Alcatel-Lucent announced its second developer-oriented acquisition in its Applications Enablement strategy expansion: OpenPlug. The company provides a virtual appliance client framework that can be programmed with a Flex-based development system and then cross-compiled to run on virtually any device, from smartphones and “brightphones” with basic web capability to set-top boxes and even auto electronics.
More significantly, Alcatel-Lucent plans to integrate OpenPlug tools with its Open API, which would make operator-exposed service features directly available to developers and build applications that were stickier to users and more directly exploitative of network capabilities. That would differentiate them from simple OTT applications, which is what most smartphone apps really are.
This move by Alcatel-Lucent is critical for the company, but also for network equipment’s role in the service layer. Our surveys have shown that operators are visualizing their service-layer expansion more and more in IT terms, largely because network vendors have yet to provide an understandable and cohesive positioning in the service layer. The OpenPlug deal offers Alcatel-Lucent an exceptionally strong position on which to build a more complete service-layer story.
Interestingly, the fact that Alcatel-Lucent is coming at the service layer from the appliance/developer side means that for the moment it’se nt risking collision with Cisco’s efforts here, which are developing from the content side.
The combination of Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent moves in the service layer will put further pressure on the other equipment vendors because it’s now virtually impossible for either of them to duplicate either approach. That confines their positioning to the true service-layer middleware, which is harder to explain and position.
But that’s where everyone has to go, and so the biggest question with this deal, may be what Alcatel-Lucent has planned for the actual foundation technology within its Open API framework. If it’s strong, we’ll have a network battle of the titans with every IT player also looking for its best strategy, and the service layer will become a major competitive focus point in carrier infrastructure.