WebSphere Takes On Telcos

Continuing its efforts to enter industry-specific — or vertical — markets,
IBM rolled out its bundled WebSphere Everyplace Service
Delivery (EDS) family of software Tuesday.

There’s no new technology; it’s a conglomeration of existing
technology: Mobile Portal, Device Management, Subscriber Management and
Telecommunications Application Server.

Put together, though, Everyplace Service Delivery fills a void in many
telcos today by creating an application environment that allows third-party
vendors to provide applications for telephone and data subscribers.

Since it’s WebSphere, developers can create applications on the Eclipse IDE
for J2EE , though
Letina Connelly, director of strategy for IBM’s pervasive and wireless
computing division, said anyone with Web services knowledge can get it to
work on other IDEs.

With the ESD sitting on the servers, telcos can then get independent
software vendors — or even in-house developers — to create applications
that keep customers happy.

“We think this raises the bar for service providers, they’ve got a new level
of technology base on a flexible and standards-based architecture,” she
said.

Many service providers, especially the wired phone companies like SBC
Communications and Qwest Communications ,
use legacy systems with specialized hardware and software primarily focusing
on transport, not content.

IBM’s software family provides a first step towards application development
and deployment, though it isn’t the silver bullet that will lead to instant
applications just by slapping the middleware onto a server.

According to Jerald Murphy, senior vice president of infrastructure
strategies with the META Group, even though wrapping the software components
together into ESD is helpful, telcos will still need to focus on integrating
the software within the network.

“The reality is, especially for large service providers, is that these
legacy systems aren’t just going to disappear, but as the market changes and
the target of the market changes, the thing service providers are going to
have to be is more flexible and adapting to what new services may need to be
offered,” he said. “The piece parts pulled together will help, but I think
integration will still be required, either through the service provider or
with consort with a systems integrator.”

He does think the software is getting released at a good time, however.
Telcos, facing competition from not just other telephone companies but cable
and satellite providers, are looking at new technology to provide more applications (content) that will retain and keep customers.

ESD is just one example of IBM’s efforts to grab market share within
verticals. With the generalized enterprise software sector largely
accounted for and industry-specific companies clamoring for software that doesn’t require significant overhaul by system
integrators, IBM has retooled much
of its software division to reach individual industries. Earlier this
year, Big Blue rolled out a similar
service
for the energy and utilities companies.

The first telco to sign up with IBM’s middleware is Sprint ,
which will use the software mainly as a portal within its wireless phone
division.

“Customers are increasingly looking to bring the desktop portal to mobile
devices remote information access and the Sprint Business Mobility Framework
allows for this timely exchange of information,” said Paget Alves, Sprint
president of strategic business markets group. “This middleware allows the
developer to concentrate on the value added portions of the solution and not
spend valuable development cycles managing the over-the-air connection.”

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