January 2008

"The resources, experience, area expertise and perspective of these leading companies added to our existing members makes for a powerful combination that can generate timely results."

Magnus Karlson, chairman of the SCOPE Alliance

This article introduces the SCOPE Alliance, a vertical alliance focused on accelerating the development of open standards for carrier grade base platforms (CGBPs), the base platforms satisfying the carrier grade requirements of the telecommunication industry. The focus of these network equipment providers (NEP) is to build base platforms comprised of hardware, middleware, and an operating system using open modular building blocks to provide service solutions.

Secondly, the article presents an adoption model along with the benefits, risks and factors affecting the adoption of open CGBPs by telecommunication companies. This adoption model is beneficial to top management teams and project managers who wish to improve the product development process. It also provides startups and independent software vendors (ISVs) a reference model to cost effectively deliver products and obtain maximum return.

SCOPE Alliance Initiatives

Leading NEPs joined forces in January 2006 to form the SCOPE Alliance with a mandate to promote and accelerate the development of open standard based CGBPs. The SCOPE Alliance has released development profiles based on open standards to encourage the use of both commercial off the shelf software (COTS) and free/libre open source software (F/LOSS) blocks. The founding members of the SCOPE Alliance are Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, NEC, Nokia and Siemens. Other NEPs are continuously joining as contributors in order to accelerate the development of open CGBPs.

The SCOPE Alliance identifies gaps in the existing standards and works with the open standard bodies to address these gaps. It releases reference architectures, technical position papers, and strategic whitepapers.

The SCOPE Alliance has published development profiles in hardware, operating systems, and middleware. In the future, it will publish profiles on tools, control planes, applications, operations, and maintenance.

The SCOPE Alliance initiatives offer the following benefits to telecommunication network equipment providers:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Reduced operating costs and capital expenditures
  • Improved interoperability
  • Open standard compliance

Benefits of Open CGBP Adoption Model

Figure 2 illustrates the adoption model of a CGBP developed using the open standards in the external open community. The left side of the model shows that multiple NEPs collaborate to define the open CGBP. The adoption of the open CGBP is internal to a NEP's own development environment, as shown on the right side of the model. The adoption of open CGBP into the internal development environment requires the use of proprietary wrappers to integrate with existing infrastructures. The externally developed open CGBP is not modified during the adoption to maintain the concept of open platform. Service differentiators are developed internally on top of the adopted open CGBP and the wrappers to deliver the proprietary solution offering. The base platform still remains open and adopted, but the service offering is unique. The NEP develops product solutions using the adopted open CGBP and the proprietary service differentiator. The identified benefits, risks, and factors of product solutions are organized using the TOE (Technology, Organizational, and Environmental) framework.

Figure 2: Adoption Model

The identified benefits, risks and factors affect all domains of the TOE framework: technology context, organizational context and environmental context. Technology Context

The attributes of technology context are relative advantage, complexity, compatibility, trialability and observability of the adopted solution. The adoption of open CGBP increases the relative advantage of solutions provided by the NEPs. It also reduces complexity on two fronts. First, customers find it easy to use the solution. Second, the product development process is simplified.

The adoption of open CGBP increases the compatibility of the product solution among other NEP solutions. Trialability and observability of the product are also increased as a result of NEP's open CGBP adoption. The adoption of open CGBP affects these attributes as follows:

Relative advantage: the adoption of open CGBP increases the relative advantage of the solutions provided by the NEPs. In the past, NEPs developed proprietary solutions from start to finish. Today, when an NEP adopts the open CGBP into its development environment, the knowledge of various providers are integrated into the product solution. The adoption of open CGBP frees up resources which can be reallocated to implement more features in the product solutions.

Other key benefits of open CGBP adoption that increase the relative advantage of the product solution are time saved in generating the product concept, reduction in development cost, and removal of the vendor/supplier dependency. The resulting product solution is perceived to be better than the proprietary solution because it increases economic profitability.

Complexity: the adoption of open CGBP reduces the complexity of the product solutions in two ways: customers find it easy to use and product development is simplified.The open standard based products reduce the number of platforms managed by the service providers (SPs) to deliver end to end solutions. The operational costs are reduced along with increased flexibility and increased features. The adoption of open CGBP enables the NEPs to focus on the integration of the base platform into their environment and building service differentiators to generate product offerings. It removes the complexity in building the CGBPs to satisfy the telecommunication requirements. The vendors and suppliers receive compliance with open standard based component development which further reduces the complexity in adopting the open CGPBs in the development environment. The development focus has shifted from developing completely in-house to the integration of components to deliver product solutions.

Compatibility: the adoption of open CGBP increases the compatibility of product solutions while increasing interoperability with other NEPs' solutions. The increase in participation delivers product solutions with common base platforms across NEPs. SPs are looking to reduce their operational costs which can be achieved by having one platform with multiple vendor solutions.

Trialability: the adoption of open CGBP increases the triability of the product solutions as the open CGBP will be fully tested by the participating NPEs. Since the defects will be visible to the open community, this increases the likelihood that these defects will be fixed. The service differentiators of the product solutions are the only proprietary components tested by the NEPs.

Observability: the adoption of the CGBP increases the observability of the product results.The open standards based product reduces the operational costs of the SPs and the development cost of the NEPs. The solution is able to deliver increased features and increases the interoperability among the NEPs. The results of the open CGBP adoption are observable to the NEPs, SPs and the end users.

Organizational Context

The attributes of organizational context are resources, budget, and experience with adoption. The adoption of open CGBP increases the cash availability and it enables the NEPs to invest in new product innovations. The positive affects from the adoption of open CGBP include:

Resources: NEPs allocate resources for active involvement in open standards communities to ensure that they are up to date in the standard development. The adoption of open CGBP frees resources from proprietary base platform development, allowing the allocation of resources to research new product innovation. It is possible that the integration of the open CGBP in the development environment may require additional resources, depending upon the complexity of the integration.

Budget: budget availability increases as NEPs reduce the development cost, effort and time required to generate product concepts and their implementations. The unused budget availability enables the NEPs to invest in new product innovations.

Experience: the adoption of open CGBP provides the positive experience for the NEP to be known to able to adopt to fit the economic market shift.

Environmental Context

The two attributes of the environmental context are customers and competitors. The adoption of open CGBP increases customer satisfaction of the product solution. It also redefines competitor relationship to one of cooperation and competition. The adoption of open CGBP affects the environmental context as follows:

Customers: increased customer satisfaction of the product solution. SPs are looking for flexibility, increased features, reduced operational cost and interoperability. Open standards based products offer SPs the satisfaction that they have been demanding from NEPs.

Competitors: the adoption of open CGPB enhances the competitor relationship in two ways: cooperation and competition. As NEPs collaborate to define the open CGBP, vendors and suppliers are shifting towards a more open standards based component development to enable this positive collaboration among the NEPs. The partnerships and cooperation among the competitors are elevated to another level in the industry. The NEPs then compete with each other to capture market share using their proprietary service differentiator built on top of the open CGBPs. Even though the NEPs are still competing to capture market share, their solution offerings will interoperate with each other in the market. The adoption of open CGBP has achieved what it could not in the proprietary solution space.

Risks and Drawbacks

While there are many benefits for the adoption of open CGPB, adoption is not without risk. This section discusses some of the risk factors. The identified benefits, risks and factors of open CGBP adoption are applicable to the product solution and not the adopted platform. The integration of the open CGBP involves the development of wrappers necessary to integrate the adopted CGBP with the NEP's development environment without modifying the open CGBP. Any modification on the adopted open CGBP would make the platform proprietary.

The adoption of open CGBP into the NEP's development environment is complex. It involves the understanding of the open CGBP development in the external open community and the NEP's internal development environment. The ideal integrator needs to follow the development proceedings in the open community and be an integral part of defining the functionality of the open CGBP. Understanding of the internal development environment is a crucial factor to successful adoption of the open CGBP. The wrappers have to work together with the open CGBP interfaces to extend the development of service differentiators to offer product solutions.

The skill sets required to accomplish the adoption of open CGBP is scarce within NEPs. Identifying the specific skills to accomplish the adoption of open CGBP into the internal development environment is beyond the scope of this project. Typically, prototypes are developed from the standards and characterized. Then the standards are continuously updated and reviewed based on the characterization. This iteration lasts over several years.

Once adopted into the development environment, the NEP is responsible for operation and advancement of the open CGBP. This adds uncertainty to the NEP. Summary

While adoption of open CGBP is still in its infancy, the telecommunication industry is moving towards using open standards based products. NEPs adopting the open CGBP in their development environment create differentiating services to gain market share. This model provides an environment where NEPs must both compete and cooperate with each other.

Recommended Reading:

An interview with Paul Steinberg

A network equipment provider's view

Mahendran, V., Adoption of Open Carrier Grade Base Platforms

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