I attended an eye opening session with nortel recently on the next great thing for network architecture - IMS - IP Multimedia Subsystems.
I have read a bit on the subject, and initially was under the impression that it was all about converged communications. Regardless of access type, IMS would offer the ability to put applications right on the network, and have them accessible from any device, be it cell, VoIP, TV, laptop, anything. IMS would allow you to travel from different networks seamlessly. From landline to Wireless LAN to cell and back again.
Yes, IMS does that, but those things are just neat little features that are value-adds to the real technology.
IMS is all about the core network being smart enough, and tied so tightly to applications that it allows the network to become application aware. Now the network is USER aware, and protocol aware.
What does this mean? This means the network can very tightly control packets. IMS knows what kind of packets are on the network, set prioritization based on the types of packets, and even prioritization by end-user or content provider. The sneakiest component of IMS is the “Policy Management Component”. This section was just glossed over in the session, but warning bells immediately went off in my head. POLICY MANAGEMENT. Now the network can automatically discriminate and control my bits. They can control content provider bits. They can differentiate on ANYTHING and ANYONE.
All this is under the marketing umbrella of “convergence, personalization, presence, follow me phone services, video on demand, IPTV, multimedia rich content able to go to any device.” IMS sounds like a pretty neat architecture, enabling these services.
Wait a minute. I can have ALL of those features right now. Without an IMS network. For Free. From neat content providers who make neat things. My Primus home phone can follow me anywhere. My Microsoft Media centre can integrate with my primus phone service and I can interact with my phone on my TV if I want. I have a web cam, I can do web messaging. My buddy list follows me everywhere, even to my cell phone. I could use Skype for voice services and have it integrate with a zillion other things, and I could use Slingbox to get TV when I want it, where I want it. IMS will come with carrier specific features. Features you are going to have to pay for. Features that you can get now, for free. The carrier specific features likely aren’t going to be of the same calibre as the applications that are being created by innovative individuals right now. Think Web 2.0 apps. Think AJAX and XML. Carriers will be able to squash independent application development and propagation, and replace the current innovative applications with their own IMS applications. IMS allows carriers to emulate the Cable TV networks, where content providers have to pay an arm and a leg to enable distribution of their content to the end users.
IMS isn’t about converged services. IMS is about POLICY CONTROL. All those neat little features are just disguising the real impetus behind the technology. Once the network knows who you are and what your bits are doing, they can enforce user policies on what your bits are and what you can do with those bits. Full stop. Carriers can effectively shut down independent content providers, forcing end users to use THEIR applications, or no applications at all.
To learn more about IMS, and what the differing components are, I have embedded links of interest above, and created the following list:
1. Paranoid about IMS: http://www.voip-magazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1374
2. Nortel’s IMS Learning Centre: http://www2.nortel.com/go/solution_content.jsp?segId=0&catId=0&parId=0&prod_id=52540
3. Light Reading’s IMS Tutorial: : http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=70728