Next Generation Voice Services & Platform – Leaping From Network to Cloud

This week I am headed to a Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) focused event called the Software Telco Congress. I’ll be speaking on Thursday about real-time communications and how the future network is based on virtualized and pure software environments. This is a great topic as it traces some of Alianza’s roots and also showcases where we are headed as we help service providers deliver cutting-edge, margin-rich voice services.

Anyone who has built or managed a voice network knows that it’s a difficult and expensive proposition. For a service that has been around since the 1870s, providing voice communications is still anything but simple. From complex and expensive hardware and software to circuits and routing, to billing and rating, to handsets and devices, to 911 and emergency services—not to mention integration with new Unified Communications (UC) services, mobility, and social media—it’s expensive to buy all these elements and increasingly difficult to bring them together and reliably deliver voice services. IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and virtualizing those functions is just the latest attempt and still leaves something to be desired. NFV VoIP solutions are not going to cure all that ails voice today.

But it shouldn’t be that hard.

From the early rise of Application Service Providers (ASPs) in the early 2000s to today’s Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud providers, there is a conviction that there is a better way to deliver software and services. Over the past decade, companies have learned that outsourcing to a SaaS expert is not only less expensive, but also provides greater flexibility, improves the quality of the product provided, and frees up company resources to focus on their core competency.

Here at Alianza, we believe that service providers do indeed need a new approach and a truly different platform for delivering voice services. Since building one of the first hosted voice platforms, Alianza has believed in the power of the cloud and outsourcing voice complexity to an expert. We believed that we could refactor one of the most complicated and expensive services for a company to provide and simplify it to the point that offering voice services was as easy as signing up for webserver hosting.

But we also knew that simply cobbling together the same old voice network as the big iron hardware vendors have been providing for decades wasn’t going to result in a truly next-generation voice platform. We knew we had to be different, and we had to be better. Alianza believed that in order to be better, the voice platform had to make big advances in quality, simplicity, and cost.

This high bar presented an exciting challenge to the engineering team at Alianza. Version 1.0 of the Alianza voice platform debuted in 2009. With advances in computing power and bandwidth coupled with the ability to deliver VoIP as an application over any broadband network, we were able to radically transform the voice industry and eliminate big iron. And what used to require thousands of square feet of data center space with massive cooling and power requirements can now be done with less than a hundred square feet of space with fewer environmental demands.

Leveraging VoIP and SIP technologies we were able to provide higher-quality voice services at a much lower price point than traditional big iron or iron-like softswitch vendors. We also integrated all back-end components to provide a single platform experience. We made all platform management functions available via a single web-based administration tool that was an industry first. For customers wanting to integrate their back-office and processes with Alianza’s Cloud Voice Platform, we provided a full-featured API that exposed all management functions via a simple web service call. This is management made easy, intuitive, and results in further reducing total cost of ownership.

Employing this cloud voice platform, Alianza could further transform the business model of VoIP. Our SaaS-based licensing model for voice services for wholesale was an industry first and offered our service provider customers a low cost of entry and a predictable monthly pricing model based on actual subscriber count (their success)—not provisioned capacity (their plans and hopes).

While we’ve delivered new features, management advances, increases in capacity and processing over the years, Alianza is now planning some radical breakthroughs for our Cloud Voice Platform 2.0. How do you take the industry’s best voice platform and make it better? Stay tuned for the next in a series of blog posts detailing upcoming changes.

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