Uncommon Wisdom

Dec 7 2009   12:57PM GMT

Alcatel-Lucent service-layer solution has some, not all, details

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Alcatel-Lucent announced the details (or at least some of them) of its Service Enablement architecture, its service-layer solution. The strategy includes an Exposure Suite that’s designed to provide for the linking of developer-created applications to service provider network assets using a secure and stability-managed interface set. It also includes a cloud-based hosted Open API service designed to create a common set of developer interfaces for specific tasks like retrieving location information and then map these to individual providers seamlessly.

More capabilities should come along at some point—they must because standards-based programs already offer the same capabilities. The developer program for the Open API service is public and open (and so we’ve joined our ExperiaSphere activity to it). We are not yet able to determine whether the Exposure Suite’s APIs are public and open, but the Open API program alone makes Alcatel-Lucent the first major player to actually open its service-layer development program.

There is also a strong professional services linkage to aid operators in fielding their own service-layer framework. In all, the story was articulated reasonably well and the presentation of the structure of the Alcatel-Lucent architecture was detailed enough to make it credible, particularly given the early fulfillment of a developer commitment. We believe that a mature developer program is critical to any service-layer strategy.

Alcatel-Lucent’s strategy follows an announcement by Juniper that is more tool-and-software based, and by comments by NSN that its own service-layer strategy is based on professional services rather than on productized components. Three vendors are now strung along a kind of theoretical line between (at the NSN side) a pure professional-services solution and (on the Juniper end) a pure software/tool solution, with Alcatel-Lucent spanning a good chunk of the middle.

The operators like a tool approach, we’re told, though they are willing to pay for services to help them create their service-layer strategy. They just prefer to have a framework they can examine in detail. Operators also believe that a tool-based approach has intrinsic developer potential, something difficult to achieve with a professional services approach. Juniper has tools, and now so does Alcatel-Lucent. We don’t think NSN can sustain its service-driven approach in the face of so-far-universal support for a more productized service-layer offering by competitors. Interestingly, Cisco has yet to really make any noise in the service layer, and it would normally have been making its own announcements at least in synch with, if not ahead of, major competitors. Cisco is either planning something extravagant or planning to do nothing at all; either will say a lot about Cisco’s future strategies.

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