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Group pushes common framework to manage connected apps

Posted: 26 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:network devices? digital home? network standard?

A new industry group is forming to define what standards are needed to manage the ballooning number of connected devices in both the business networks and the digital home.

There's no shortage of management techniques being used today by various service providers and system makers. What's lacking is a common framework for the different approaches to work together, according to the presenters at the group's meeting June 24.

For example, telcos such as AT&T use the TR-069 standard originally defined by the DSL Forum. Cable TV operators such as Comcast typically use techniques built on the Simple Network Management Protocol. Consumer companies are adopting the approaches defined by the Universal Plug and Play Forum and popularized by the Digital Living Network Alliance. "The sheer proliferation of different protocols from different domains is one of the central problem we want to solve," said Christopher Ballard, who is heading the new device management group under the TM Forum, an umbrella group that has been developing standards for managing telco networks since the 1980s.

"Our role may be to rationalize existing approaches, broker agreements, find gaps and drive standards requirements into the appropriate standards groups," Ballard said.

The TM Forum's new 30-member working group is drafting a guidebook from which it wants to spin off multiple projects in areas such as how to discover devices on a wide-area network and fix or manage those devices as needed. The meeting aimed to attract members and develop the clout and resources to address the issues of its ambitious charter.

So far key participants include a handful of systems companies such as Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard and service providers including, Korea Telecom, Telecom Italia and a consulting arm of Deutsche Telecom. The Silicon Valley meeting attracted senior speakers and attendees from Comcast, LG Electronics, Nokia and home gateway makers such as 2Wire and Westell.

Need to collaborate
"We need to create an ecosystem and that can only be done through collaboration," said Chris Albano, a member of the office of the chief technology officer at Comcast. "We are in the infancy of an emerging area," he added.

Chuck Trent, a VP for Cisco's internal IT services, called on the group to pave a way to making it easier for businesses to support the fast-changing variety of cellphones and mobile services its workers use.

"I need handset makers and service providers to collaborate on enabling global offerings in a way that makes things one-touch easy out of the box," Trent said. "I need this forum to send a message to service providers to find a way to make this a reality."

Consumer companies are interested in putting Ethernet and USB ports on TVs and other systems so vendors can remotely upgrade the products or fix their software bugs, said In Ryu, an executive VP in LG's advanced research unit. However, consumer companies also fear the new features could increase already high return rates on digital electronics products.

Jim Thomsen, a product line manager for Westell, said many of the existing management schemes have similar goals and use common building blocks. However, each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses and there is no common way to link them, he added.

In addition, none of the telco, cable TV or consumer management methods effectively tap into the emerging home control networks based on technologies from Echelon, Zensys or the Zigbee Alliance, Thomsen said. "If all these approaches were harmonized it could help companies like us sell not only gateways to telcos but to cable TV providers, as well."

Thomsen suggested the industry may need new conversion capabilities to bridge the many protocols. OEMs will need to consider moving to multicore processors, bigger memory footprints and multithreading software to handle the resulting work.

"If today's routers are brought to their knees by data processing, they won't be available for management applications," he said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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