Heavy Reading

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is a broad architecture with wide-ranging objectives, but Heavy Reading research has shown time and again that service providers see it primarily as a means to develop and deploy more and better applications at lower cost. Since applications are driving IMS deployment, it follows that control of the applications plane in IMS is an increasingly important objective for vendors in this area.

Unfortunately for service providers, the IMS applications plane is also the least understood and most confusing of the three IMS planes. The two other layers in the IMS model the control plane and the transport or access plane are relatively stable, and the various elements are well defined and relatively easy to compare. The applications plane, however, is largely undefined and ridden with controversy.

Nevertheless, an entire industry sub-sector is now emerging in the IMS applications plane still inchoate in many respects, but of vital significance if telcos are really to make the difficult transition from utility providers of telephony and Internet services to sophisticated enablers and providers of a wealth of new IP-based services that can compete effectively with Web-based challengers that are now emerging.

It is the IMS applications plane that enables creation of new, converged applications that include capabilities such as presence, mixed media (e.g. telephony and message exchange in the same session), and seamless working across fixed and mobile boundaries. The IMS applications plane also makes it easier for third parties, including independent software vendors and telcos themselves, to build applications. And crucially, the IMS applications plane provides the vital glue that binds telco legacy applications and capabilities into existing and emerging Web services-based applications and capabilities.

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment provides detailed analysis of the most critical element of the IMS applications plane: the IMS application server itself, a standardized element in the IMS model, which has clear interfaces to other parts of the IMS architecture. The report explains what an IMS application server is and how it fits into the overall IMS picture. It identifies all providers of IMS application servers and locates them within the overall IMS applications ecosystem. Key technology issues and controversies are identified and dissected, with an eye toward assessing how this critical market sector is likely to develop as carriers migrate more and more services and applications to IMS.


The heart of the report is a complete competitive and strategic analysis covering 39 different technology suppliers, including major telecom equipment manufacturers and IMS application server specialists. These vendor analyses provide the most comprehensive and compelling picture of the IMS application server sector now available.

For a list of companies profiled and evaluated in this report, click here.

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment provides a comprehensive and concise roadmap for how various emerging technologies and architectures are coming together to enable delivery of next-gen telecom services in the IMS ecosystem, including:

Service delivery platforms (SDPs)
Service creation environments (SCEs)
Session initiation protocol (SIP)
OSA/Parlay and Parlay X
Service orchestration and service brokering
Web services and Web 2.0
Service-oriented architecture (SOA)
Next-gen operations support systems (NGOSS)

The most basic distinction in the IMS app server world is between servers that are designed to accomplish a specific purpose for example, a "presence application server" and those that are, to a greater or lesser extent, programmable. The latter are known under a variety of names generic app server, programmable app server, or simply "service creation environment" but they are becoming an increasingly important element in the app server market.

While the market for IMS application servers so far has been small in terms of revenues, the fact that a host of larger technology suppliers are now making aggressive moves into the space clearly indicates its growing importance in the telecom service supply chain. Major TEMs such as Alcatel-Lucent and NEC are gearing up for a run at this sector, as are major vendors from the IT realm companies including BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Oracle.

A major reason that the IMS application server sector is seen as a wide-open market is that while IMS is designed to make it easier to build and deploy applications, it does not define those applications: That was not part of the designers' remit. There are some clear presumptions about the kinds of applications that might be built with IMS, as well as controversy about just how far IMS should go.

In brief, there is a rough consensus that some or all of the following kinds of applications might be deployed using IMS. None of these applications needs IMS, but IMS in principle could create a standardized, secure environment in which to create these services more easily at lower cost.

Applications that include presence information
Applications that continue to function seamlessly across network boundaries
Applications that combine elements from different sources and app servers to create new applications, including both legacy and IMS sources
Applications that enrich Web applications with communications features, or vice versa

The following figure lists the applications that were most frequently cited by vendors during our interviews with them; most are already available from at least one vendor.

[click on the image below for the full excerpt]

[click on the image above for the full excerpt]

Report Scope and Structure

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment is structured as follows:

Section I is an introduction to the report, with complete report key findings.

Section II explains what a standardized IMS application server is, characterizes the different types of IMS application servers, reviews the development of relevant standards, and sets the IMS application server in the wider application server context.

Section III sets out an IMS "applications ecosystem" and locates all significant vendors within it. This section also describes the relevance of various IMS applications and sets out the likely evolution of the IMS application server. The latter discussion focuses on some key outstanding issues and controversies, including the transition to programmable application servers with associated service creation environments; the relationship between IMS and Web services; and the role of different kinds of executing environments.

Sections IV details the IMS application servers and application strategies of all of the major telecommunications equipment manufacturers, examining their products, differentiators, partnerships and customers.

Section V analyzes the IMS strategies, product initiatives, partnerships, and customer wins of all other vendors in the field, including specialist application server providers, IT companies, and softswitch vendors.

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

Suppliers of IMS and related technologies: How will the ongoing migration of service providers to IMS affect the way applications are provisioned and offered, and how will those changes affect carrier technology spending? Are your products and marketing messages in line with carrier plans and expectations? Are there significant gaps in your product line coverage that need to be addressed to meet future demand for next-gen application technology?
Telecom network operators: How do your plans for next-gen applications and IMS compare with those of your competitors? Which standards and strategies are likely to emerge as winners in this sector? Which technology suppliers are in the best position to deliver the products you need?
Investors: Which technologies are emerging as the winning solutions in the IMS application sector, and which companies are the leading technology suppliers of those solutions? How will the confluence of IMS, SDP, NGOSS, and a raft of other software technology initiatives affect profitability for technology suppliers and network operators in the coming months and years?

IMS Application Servers & the IMS Applications Environment is published in PDF format.

PRICE: $3,795
Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
Graham Finnie has been tracking the telecom industry for nearly two decades as a journalist, analyst, and consultant...
Click here for full list of network operators and vendors included in this report.
84 pages of analysis covering development and deployment strategies for IMS application servers and related technologies
In-depth product and strategy analyses for 39 leading vendors and technology suppliers in the IMS application server sector
Full analysis of the likely role of existing and emerging technologies and standards initiatives (IMS, SDP, SOA, SIP, JAIN SLEE, SCE, OSA/Parlay, Parlay X, NGOSS, Web 2.0) in the development of next-gen telecom services and applications
PRICE: $3,795
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