Startup promises service delivery ‘grid’ – with Verizon, Comcast backing
ConteXtream has some big-name backing for a platform that it says contextually routes subscriber requests to the appropriate resource in the virtualized telco “cloud”
Terms like grid, virtualization and cloud get thrown around a lot these days, and startup ConteXtream – with big-time venture capital and service provider backing – is throwing them with the best of them.
It remains to be seen if the vendor’s new “service delivery grid” approach of turning service provider networks into a more flexible “cloud” of resources that can be tapped by subscribers on demand represents a breakthrough.
But investments by the venture capital arms of Verizon and Comcast announced this week -- along with existing investors Benhamou Global Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, Norwest Venture Partners and Sofinnova Ventures-- goes a long way toward validating its vision. The vendor also said it is in trials with multiple tier-one operators with its technology.
The big idea is “to virtualize operator networks to make it easier to deploy a new service,” while also reducing overall costs and maximizing network resources, said David Yates, ConteXtream’s vice president of marketing. “The key to the technology is to group standard servers together to form a single, service delivery grid that pulls all those resources together, regardless of location, to act as one.”
How exactly does this cloud-centric approach to the network work? Each subscriber session in a service delivery grid environment is allocated to what ConteXtream calls a “micro-session processor,” or a virtualized server instance. Coming along with that session is information about the subscriber, network and application, which is then matched up with available resources in the “smartest” or most efficient way possible, said Yates. The system can grow in a virtualized fashion to support almost any size network, he said, handling hundreds of millions of sessions and terabytes of traffic. It can be overlaid on top of any in-place layer 2 or layer 3 network, he added.
Indeed, of all the concepts bound up in the service delivery grid, it’s the idea of virtualizing network and underlying content/service resources that may hold the most power, allowing telecom operators to more efficiently serve customers without having to overbuild infrastructure and pay for network and server capacity they need only for the peaks.
Beyond that core concept, ConteXtream’s platform has echoes in a number of other technology approaches. Service delivery grid sounds a lot like service delivery platform, or SDP, which vendors and service providers have positioned as the application creation and delivery platform of choice for today’s less siloed telecom apps, built on more open standards like Web services. ConteXtream’s technology also would seem to compete in places with things like deep packet inspection (DPI) boxes (for identifying subscriber context); content delivery networks or load balancers (subscriber/content distribution); and even with over-arching architecture approaches like IP Multimedia Subsystem (which separate apps from the network).
Yet according to Yates, ConteXtream’s approach should be viewed as complementary to many of those technologies, more efficiently routing customers to things like an SDP for actual service delivery or to a CDN as an uber-efficient content repository.
In many ways, the service delivery grid is a more “network-” or “telco-” aware version of the types of application delivery platforms the very largest Web companies – like a Yahoo or Google – have been building for years.
“The innovation that Web service providers have brought to the infrastructure game is the ability and agility to deploy applications across large numbers of servers as the need arises,” said ConteXtream’s Yates. “That idea of building a flexible cloud of application servers can be taken even further by [telecom] operators, who know more context – they know more intimately about the subscriber and the services they’ve signed up for and they know much more about the state of the network.”
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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