Monday, November 14, 2011

The Next Wave of Convergence

By Jim Machi

Communications convergence has taken many forms, some of which are still going on today. One key convergence from the 1980s involved the converging of open systems-based computing with telecommunications. The computer telephony integration industry was born, and from that, Dialogic emerged as a key player. The economics of commercial-off-the shelf hardware in the form of servers and communication boards, with the open systems, open API approach yielded best-of-breed applications and approach. This is still evident today in different forms, such as the Asterisk open source PBX and software building blocks for the data and telephony converged era.

Yet, another key convergence, perhaps the key convergence that is now coming to full fruition, is the convergence of the core data and voice networks. In the beginning, in the late 1990s, VoIP was billion businesses. Evan Iaas has entered the picture for mobile carriers, as there are mobile carrier/MVNO business models where the wireless infrastructure is outsourced as a service.

Convergence is not over yet. The next great convergence we will see is the user experience convergence. Users will want to access anything, with any device, at any time, anywhere and will want a great experience. Let’s say you are watching TV at home on your HDTV. Then you leave the house and want to resume watching the show on your tablet. Then you move to work and want to watch it on your laptop (during lunch of course). Then you watch it on your mobile phone and then finally finish watching it once again at home. Those in the industry who meet this need first will thrive.

So what factors need to be considered when it comes to user experience convergence? First, the delivery network needs to be context-aware. For example, what is the type of endpoint being a strange and alien concept? The convergence was done by adding data to voice architectures or by adding voice to data architectures. But today, with the emergence of systems built from the ground up to be truly converged voice and data systems, the quality has gone up and we are truly in the converged world.

The next great convergence we’ll see is the user experience convergence.

These convergence have spawned industries- the VoIP industry includes gateways to tune of approximately $2 billion a year total available market size, soft switches to the tune of approximately $1 billion a year TAM, session border controllers at about $500 million and growing, etc. New players have emerged, both on the service provider side and infrastructure side because of this. Who would have imagined 15 years ago that Cisco or even Microsoft would be key players in the voice realms?

But what does the future hold because of convergence? Due to the capability of the converged networks, hosted offering have morphed into cloud computing offering, and we have seen communication-based cloud computing offerings emerge. Cloud computing is about a $100 billion business, split between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, with VoIP/UC accounting for $5 billion. It stands to reason that communications is at least 10 percent of the $100 used (since you don’t want to send 720P to CIF device)? The delivery network will also need to make the frame size, screen size, codec and transport adjustments depending on the video source. Subscriber awareness is also important to consider since the subscriber may be paying for differentiated services of some sort. 

Additionally, the network needs to be content-aware- i.e. what is the type of video, how good is the source of the video? And finally, the delivery network needs to be network-aware- i.e. what is the available bandwidth and what is the quality of service? Including analytic to see the video usage pattern can help deliver the best quality of experience.

You may be asking yourself what cloud and user experience convergence means for you. For one thing, it means your device doesn’t define you. It also means that we may be moving to thin clients-if you will be utilizing a wide range of devices, and the network will be personalized for you, then all your information will be stored in the cloud. It will definitely be interesting to witness the next wave in communications convergence.

Jim Machi is senior vice president of marketing at Dialogic Inc


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