The best thing since sliced bread? Maybe...
We’ve said it before – the two main topics were policy and clouds, but of the two, policy is perhaps the more interesting. Fundamentally, there’s nothing particularly new about clouds and the rapid formation of new clouds will happen whatever, driven by increasing broadband speed and reliability. Economically, they are a no-brainer for many (that’s certainly the case for us, by the way: almost all the services we use are cloud-based). However, policy is rather different. Policy, as an initiative, has the potential to shape all future services, including those in the cloud.
And, there are many vendors getting into the game, offering both standalone Policy Server solutions as well as solutions that are integrated into a complete portfolio of charging solutions. Take Openet for example – like many, they have invested considerable energy in carving out a space within the emerging policy framework. But, what was new last year is starting to sound familiar now. It’s a measure of how quickly the policy concept has spread that it has become common currency. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine that a standards-based PCRF will become another commoditised solution; after all, it has to confirm to rules too, for integration into the network and the capabilities it supports.
The challenge for vendors of policy equipment will be in presenting clear differentiation. What does your PCRF do that’s different from mine? What can I as a customer gain from it that I can’t from someone else’s? And, another consideration will be how solutions from different vendors interact to form a complete, holistic solution. We also saw how vendors such as Kapsch have solutions that capture data from the network and deliver it to solutions that interpret it. All of these need to work in harmony – to gather, collect and present data and, in the other direction, to ensure that the appropriate control or management mechanisms are enforced. And, this is where the PCRF becomes the lynchpin of the service, as it’s the PCRF which has to enforce the rules that are established for each subscriber or group of subscribers.
Kapsch has an API that allows this data to be presented to a PCRF solution, from Openet, for example. The challenge is to ensure that all of these elements fit together seamlessly, which is why APIs continue to be important and why, while the PCRF is indeed the lynchpin of new services and new customer relationships that will be forged, it’s necessary but not sufficient. It depends on the other elements to be effective.