IMS/NGN Forum 'Plugfest' Eyes UC
In a way, it's not surprising that the sixth IMS/NGN Forum interoperability "plugfest," and the first to be held since the organizations formerly merged this week, will drill down into the unified communications (UC) space.
IMS, after all, is the IP Multimedia Subsystem protocol that's the foundation of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and NGN is the Next Generation Network that will focus on delivering those converged services. On the other hand, past plugfests, which are run at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab in Durham, N.H., have pretty much focused on making the networks operate seamlessly, not how end users will experience the convergence. Things have been changing and will change again when the lab and the forums gear up their interoperability drills in January 2009.
"We started with plugfest 5 to start to look at unified communications. Really sooner or later the two networks have to come together and unified communications is still in the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) domain, not quite getting the whole benefit of an IMS network, not quite getting the benefits of presence," said Manuel Vexler, technical chair of the IMS/NGN Forum.
Much of the forums' work -- separately and now together -- has focused on delivering mechanisms for telecommunications service providers, including, from the NGN point of view, tier two and below operators who moving more slowly into IP and FMC than their tier one brethren. The next plugfest, which will hold the attention of such member companies as Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and Nortel, will look at how IMS can advance UC within an enterprise and will include such participants as Intel, Tekelec, Sonus Networks, Mu Dynamics, NE Technologies/Marben, Aricent, Wipro and Mavenir.
"I'm one single person and I use one single calendar and am only in one place at a time," said Vexler. "These things are not yet addressed by IMS as a set of standards; they are not addressed by UC as a set of guidelines. This is what we're trying to put together; get service consistency so when a telco or an OSS provider offers this service, they can offer an end-to-end service regardless of where you are."
Right now, Vexler said that Avaya is leading in UC when combining voice and the enterprise but "the real problem is if you are a service provider -- who are you going to interconnect and move the services so they can go transparently between different locations?" said Vexler.
A user, he said, might have a company-provided mobile device like an iPhone or BlackBerry that "has to go with you in every situation of the day, work or home. Whatever you want to do with it, you want to have one view of the service. That's what we're looking at, how to combine all of this."
Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.