Why Innovative Telecom Application Servers (TAS) and Service Delivery Platforms (SDP) are now relying on REST and JavaScript

As the world moves forward, the industry expects its technologies to evolve and adapt to new challenges. With so many changes shaking things up inside and outside the telecom industry, standards have to consider a new landscape rich with opportunities instead of walling themselves up with obsolete methodologies and developing techniques. Both REST and JAIN SLEE promise a standardized architecture with ease of use and reduced costs, but their offerings are completely different one from another.

In this app-filled socially-connected world of ours, APIs have become the most important tools used in the implementation of communications services. Now, all major social media or web service providers like Google, Facebook, Twitter or Salesforce offer a REST-based API to integrate with their services. As a matter of fact, REST has become the de facto standard for APIs. The telecom industry, for its part, has followed this trend with the OneAPI, a broad set of REST APIs that give access to many resources within the telco environment. The OneAPI empowers the majority of web and mobile app developers to build and integrate their services into the telecom environment. It can be integrated the same way as other services do, like, for example, Google Maps.

Reliable Standards for Communication Services

At its inception, JAIN SLEE, a specification first introduced in 2004 and JAIN SLEE specification 1.1 released four years later by Sun Microsystems and OpenCloud, promised reliability, standardization, portability and interoperability, as well as reduced costs and reduced complexity. Years later, Sun was acquired by Oracle while OpenCloud became part of MetaSwitch and is now called Rhino. Their specification, more than 10 years after its release, has yet to receive what would be its first update, something that certainly doesn’t reflect the ever-changing nature of the telecom industry.

In the last ten years, services non-existent or completely new at the beginning of the decade, like Facebook, Google or Twitter, now have become so popular. Today, thousands of services and mobile apps are developed based on the REST/JavaScript standard, and a completely new generation of developers is now following this trend. If the telco industry wants to take advantage of this, it needs to follow this trend, and leave old technologies like JAIN SLEE behind.

A Standard Environment Modern Telecom Services

Developers want services that can interact with the telecommunication network and the data network in the same way. They need a common language both for backend and frontend development. For that purpose, the OneAPI initiative supports REST and JavaScript-based APIs. Our own ECT TAS/SDP goes beyond that and provides JavaScript libraries for standard web services, like Google, and WebRTC. Therefore, a developer using our TAS/SDP needs only to learn one technology, that same easy-to-use and popular technology that is almost an internet standard: REST and JavaScript.

On the other side, JAIN SLEE focuses solely on the integration of telecommunication infrastructure, leaving out the integration into the data infrastructure of the carrier as well as the integration into external web services or even the integration into the infrastructure of the end customer. In addition, JAIN SLEE concentrates only on the backend, leaving the frontend completely out. WebRTC and other new technologies are not considered in the JAIN SLEE specification and there is, for example, no way to integrate WebRTC easily, as backend and frontend components would be needed.

Build an Industry of Service Enablers

Developers want to learn and use technologies that work in multiple areas. Therefore, low-layer complex programming languages like JAVA have become a niche market, while easier, simpler and more versatile high-layer languages like JavaScript have become the go-to option for the industry. Both the OneAPI initiative and ECT’s TAS/SDP use REST and JavaScript, so developers can create state-of-the-art telco services the same way they create web services or even mobile apps. JAIN SLEE, on the other hand, relies on JAVA and, needless to say, has a very steep learning curve.

Cost Reduction

If we divide the costs into development and maintenance, JAIN SLEE turns out to be an expensive option. Firstly, because JAVA development per se is expensive and, logically, as JAVA developers specialized in JAIN SLEE are harder to find, they are even more expensive to hire. Most of the time, even if theoretically you could look for outsourced providers to work on your JAIN SLEE platform, the reality is that most of the tasks can only be done by your original vendor, as strict knowledge of the platform specifications and restrictions is needed in order to develop or make changes. With thousands and thousands of lines of JAVA code, it’s easily imaginable that maintaining and developing JAIN SLEE turns out to be expensive.

REST and JavaScript-based developers, on the other hand, are easier to find. As big companies like Google and Facebook invest heavily in JavaScript, developers are interested and attracted to learning those techniques. In addition, with ECT’s TAS/SDP event-based development model, services in JavaScript can be broken down into simpler and smaller portions of code that are easy to maintain and modify by the original developer and outsourced developers as well.

Reduced Complexity

Modern development must be done within a web browser. Developers need languages and technologies they can use for other projects in their careers and not to be limited into a niche market by a complex development environment that needs weeks of work even to be completely set up.

Today’s service developers do not want to get confronted with these complexities. They want to have a browser-based service creation environment with a simple deployment process. JavaScript-based services can be deployed without a lengthy compilation process. Everything can be packed in one zip file and uploaded into the target system just by pressing a button.

Finally, as a new generation of IoT services comes closer, being prepared with evolving technologies is critical. At ECT, we are convinced that standards such as REST/JavaScript are paving the way for easier and faster communication between services, leaving more time and resources for developing revolutionary products and offerings instead of solely focusing on maintaining outdated technologies.