Monday, February 13, 2012

[Guest post]: Why Not a Single Vendor for Policy and Charging Controls?

By Chris Hoover*, VP Product Marketing & Product Management, Openet

There’s been an interesting debate within the policy market –whether or not it is advantageous to have the same vendor for Policy Management as for Online Charging Systems. Since I've had the luxury of working on these systems both as a carrier and a vendor, this is a topic where I couldn't resist sharing my experiences.

Let me start by providing a few simple, but powerful reasons a single-vendor PCC environment has far more benefits than a multi-vendor environment.

  • Network Simplification – with the rapid growth in data consumption, operators are now prioritizing network simplification to control OPEX and CAPEX costs. This simply means that with fewer network nodes and vendors to manage, capacity augmentation costs are less complex to support operationally.
  • Standards – getting two vendors on the same release of a standard like 3GPP takes time and interoperability testing. With a single vendor, this doesn’t factor into the equation, nor do you see workarounds like Gy proxy (PCEF Gy to PCRF then a proxy to OCS) which can force operators away from standards compliance.
  • Roadmaps – one of the ongoing challenges for operators is managing the evolution of their networks from end-to-end today, tomorrow and two years from now. This entails working with multiple vendors on independent product roadmaps to ensure new features are implemented in future releases within the same timelines, and without negative effects on subscribers. Based on my experience, the planning here isn't too difficult, but when things don’t work, vendors often start to point fingers at each other. With a single vendor, there’s accountability, far less chance of interoperability issues and tighter alignment between releases.
  • Time to Market – probably the biggest advantage of a single PCC vendor is time to market. Repeatedly, I’ve seen Openet selected for both Policy and Charging because the operator had a time-sensitive and high-priority project that could only be done by a single vendor in the timeframe needed.
  • Solutions – anyone that works for an operator or vendor knows that implementing more complex and innovative use cases takes longer the more vendors are involved. For example, from a Charging perspective, operators often deal with the limitations of legacy IN systems –rarely do any vendors see “greenfield” sites. Typically operators want these INs to remain in place, for a host of reasons, so usually PCC is about modular augmentation. Being able to do this with a vendor who has best-of-breed policy and charging offerings is a big advantage – both architecturally and for performance reasons – and is a cost saver and revenue generator in the long term. 
One could argue that different vendors offer best-of-breed software in particular areas. But there’s a huge difference between vendors that have a core competency in PCC and offer a handful of products, versus large vendors that sell hundreds of products in a single bulk deal.


*Chris Hoover, VP Product Marketing and Product Management at Openet, has more than a decade of experience in mobile and networking technologies.  As an executive at mobile internet pioneer Unwired Planet, (later known as Openwave) he authored one of the first comprehensive guides to application development for mobile devices, “Dynamic WAP Application Development,” which was a top-20 bestseller in its category for more than six months.  He was heavily involved with the Ericsson, Nokia, and AT&T coalition defining standards for the first IMS-based application initiative, “Push-to-Talk Over Cellular” (known as PoC), and managed the product team responsible for the first commercial PoC deployment in a GPRS network.  As manager of the Narus STA network surveillance products, which have been mentioned as part of the NSA wiretapping investigation at AT&T, he is perhaps the only Silicon Valley product manager whose product was the focus of a Frontline documentary.

Chris holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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