unix and the Mac. Ability to evolve rapidly, and a strong total ecosystem are what count. Service and user identity/naming on the Internet may be a mess, but tidying it up isn't necessarily a viable business proposition.

- TRUE IMS OPPORTUNITY: There's an interesting opportunity to use IMS as a "SIP wrapper" around other protocols, and this deserves more study and promotion. It aligns with the (true) telco assets and differentiators (see www.telco2.net/manifesto) , doesn't break the "end to end" model of application delivery, and neatly finesses away lots of technical issues with extending these protocols.

- SUMMARY: the internetworking of the Internet is likely to be an order of magnitude less costly than the expensive roaming and interoperability testing needed for IMS (note: we'll be hearing more about the trials and tests run by the GSMA and MultiServiceForum at the Industry Brainstorm on 4-5 Oct).

IMS doesn’t maximise the advantages of the operator because it forces all the best data assets to go via a tolled distribution system that everyone will be busy trying to avoid. The architecture fails to separate out functions as cleanly as in the parallel world of the Web and HTTP.

If IMS sticks to AAA functions as a 'wrapper' to other applications, it may have a high growth future. Otherwise, the tight coupling of profile, proxy and policy will fail in the face of better APIs and developer channels from the IT world. IMS as a true service architecture is all cost, and no revenue.

(To subscribe to IMS Insider monthly report, please go to www.ims-insider.com)

The Editor, IMS Insider

IMS as a service framework is definitely credible. In times like today where IP plays a major part in the development and modernization of industries one should realize the fact that IMS is critical to decision-making.
I couldnt agree more.
If IMS SIP has to function in real time we would need massively distributed CSCFs and Enablers to cater to millions of users concurrently. With such a high cost of infrastructure I dont see any way in which charging costs can be realistic.
As specified we need a massive rethink if IMS is to derive instead of drain revenue.
I wwould like to see benchmark tests on SIP heavy CSCFs with a million subscriber load and the cost involved in making response times satisfactory at these load levels.
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