Microsoft's telecomms push calls for NT

Looking to make inroads in the growing telecommunications services market, Microsoft at the SuperComm conference in Atlanta this week will push a Windows NT-based platform as a stronger alternative to Java-based systems for delivering telecommunications management services.

The Microsoft Active Operations Support Systems (OSS) is designed as a platform that telecommunications services providers will use to deliver the next wave of services and applications using Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) architecture. This should allow businesses to more easily tap into integrated voice and data services using technologies such as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), according to officials at Microsoft and Deloitte Consulting, which is working with Microsoft on OSS deployment.

Active OSS is expected to compete with efforts such as Sun's Java Advanced Intelligent Networks initiative, according to Deloitte Consulting.

"That's the marketplace [Microsoft wants] to be in," said Julie Dodds, a principal at Deloitte Consulting in Oregon. "A lot of the Java stuff is very similar to COM and DCOM [Distributed COM]," she said.

Web-based telecommunications ordering can greatly reduce the time customers have to spend to customise services, said an official at US West, which is utilising Active OSS in an application called MegaWeb Ordering Tool (WOT), for Web-based provision of DSL services based on the company's MegaBit product offerings.

"The telephone (ordering) process could take up to 30 or 40 minutes, whereas this takes about eight minutes," said Larry Yokell, director of product development at US West MegaBit services, in Denver. "[And people] can do it in the middle of the night, you can do it on a Sunday -- anytime you want."

Some telecommunications customers prefer ordering services on the Web, instead of over the phone.

"There it was in writing, exactly (the services) I asked for," said David Kaufman, senior telecomms engineer at satellite services company Cyberstar, in California. Kaufman said he used the Web to order services from San Francisco-based Pacific Bell.

In the US West MegaWOT application, customers can find out which type of DSL services and modem they can use by entering their telephone number and customer-specific information such as a customer code.

"It will go out and check your line to see if you qualify for the service or not," Yokell said.

Microsoft's Jonathan Usher, telecomms industry marketing manager, said telecommunications support services usually have been deployed on mainframe and Unix systems, but NT is emerging as an alternative. Active OSS applications can be developed with tools such as Visual Basic or even Java-based offerings, Usher said. Telecommunications companies themselves can use Active OSS applications for managing customer services, he added.

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