Cramer no longer a one-trick pony
Best known until now as a provider of inventory systems for Tier 1 telcos, U.K.-based Cramer has pulled off what it hopes is a coup d'etat ten years in the making by introducing seven new products in its Cramer6 OSS Suite today, making the company a player in multi-technology, end-to-end service fulfillment.
Although Cramer6 still has inventory at the core of its operations support system (OSS) philosophy, the new product suite shoots for complete process automation in order to accelerate time-to-market intervals for new product introduction. It also supports legacy and next-generation business support systems so that network operators can use the platform during their transition to the NGN.
"This represents a major elevation of Cramer's place in the market," said Keith Day, director of product marketing at Cramer. "People have viewed Cramer as a pure inventory player. Now we want to be seen as the product suite to deliver the first end-to-end service fulfillment suite."
Cramer extended its inventory core solution with four new products: a class-of-service manager called CoSManager that allows product managers to set policies within the BSS for different services such as IPTV or voice over IP; an ITManager solution that supports IT and telecom convergence, PartitionManager, which supports flexible business models including outsourcing; and CableManager, which takes Cramer from a mostly logical network inventory provider to a full physical inventory provider. Cramer will partner with geographic information system companies such as GE Smallworld for the physical inventory.
The company also introduced three other products this week. Service Catalog, ActivationEngine and DiscoveryEngine.
Day said that today customer relationship management systems are doing too much of the work in terms of technical order decomposition and technical feasibility checking. "So we developed the ServiceCatalog to free up product managers so they could focus on introducing new services," he said.
Day also said that the ActivationEngine, which automates the order-to-activation process, comes with the industry's first thin activation platform. It supports inventory and activation from one data core, or schema.
Cramer developed all new products in house, except for the discovery engine which came primarily from the acquisition of T-Soft earlier this month and the subsequent integration with Cramer's data synchronization technology.
"We increased R&D by 25% this year, so we are committed to being a developer of software and not typically a buyer of software," Day said.
End-to-end service fulfillment was always part of Cramer's vision, Day said, borrowed from the founder's experience in manufacturing where a single operational core drove efficiencies through the manufacturing process. "Obviously, telecom is the most complex industry on earth, so there is vision and there is reality and the reality is it took ten years to get to this point," he said.
In the middle of last year, Denmark's incumbent operator, TDC, deployed Cramer inventory software and began migrating its transport network onto it. This week, TDC completed the first phase of its multi-stage deployment.
"It's an ongoing process, but we will phase out our legacy transport and access network [inventory system] by the first quarter of 2007," said Lars Yde, vice president of operations at TDC.
TDC also became the first public customer for one of the new Cramer6 products, the ActivationEngine. TDC is also the second-largest provider in Switzerland, offering a range of fixed wireline, mobile, Internet, cable TV and wholesale services. It will deploy Cramer's activation software to manage TDC's access and transmission networks, including its new Gigabit Ethernet service. ActivationEngine will be deployed across multiple network domains and technologies.
TDC announced plans for a national Denmark multimedia network earlier this month. Yde said it is still in a pilot phase and currently supported by legacy OSSs. However, Yde said TDC would migrate both inventory and activation into the new OSS suite as the project moves along.
TDC also is taking advantage of another change at Cramer: it's expanding professional services organization, which is leading the implementation. "We wanted to take advantage of Cramer's best practices. For us, knowledge from the company that actually makes the product itself was crucial when we defined our services," Yde said.
Day said that Cramer's expansion of its professional services capabilities doesn't change its partner relationships. In fact, the company also announced today a new partnership with Alcatel. The companies will team up to launch a joint next-generation network solution center in Stuttgart, Germany, in order to develop an out-of-the box fulfillment solution. The solution will enable wireline service providers to deliver next-generation services including high-speed Internet, VoIP, IPTV and support for all IP migration.
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