Maximizing Telecom Industry Benefits from Open Standards

By Ken Newton, Motorola

Telecom industry adapts to meet market needs

In a growing global economy, service providers have an opportunity to increase revenues and profits by delivering new services quickly and cost efficiently. The key to success in today’s highly competitive marketplace is achieving service growth potential, while controlling operating expenses. The challenge for telecom equipment manufacturers (TEMs) is to deliver the new equipment that service providers need, within the right timescales and at the right price.

TEMs have responded to price and timescale pressures by changing their equipment development and deployment processes. Building on industry standards helps TEMs to reduce development costs and streamlines the value chain, and also supports equipment reuse across multiple applications. These benefits flow through to service providers, helping them to reduce their capital expenditure on new services. Using common standards-based platforms for multiple applications can also simplify equipment and network maintenance requirements, helping service providers to reduce their operating costs.

Importance of software standards

Hardware standards alone are not sufficient to provide the competitive advantages and cost efficiencies that the telecom industry needs. New complementary software standards have now been developed and this powerful combination can really help the telecom industry to respond faster and more cost efficiently to its customers’ needs. The Service Availability™ Forum (SA Forum) is a consortium of industry-leading communications and computing companies, working together to develop and publish software interface specifications for high availability and systems management. The SA Forum then promotes and facilitates specification adoption by the industry.

The SA Forum specifications currently available or under development are the Hardware Platform Interface, Application Interface Specification and System Management Specification.

High availability computer platforms include mechanisms that detect and isolate faulty hardware, switch in redundant hardware modules, and provide a platform management interface. These mechanisms are typically controlled by a software layer which can be called High Availability Middleware.

The Application Interface Specification (AIS) defines the application programming interface between the High Availability Middleware and the application. This middleware provides lower layer interfaces to hardware/operating system components and higher layer interfaces to applications. This effectively separates applications from direct hardware knowledge, making them inherently more portable.

The Hardware Platform Interface (HPI) specification defines the interface between High Availability Middleware and the hardware and operating system(s) that make up the underlying computing platform. The interface provides a model of the computing platform and allows control and monitoring via one or more concurrent “sessions.” Adopting this specification accelerates hardware and software integration, simplifying the migration of middleware between hardware platforms from different manufacturers.

SA Forum standards allow telecom equipment manufacturers to outsource at the platform level, secure in the knowledge that they are not locked into a proprietary solution. Telecom application software can readily migrate between computing platforms that run SA Forum compliant middleware. This allows TEMs to offer their applications on the optimum hardware platforms to match the cost and performance requirements of their customers and to upgrade their products as technology evolves. Service providers can initially select a cost-efficient hardware platform to deliver a new service, knowing that the application can be upgraded to a higher performance platform when customer demand for the service increases.

Reducing time-to-market

The development model traditionally employed by TEMs is shown in Figure 1. This can typically be broken down into:

  • Time spent developing a base platform that meets core service provider requirements
  • Additional developments that give a platform a unique and competitive character in the marketplace
  • An extensive test and verification cycle
  • Operator trials

Figure 1: Traditional development model

Many TEMs are recognizing that, from a business perspective, this 30-48 month cycle time is no longer economically viable and that developing a base platform provides no market advantage - it simply extends development time and consumes resources.

Building on industry standards to develop a core platform, and then testing this platform can greatly accelerate the development process as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Development model using Application-Enabling Platforms

Motorola describes this pre-integrated and validated base platform as an Application-Enabling Platform. Adopting an Application-Enabling Platform approach can help reduce time-to-market significantly, while enabling TEMs to concentrate on developing the differentiating features and content of their product. A platform built from standards with a wealth of core capabilities, from hardware and operating systems to high availability middleware and management interfaces, provides a generic platform that is not specifically tailored to a single application, but which is well suited to broad market adoption.

The approach does not limit a TEM’s ability to innovate, as it offers a choice of integration points, depending where a TEM sees value in the marketplace. For example, IP routing is a required function within a 3G wireless platform. However, IP routing is simply a service that the platform must have and not core to its value in the marketplace. Contrast this with core routing applications, where capabilities such as IP routing and MPLS form the critical technology at the heart of the platform. In the 3G wireless case, a TEM could get to market faster by purchasing SA Forum compliant routing capabilities as part of an Application-Enabling Platform. In the latter case, a TEM would probably decide to differentiate his product by developing the core IP routing and MPLS functionality himself.


Communications computing platforms based on AdvancedTCA® technology are now being adopted by major TEMs. The combination of hardware standards, such as AdvancedTCA, and software standards developed by the SA Forum can deliver significant business benefits to TEMs and service providers.

The Application-Enabling Platform, a pre-integrated and validated computing platform based on industry standards, can accelerate the move towards standards and provide substantial business benefits in terms of time-to-market, cost efficiency and protecting investments in technology.

Motorola is committed to help the telecom industry move towards open standards. Our latest communications servers implement Motorola’s Application-Enabling Platform concept. They are built on industry standards, including AdvancedTCA and the SA Forum AIS and HPI specifications, and are fully integrated and validated by Motorola to help minimize the time and resources that a telecom equipment manufacturer needs to develop a new product.

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