Who wins as suppliers break softswitches into multiple pieces?

* The impact of softswitch disaggregation

Joe McGarvey, principal analyst for IP services infrastructure at Current Analysis recently published an advisory report on the trend for softswitch suppliers to break up the softswitch into multiple pieces as they engage in a new round of disaggregation. He attributes the move to improved cost and performance efficiencies associated with a modular architecture and also points out that the disaggregation will help operators to "smoothly and incrementally move their service delivery infrastructures to an IMS-based architecture." But the trend also raises multiple questions.

First, McGarvey asks: What will be the movement’s impact on existing softswitch providers and will disaggregation favor softswitch vendors with legacy TDM experience or those that have constructed their products on a SIP/IP foundation? In his answer, McGarvey notes that “the disaggregation of the softswitch is playing to the advantage of equipment makers that developed softswitches for greenfield IP environments. Those softswitches, from . . . Sonus, Veraz, MetaSwitch and others, were designed around the SIP protocol, as opposed to those that were largely IP-enabled versions of TDM switches.” He concludes, “it is much more difficult for equipment makers to break apart a softswitch with TDM DNA than it is for a vendor that relied on SIP as the major ingredient.”

Second, the advisory report looks at the overall lifespan of the current softswitch. McGarvey points out that “the current trend is actually in keeping with the original blueprints for the softswitch, which called for a much more granular separation of functionality than simply splitting the platform into signaling and media hemispheres.” He suggests that one advantage of modularity is that it allows for incremental upgrades to a new architecture, allowing carriers “to navigate the twist and turns of architectural evolutions in a controlled manner.”

Finally, Mc Garvey asks and answers the question: Once the technology is reduced to a collection of components scattered around the networks does the softswitch cease to exist? He concludes, “the remains of the softswitch are being cast across the telecom infrastructure like the scattering of ashes. In this instantiation, it’s up to the sensibilities of the observer to determine if the softswitch will soon be gone forever or if it will continue to live on – at least in spirit – long after IMS is adopted.”

To read the full report and view McGarvey’s ranking of softswitch suppliers, please click here. And speaking of IMS adoption, next time we’ll highlight a recent “Unconventional Wisdom” brief on IMS from Tom Nolle, founder and president of CIMI Corporation.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.