VoIP app hunt continues…Broadsoft, Metaswitch, Veraz, etc.

The never-ending search to find the right formula to do for apps on voice-over-IP and carrier networks what the iPhone (and maybe now the Droid?) has done on mobile networks continues unabated. In this episode, we hear from Broadsoft, Metaswitch, Veraz and others. …

The prize is obvious but the hunt has been treacherous.

If some vendor can break the code and find an approach that makes “phone apps,” for lack of a better phrase, successful,  we’ll be the first to tell you about. Meanwhile, vendors keep trying.

This week, VoIP softswitch vendor Broadsoft made yet another stab in this direction, unveiling a new platform dubbed BroadSoft Marketplace that will let its customers build their own custom application stores. Now BroadSoft has some big name customers under its belt around the globe, but on the app front the early adopters tend to be smaller players like Comporium, SimpleSignal, Telesphere and WorldxChange, all of which checked in this week with plans to launch new stores on the platform.broadsoft-xtended.jpg

The Broadsoft-enabled stores would get full service provider branding and include Broadsoft and third-party apps in areas such as call management and Web 2.0/social media — apps built using the open APIs the vendor released and has been touting for several years now.

The move continues to place BroadSoft out on the leading edge in making app platform bets. Late last year it purchased rival Sylantro, in large part to get its hands on its app server and customers, and it is supporting the app platform it acquired from Genband as well.

Competitors, meanwhile, are taking a mixed approach to this potential market.

At SUPERCOMM last week, MetaSwitch repositioned its MetaSphere application platform. Rather than just leveraging the server for new service creation, the MetaSphere platform is now also serving as the way it delivers legacy, Class 5–type features. That makes MetaSphere in some ways less interesting (it’s not about shiny new services) but also more important as well (it’s part of the vendor’s core environment now, delivering core features — not something out on the periphery). Metaswitch calls this new functionality a PSTN emulation server. Catchy. The vendor also touted is Innovators Community, a site supporting third-party development on the MetaSphere platform, claiming 500 members from 200 companies.

Finally, I was talking today with yet another competitor in this space, Veraz Networks, whose focus this past year it admits has been more on quick wins like session border controller installments and a relatively new SIP gateway product. While Veraz plays more in the Class 4 switch and interconnect market, where voice 2.0 services are less important, it has seen better demos than deployments of such converged voice services. “There’s always been a lot of interest in brokers and open APIs and Web 2.0-meets-telco stuff,” said Gus Elmer, director of marketing for Veraz. “But our experience has been that it makes for fantastic demos and tremendous lab [projects], but they never deploy it. You get sucked into an endless lab demo loop.”

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