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Cloud UC Platforms are Mostly Not UC

February 04, 2014 by

Everyone knows that cloud UC is a trending market force, and that some significant portion of existing premise-based UC deployments will be moving to the cloud. That said, it’s not surprising that many traditional UC and other types of players want to get in on the game.

Here at Thinking Phone Networks, we’ve spent the last eight years building a cloud UC platform to support our business, as well as the businesses of our partners. As a result, I’ve talked to a lot of folks (PBX vendors, VARs, etc.) who are new to the service provider space, and want to create a cloud-based UC offering. The notable thing about most, if not all of these discussions, is that they initially want to talk almost exclusively about UC features that they will be able to deliver to their customers. What I tell them is that in developing our platform, we have spent more development effort on our business and operational support systems (B/OSS) than on our end user UC features.

B/OSS are the tools that need to be wrapped around a UC feature set to create a cloud service. The point I always make is that having a UC feature does a cloud UC provider absolutely no good if they have no way to sell it, provision it, and manage it over time. Getting the B/OSS right and having a deep level of integration between the B/OSS and the UC feature set is really the underlying the technology secret to running an efficient and scalable cloud UC service.

To give you a sense, here at TPN our B/OSS layer includes the following components:

  • A service catalog that provides the ability to define salable UC services, one-time and recurring fees, and feature entitlements
  • Quoting tools that can be used to quote services that have been defined
  • Order management tools that are used to manage the lifecycle of orders that have been put into the system
  • A billing and rating engine that creates upfront and monthly customer invoices, including metered usage
  • A service model that serves as the master representation in the system of the configuration state of a running platform instance, including both UC features and billing details
  • Provisioning tools that automate the setup and configuration of infrastructure as well as customer UC features
  • Configuration management tools that allow service operators, partners, and customers to manage UC configurations on an ongoing basis via a web portal
  • Monitoring systems that provide comprehensive coverage all the way from hardware to SIP and web application layers and allow for quick and easy fault identification
Traditional carriers understand the importance of B/OSS well. Their problem is that they have this huge collection of legacy systems providing these functions that are all tied together in sometimes haphazard ways, and most often are not exposed to partners and end users. The approach we have taken is to develop these features in-house rather than buying and integrating. In doing so, we can have control and tie the tools directly to the UC features in our platform. This is the key to how we have been able to and how we plan to continue to scale the back-end of our business.

Without deeply integrated B/OSS, a cloud UC provider simply won’t be able to scale their business very far. There are too many manual steps, too many opportunities for error, and too many operational support staff needed. So if you plan to create a scalable cloud UC service, be prepared to spend significant amounts of time on your B/OSS.

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