Heavy Reading

Convergence Gateways, FMC, & the Future of Session Management

Service providers are on a perpetual quest to increase the capabilities of their networks to offer a broadening array of services, while at the same time reducing the complexity and cost of operating one or multiple networks. To meet these twin objectives, network operators must continuously look to inject their infrastructures with equipment that pushes new boundaries in terms of service delivery and cost efficiency. The fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) movement, defined by the ability of subscribers to access the same services over a variety of wireless and wireline access technologies, is the latest dynamic that is pushing carriers to upgrade their networks to meet subscriber expectations.

While network operators are responding to subscriber demand for new services through the support of a growing array of access technologies including WiFi, WiMax, femtocells, and picocells, as well as legacy technologies such as DSL and cable the influx of new equipment necessary to manage the sessions entering the network through these new channels is threatening to dramatically increase the complexity and cost of carrier infrastructure. Compounding the issue is the fact that in addition to handling new types of access technologies, service providers must also apply a barrage of traffic-conditioning functions including authentication, encryption, security, policy enforcement, and mobility management to this incoming traffic to meet the expectations of businesses and residential customers who will not tolerate delays or service disruptions.

This situation is being addressed by equipment vendors from both the fixed and mobile sides of the market. For fixed access technologies such as fiber, DSL, and cable, makers of session border controllers (SBCs) have been providing signaling and media conditioning for real-time traffic for the past five years. However, the initial focus of the SBC movement was largely on network-to-network connectivity, rather than subscriber-to-network connectivity.

In recent quarters, much of the innovation in the FMC space has come from equipment vendors that are largely focused on mobile operators. These vendors are broadening the functionality of what started out as transport-layer security devices to include a number of upper-layer functions, including policy enforcement, QOS assurance, protection against denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, and mobility management. These devices, sometimes referred to as "universal access gateways" or "convergence gateways," are being further expanded to manage sessions coming into the network from a variety of access technologies, and in some cases to take on some of the capabilities of an SBC a potentially attractive option for carriers with fixed and mobile assets looking to consolidate as much of their networks as possible.

Convergence Gateways, FMC, & the Future of Session Management examines the many issues surrounding the formation of these new, multifunction access devices. While the natural course of infrastructure evolution suggests ample opportunity and a welcome reception for solutions that improve the efficiency of service delivery and reduce capital and operating costs, potential pitfalls await the successful development and deployment of a universal session management mechanism. The most prominent roadblocks, detailed in this report, include long-held disagreements over where much of this edge functionality should reside, and whether it makes more sense to distribute this functionality across multiple pieces of equipment or unify it in a single location at the edge of the network. Other potential deployment problems include the inability of vendors to overcome the considerable inertia of an installed base, which discourages carriers from investing in technology that in part replaces existing functionality.


The main aims of this report are as follows:

To describe the current session management and security gateway environment
To detail the market pressures that are leading carriers to adopt new infrastructure equipment to deliver FMC services, and how carriers are dealing with those demands
To show how the emergence of alternative access technologies will contribute to an explosion of IP endpoints and potentially overwhelm existing subscriber management tools
To identify the equipment makers that are participating in the convergence of the session management market, and to position them in the overall edge access ecosystem
To examine the formation of the convergence gateway market and speculate on how it will progress over the next few years

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

The current state of session management can be characterized in a single word: developing. Though the concept and practice of deploying applications and offering services over an IP network are as old as the Internet, the commercialization of IP-based services that function in real time, or near-real time, and that combine voice, video, IM, presence, and mobility, is still in its infancy.

The great paradox of the session management market is that there is near-universal agreement about what services and functions are required to enable service providers to deliver reliable and timely communications and entertainment services. Security, quality assurance, and reliability are recognized as the basic foundation of any session management approach. There remains considerable debate, however, over where these edge services should reside.

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Convergence Gateways, FMC, & the Future of Session Management delivers an independent assessment of a full range of products and technologies and their role in future networks, including:

Legacy equipment such as routers, firewalls, intrusion detection equipment, and broadband remote access servers
Media gateways
Mobile packet data gateways
Deep packet inspection
QOS assurance
Policy management and enforcement
Fixed/mobile convergence strategies
IP network peering, including VOIP peering
Key emerging wireline and mobile standards (3GPP/3GPP2, Tispan, IMS, A-IMS, UMA, SIP)
Emerging mobile technologies (picocells, femtocells, WiMax, WiFi)
Existing and next-gen cable MSO networks (including PacketCable 2.0)

Report Scope and Structure

Convergence Gateways, FMC, & the Future of Session Management is structured as follows:

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

Section II provides an overview of the current status of the session management market and the role that SBCs and security gateways are playing in fixed and mobile networks, respectively.

Section III offers a detailed description of the evolutionary path to a converged solution that will enable service providers to support a new range of services, including those that bridge the fixed/ mobile boundary. This section also describes the industry forces that are pushing service providers toward a universal access solution, including standards and customer demands for services.

Section IV analyzes the role and requirements of a session management platform capable of providing a single control point for all real-time and near-real time traffic entering the service provider network. In addition to a description of the product category, this section will provide a roadmap for the potential implementation of convergence gateways and a comparison between security gateways and SBCs.

Section V, VI, and VII explore the product plans, implementation approaches, and roadmaps of all the competitors in this portion of the network, including makers of routers, packet data gateways, GGSNs, and SBCs. These sections focus on vendors of SBC-oriented products, vendors of security gateway-oriented products, and those that occupy a "neutral" position between those camps, in that order.

The report is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

Technology suppliers: How will the development of session management affect your product development plans? Where are the new opportunities for market growth? Are your products and marketing messages in line with customer plans and expectations? Are there significant gaps in your product line coverage that need to be addressed to meet future demand for gateway convergence solutions?
Network operators: How will session management developments affect your plans for next-gen service and technology deployments? What role will convergence gateways ultimately play in the industry's migration to FMC? Do your current suppliers deliver the best cost and performance options for your network, or are there other alternatives that will deliver greater efficiency? Which technology suppliers are in best position to meet your requirements?
Investors: Which technologies and suppliers are emerging as the market leaders in the SBC and security gateway sectors? How will convergence gateways affect these key sectors, as well as related sectors such as routers, mobile packet data gateways, firewalls, and broadband remote access servers?

Convergence Gateways, FMC, & the Future of Session Management is published in PDF format.

PRICE: $3,995
Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
McGarvey has been active in the computing and telecom research industry for the past 15 years, both as a journalist and analyst...
Click here for full list of vendors included in this report
60 pages of analysis covering session management, SBC, access gateways, fixed/mobile convergence, and the emerging convergence gateway product sector
In-depth product and strategy analyses for leading vendors and technology suppliers in the session management, SBC, and convergence gateway sectors
Full analysis of emerging wireline and mobile technology standards (including 3GPP/3GPP2, Tispan, IMS, UMA, SIP, and others) and their impact on convergence gateways and session management
PRICE: $3,995
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