The NGN IMS Forum completed its sixth plugfest last month, showing that what started as interoperability tests focusing on the IP multimedia subsystem core two years ago has graduated to become a multi-network, multi-continent exhibition of end-to-end capabilities from the network core to device applications.
Manuel Vexler, chairman of the IMS Technical Working Group for the NGN IMS Forum, said one of the chief accomplishments of Plugfest 6, carried out between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16, was its demonstration of "real IMS," the ability for applications to be carried over two different simulated IMS network environments across four continents, complete with application servers, policy control and billing charging of user sessions to specific devices. Plugfest 6 involved Inexbee testing remote user equipment from France; Radvision testing IMS stacks from Israel; HP testing charging, billing, ease of deployment and OEM interoperability from China and NTT-AT testing IMS user equipment at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab, where most of the other network components were hosted, a statement from the forum said. The whole thing took a day and a half to set up and was capable of supporting up to 250,000 user sessions.
Companies participating in Plugfest 6 included Acision, HP, Inexbee, Marben-Products, Mu Dynamics, NTT-AT, Radvision, Sonus Networks, Starent Networks and Tekelec. Vexler described Plugfest 6 as "the most sophisticated and the most complex one we have done. We created two cores to handle visiting users. We included more user gear and devices, and billing had to be part of it."
John Lenns, assistant vice president of product development at Tekelec, added, "We were able to introduce more complex call flow scenarios, with multiple home subscribers servers involved and roaming across the IMS environments."
That kind of test is a precursor to commercial IMS roaming, and while commercial implantation has been more cautious and incremental that many in the market would like, Vexler said "IMS has become a way of thinking among network and operations planners. They have bought into it, and they think in IMS terms about all their future deployments, regardless of how gradually they go about it."
Vexler said Plugfest 7 is still in the early planning stage, but likely will focus on control plane demonstrations and will include input from the NGN side of the NGN IMS Forum, following last year's merger of the once separate NGN Forum and IMS Forum.
The NGN IMS Forum issued a report card after its first five plugfests
The NGN and IMS groups announced their joining last fall