We are all hung up just now on ‘monetization.’ It will also be a major theme at the upcoming TM Forum Management World Americas event in Orlando. I receive countless press releases on the subject and occasionally I get excited about what I’m reading. Today was one of those days.

A previously unknown entity called ConteXtream announced, rather aptly, that it had come out of stealth mode to discuss what it describes as its ‘Service Delivery Grid’ (SDG) technology, that offers network operators a radically new approach to monetizing and managing their broadband networks. Oh no, I hear you groan, yet another three-letter acronym! Forgetting that for one minute, the supporting story made more interesting reading. It went something like this…..

For years network operators have been stuck in the middle with relation to their broadband access products. Having originally built and successfully marketed ‘high-speed data’ as the access to the Internet, they were disconcerted when Internet sites and over-the-top (OTT) players successfully captured the major portion of the value these high speed pipes created. Sound familiar? But wait, there’s more: If operators can change their paradigm and move their networks from pipes to clouds, they can reclaim the value the OTTs have won.

Oh yeah, we’ve heard that before, too. ConteXtream states that its approach enables operators to go one better than the OTTs. By leveraging the wealth of information content operators possess about subscribers, applications, their own networks and application servers, operators can create what it calls ‘Smart Clouds.’ Ho hum, that isn’t so new, but here’s the punchline.

Every subscriber’s application requests are ideally matched to and served by the application servers. The SDG effectively virtualizes how subscribers connect to the applications they are running. In the ConteXtream system, each subscriber-application flow (session) is allocated a micro-session processor (MSP), which is really just a part of a standard off-the-shelf server. Applying grid computing principles, all the traffic in that flow is routed through the micro-session processor; the MSP also receives all the context information about the flow. This fused context determines how the session should be handled, to which servers it should be sent, what NAT rules should be applied, what billing information should be added or whether packets should be resized.

The goal is to transform the network into a cloud, making the network smarter and more valuable. Virtualized networks permit the same number of subscribers to be supported by fewer application servers, meaning a lower investment in software and hardware. Operators can then create personalized services, orchestrating multiple application servers to work together according to each subscriber’s individual needs or requirements.

This ties nicely with what the Dumindra Ratnayaka, CEO of Etisalat Lanka said at the SDP Asia event last week in Singapore. His company has opened its own SDP to third parties via published APIs and provided them with an SDK (software development kit) to encourage local application development. That’s being done by plenty of other companies, of course, but in Sri Lanka the developers are encouraged to include the utilization of Etisalat Lanka’s network services to get the best performance and create stickiness.

The objectives of ConteXtream and Etisalat Lanka are not dissimilar, though the means are, i.e. to make the network an integral part of the application and its performance. In other words creating ‘smart pipes’ that truly add value to the customer’s experience, (and, subsequently, the bottom line).