IPX Operator Survey GraphicSybase 365 recently released the results of our Global Operator Survey, covering the IP Exchange (IPX) technology.  Three hundred fifty-three operators were surveyed online, with an additional eleven one-on-one interviews.    This resulted in a very interesting cache of data from a variety of operators and service providers, worldwide.  I intend to publish a number of blog entries, based on the results of our survey.  This one is the first.


You can pick up your PDF copy here.


Let’s take this opportunity to now focus on a few areas that are of interest.  Many people have asked me over the last couple of years: “Bill, what is your vision for IPX?”  My answer has been relatively the same.  I envision IPX as the central, global backbone connecting MNOs and other accepted service providers, cloud services, and enterprise and providing intelligent hubs for a variety of interworking and interoperability functions.  What this means is that the IPX is and is becoming an absolute core function for many participants.  Our survey results do certainly lend support to what the IPX has become and what our vision is.


As far as I know, this is the first time that MNOs around the world have been requested to participate in an in-depth survey of their IPX awareness and potential.   I am certainly encouraged by these results.  For example, just over half (51%) of the respondents define the IPX as ALL of the key definitions of an IPX including “An easy way to deploy end to end IP on common standards,” “a cost-reduction measure,” “a means of ensuring service quality,” and “a route to 4G.”   This shows that our (and others) education of the marketplace pushing the benefits of the IPX have paid off.


In terms of vision, the survey clearly shows that inter-working between Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks will be a significant driver of IPX leverage by mobile operators.  A key element cited will be LTE Roaming agreements.  Today, there are only a handful of operators with LTE networks, but over 63% of the respondents noted that IPX becomes essential in just 1-3 years.    When asked about the benefits that the IPX offer for various next generation services such as LTE Roaming, an overwhelming majority cited various positive benefits with the largest number citing cost reductions as a key benefit.

One respondent noted that “LTE roaming is imperative to overall LTE success.”  Many noted that the managed QoS of an IPX for LTE roaming were key benefits.  


One major carrier stated that LTE Roaming “creates a cloud of on-net data roaming MNOs, thereby making it run on a managed pipe, rather than on an unmanaged GRX tunnel.”    Another respondent got into details and stated that LTE roaming will further accelerate once Diameter inter-working is proven.   They also noted that the integration of a clearly defined Diameter roaming solution that supports inter-working with the existing 3G environment as a perquisite for larger uptake.   A few others also noted that the support of Diameter on the IPX would be key elements.


We also asked if there were IPX benefits for IP-based signaling.  Again, well over half of the respondents noted a variety of positive benefits for IP Signaling, enabled by the IPX for next-generation services.  “A single IP connection, underpinned by policy control between network operators” was how one respondent deftly summed up the benefit.   Another indicated that “aggregated signaling, reducing network load and higher network resiliency and redundancy” is a primary IP signaling benefit.  Still several others cited more reliable and secure connections along with bandwidth savings.  One should note that “signaling” today is already supported on the IPX, based on transporting GSM MAP (the SS7 application layer) over IP (AKA SIGTRAN).    Next generation services will use a protocol called Diameter (defined by RFC 3588).  Diameter has been designated as the chosen signaling protocol by 3GPP to support so-called 4G (or LTE) services (outlined in RFC 5516, for those, so technically inclined).   Diameter was chosen based on the fact that is capable of managing a continuous flow of data between a complex mesh of network elements. 


Diameter servers/policy exchange controllers will be attached to IPX networks to provide a signaling and authentication location for multiple mobile operators to connect to in order to validate subscribers’ capabilities in roaming scenarios as well as many other scenarios.  As within next generation networks, Diameter will also be used to set up and negotiate a variety parameters and authentication for most operator to operator engagements – whether that is voice, video or some other communications.


We had also asked the respondents a more open-ended question around what did they expect from an IPX.  In fact, the question was really not targeted towards next-generation services, but what did they expect from an IPX, today?  Here, we can definitely say that the response was both a mix of services available today (such as SIGTRAN ), voice services, as well as content delivery, but quite a few people really gravitated towards services that are not yet widely available.   Quite a few noted  an IPX should provide access to multiple types cloud services and even mobile payment services.   Cloud services available today including Blackberry® cloud connectivity were mentioned by several respondents.   A significant percentage also mentioned RCS/RCSE, multimedia, and video as well has HD Voice services.


These very varied responses indicate it is clear that the IPX really is viewed by the global operator community as a central, global backbone connecting MNOs and other accepted service providers, cloud services, and enterprise and providing intelligent hubs for a variety of interworking and interoperability functions.  So our vision is not off-base at all.


When we first conducted this survey, we knew that the global operator community viewed the concept of an IPX with mixed notions – of what it really is, its benefits, and its drawbacks.  Consequently, it is very satisfying to read these results and know that the vast majority of the global telecom community believes what we believe.  Our own experiences in some specific markets with certain operators certainly had given us some insight, but to more fully query over three hundred operators  -- many of them still years away from leveraging  an IPX – has really helped us to tailor our IPX solutions to match what the requirements are now and what they will become in the future.


In future entries, I’ll take a look at some other elements of our survey and what they mean to industry.

SAP’s Mobile Insights Webcasts Series continues with a focus on Mobility in Healthcare. In this blog, I share my discussion with our presenter, Jan Korten of SAP, who will preview SAP's mobility framework for healthcare during the webcast.

But first, a word on why I find this webcast really compelling - here's a quote I recently read:

“2011, in my humble opinion, promises to be one of the most exciting years in terms of patient and physician empowerment thanks to the convergence of healthcare technologies including electronic health records (EHRs), healthcare information exchanges (HIEs), personal health records (PHRs), patient management and clinical information systems as well as the advent of exciting mobile medical devices, services and applications.” - Andy Dé, a visionary, passionate and social-media fluent Health-Sciences IT innovation strategy, marketing and thought leader

Jan Korten
Solution Owner Healthcare Provider IBU, SAP AG

Jan Korten, a physician with over 12 years of experience in healthcare IT projects, has been instrumental in providing software solutions for laboratories, GPs and hospitals.  He has led projects in development and consulting, and has built up the Product Management team for a clinical information system. Currently, Jan is responsible for core clinical applications and mobile applications for healthcare at SAP.

Q: Jan, how long have you been with SAP and what is your role?

A: I joined the Solution Management Healthcare team at SAP in 2006. Since joining SAP, I’ve been working on defining the Business Process Platform for Healthcare, modeling Process Components and Service Operations and our team is responsible overall for Core Clinical Applications and Mobile Applications for Healthcare.

Q:  What healthcare solution is SAP is launching in 2011?

A: At the end of October, we are launching what we call a mobility framework for healthcare, which consists of applications targeting healthcare providers – physicians and nurses. The first application is SAP Mobile EMR for the iPad. The target group is physicians and nurses who are moving through healthcare facilities during their normal work day. The application provides instant access to information at the point of care.

Q: What information is available via this solution?

A: Electronic Medical Records – radiology images, lab results, diagnostic procedures, risk factors, allergy information – patient information on the mobile device with a consumable, friendly UI.

Q: Is the solution compatible with most clinical systems?

A: Long term, yes, this solution will be compatible with most clinical systems. We’re starting with SAP’s clinical system, i.s.h. med, where the connector will already be in place. Our goal is to partner with other clinical platforms to create a connector with our mobility platform. We are currently talking with a few vendors in EMEA and our global partner in healthcare, Siemens. Talks with other major clinical systems are also underway.       

Q: What are the requirements to deploy SAP’s Mobile EMR system?

A: To deploy the SAP Mobile EMR for iPad, healthcare organizations will need to license the mobile application itself plus SAP’s mobile platform, which consists of Sybase Unwired Platform that provides connectivity to the backend clinical system and Afaria that provides mobile device management. Professional services will also be available to help with the implementation of the solution.

Q: What level of adoption have we seen from physicans and nurses?

A: We have been interviewing clinicians and the feedbck is overwhelmingly positive, especially regarding the intuitive UI.  CIOs  are impressed with the completeness of our approach – including the openness of the platform regarding backend systems and mobile device options.

Q: What other devices does our mobile solution support?

A: The first version will be available on iOS/iPad. The Android operating system and related HTC/Samsung tablets will be added shortly. These two platforms make up 95% of the mobile healthcare market now.

Q: What are the biggest barriers to adoption and challenges eHealth faces?

  1. Adoption by care providers: Many experienced clinicians have very well eablished processes that they are reluctant to change.
  2. Healthcare institutions have highly fragmented backend systems: It’s challenging to integrate all the varied legacy healthcare systems within a large medical instituion. There are an unusually large number of data souces with critical personal health data that must be handled carefullly in a highly regulated industry.

But we are very optimistic that these challenges in the end can be overcome leveraging SAP’s core strengths: integration, consolidation and process management support.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: Overall, we think the time has come for mobile medical soutuions to reach broad adoption and the market for our mobile EMR is very promising.

To learn more, join Jan and Thilo Berndt (Product Owner - SAP Mobile for Healthcare, SAP AG) on August 31 for our live webcast “Mobile Electronic Medical Records from SAP” and ask YOUR questions. See the link for registration in this blog post.

Disclaimer - I have a strong professional interest and personal passion for eHealth, as I was very involved in the topic while at Palm, Inc. from 2001- 2007. The Palm Pilot, loaded with ePocrates was the mainstay of physicians’ toolset for many, many years.

Facebook Messenger - Combined 1Not by a long shot.   But, to read the various headlines such as from BBC, or FierceContent, (and quite a few more -- not all of them, mind you, but quite a few) you might get the idea that here is something that will be the true “SMS killer.”  Notwithstanding the over-imaginative headlines, I think Facebook Messenger is nothing more than an expansion of the popular online-based Facebook “chat” service.  I would suspect that this is more of a threat to various Instant Messaging (IM) services than it is to SMS.   The problem with IM is that the various communities have never really been interoperable with one another (which makes for good business for products such as Trillian by Cerulean Studios – users may sign into multiple IM communities using a single client or app).


When we go beyond all of the hype and the fact that is a 2-way messaging capability on a mobile device, what we have here is that Facebook Chat/Messenger is simply another IM Community – albeit a very large and powerful community.  Most IM services offer interaction to SMS – and Facebook Messages is no exception.  Many people are already familiar with getting SMS from the Facebook short codes.   In the case of the new Facebook Messenger app – it enables the Facebook community to interact with their community via a dedicated app.  Facebook Messenger is certainly a nice new expansion for the Facebook community.   But it is far, far from an “SMS killer.”


To call a service an “SMS killer” is one thing, as these writers claim, but many ignore that this service actually leverages SMS – in fact SMS short codes.  I am not saying that Facebook themselves are making this claim – not at all that I am aware of, but there are many who are writing out there that also claim that Apple iMessage – when it launches is part of iOS 5, this fall, will also be an “SMS killer.”   Again, not so fast – and don’t forget – that iMessage will send its messages via SMS, if the destination is not an iOS device!   Again – a closed community, for the most part – this time, among iOS devices – that uses SMS to reach non-iOS devices.


Recall, in a previous blog entry, I talked briefly about the Beluga app – a closed group messaging application that used no telephone numbers – consequently, it is quite different than the various TN-based group messaging capabilities that some NUVOs have launched.   Beluga was acquired by Facebook and looks to be very much integrated into the app and group messaging service that was launched, yesterday.  This app simply confirms that Facebook recognizes that the mobile ecosystem is where they need to be.   I would expect many new and innovative things from Facebook, centered on this communications app.  But an SMS-killer, it is not.   Certainly, there may be some slight cannibalization – whereby users cease to use a mobile operator’s SMS for this – but, as I’ve written about many times before – the NUVOs have long since providing alternative and true SMS-interoperability – something that Facebook has not reproduced here.  And while 750 million users is nothing to sneer at, the global SMS community can reach as many as 5.2 billion subscribers, with an average of 70-80% of subscribers in many markets, heavy users of SMS.


Finally, let’s remember that to us within this industry, we differentiate between a real SMS vs. a “text” sent to another person.  Most users do not differentiate, but they do know how to address messages to other people and they will learn to use these apps and capabilities, if they provide the functionality they are looking for.


Facebook Messenger is certainly not an SMS killer; it actually uses SMS (and has, for quite some time).  But so will iMessage and so does the IM services of MSN, AOL, and Yahoo IM, to name a few.  The point is, that technology behind “texting” or “messaging” is evolving – whether from NUVOs, giant social networks, IM communities, or the MNOs, themselves.   Let’s not rush to judgment and call something an “SMS killer,” just because it does not outwardly use SMS or is not SMS-interoperable.

Last week at the SAP Australia User Group conference I was given the opportunity to deliver a presentation on my organization's adventures into mobility, front-ending SAP as the 'system of record'.  I know that HANA is all the rage, but there was certainly no lack of interest in mobility if the size of the audience is anything to go by (hint: place the word 'mobility' in your presentation and you will always fill the room).




I covered several mobility stories, ranging from the heavy duty solutions that have been implemented (involving over 6000 handsets, with as many as 2.5 million transactions per day flowing back into SAP systems) through to the use of SAP interactive forms by Adobe (IFbA) on Windows 7 tablets (why, you ask? ... well, let's leave that discussion for another day).

Attending the event, I was able to gauge where other SAP customers were at with their mobility initiatives.  And I was particularly thrilled to meet the legendary R "Ray" Wang from Constellation Research and tap into his thoughts and expertise as an analyst.

That event was followed this week by the SAP World Tour landing in Melbourne, including the presence of SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott with the morning keynote. What I wanted from this event was to get a status check on the progress of SAP's mobile apps.  I cast my mind back to an announcement by SAP and Sybase during SAPPHIRE NOW in May this year where a number of planned mobile apps were announced.  So this week I wanted to see first hand where these apps were at.  After all, to unlock the value in any platform you need to have the apps as well, and the more apps that are available then the more compelling is the platform.

Here are my observations from seeing and (in some cases) road testing these apps during the event:

  • I saw a number of real apps (showcased on iPads) in various stages of completeness (some of them aligned with the press announcement in May).
  • It was not always clear which apps were concept apps, which ones were created by 3rd parties, and which ones were the actual apps soon to be productized.  I wish SAP placed each of them in a specific folder indicating what category they fitted into (eg. 3rd party app, concept app, etc).  Regretfully I didn't note-take the title of every app that I saw. 
  • I was quite surprised to see my own app (myHelp for SAP Professionals - shameless plug) included in the showcase iPad that I road tested (reminds me that I really must create an iPad specific version for that).


Here is what I learned from speaking with various SAP representatives:

  • Most of these apps (with the exception of the ones we know existed prior to SAPPHIRE) are not yet released. 
  • I was informed that the new apps rely on Sybase SUP2.1 (not yet released to customers) and also (interestingly) NetWeaver Gateway coming out of Ramp-up.  In my mind this places the release dates for these apps somewhere in the Oct timeframe at the earliest.


What I would like to see SAP provide to customers going forward:

  • More clarity on the pipeline of apps and when they will become available
  • A clearer strategy on the future roadmap for the mobility architecture and for the apps, and (hopefully) a dedicated app store
  • A roadmap to offer a hosted platform for the various mobile infrastructure components (SUP, Afaria etc.).  The opportunity is clearly there, because some partners already have such offerings
  • SAP to focus its formidable development muscle on placing rock solid, awesome apps into the hands of customers as soon as possible.  SAP is relying on the partner ecosystem to deliver a large proportion of apps, but a sizeable core set of apps from SAP itself would provide a great foundation.


At the World Tour event we heard the familiar phrase that 'mobile is the new desktop'.  I believe that SAP is at a crucial juncture, whereby the opportunity is here right now to deliver great user interfaces to customers and bring a fresh sense of 'joy of use' to SAP applications.  I can't wait to see what is available by the time I arrive at TechEd in Las Vegas.


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