Wireless operators and telcos are attracted to Linux and open source for the usual reasons of cost savings and avoiding vendor lock-in, but Berkeley DB's recent selection for use in bmd wireless network messaging solutions highlights that open source is living up to a good reputation of quality in the wireless and telecom industries.
"Open source was, of course, part of the decision to go for Berkeley DB, as it was used in famous open source projects like OpenLDAP and sendmail," said bmd wireless senior technical officer Marc Woog. "We assumed that through these deployments and its usage in a variety of projects we would work with a very stable product."
The use of Berkeley DB by bmd -- a Swiss subsidiary of Intrado, which provides the core of the U.S. 911 emergency infrastructure -- is not the company's first use of the open source database produced by Emeryville, Calif.-based Sleepycat Software.
Serving European wireless operators such as Wind in Italy, Sunrise in Switzerland, TDC in Denmark and others, bmd wireless uses Berkeley DB in two applications: its Application Short Messaging Service Center (A-SMSC) and in its Personal Call Collector (PCC).
Woog said bmd, which exclusively deploys its platforms on HP hardware, operating system and signal stacks, uses the A-SMSC as a short message center tailored for appliction-to-people and people-to-application traffic.
"For this kind of traffic, (Berkeley DB) offers a cost-effective alternative for a wireless service provider compared to other SMSCs on the market," Woog said. "The bmd A-SMSC also plays a big role in our Personal Call Collector, where we collect missed calls in the platform when a person has switched their mobile off or is unavailable. After the user is available again, the PCC sends a short message notification with a list of missed calls. Berkeley DB is used in this case to provide an efficient index for the missed calls stored in the A-SMSC."
Shifting to open source
Sleepycat CEO Mike Olson said bmd is just the latest wireless or messaging provider that has called on Berkeley DB, with other market leaders already on board, including Motorola, Logica, Sun Microsystems, Openwave, Ericsson, Jabber, Gemini Technology, and Critical Path. Telecom giants such as AT&T, Alcatel, Cisco, HP, and EMC are also customers. Olson said those in the mobile messaging and computing world are increasingly looking to use open source products over major and proprietary vendors.
"The telecom environment is clearly starting to shift away from closed source vendors like Oracle and Sun," Olson said. "Open standards for interoperability, freedom of choice, and lower cost have always been important to service providers, so for them open source is a great alternative."
Proof of this, according to Olson, is the wide use of both Berkeley DB and Linux in mobile messaging and infrastructure solutions that require very fast, scalable, and reliable data management.
Olson said the primary drivers of the shift were cost and freedom from vendor lock-in.
"Open source components like Linux and Berkeley DB enable vendors to create products with lower TCO," Olson said. "However, it's important to note that it's not just licensing cost savings. Lower TCO is driven by Berkeley DB's higher performance, which results in lower hardware costs and because Berkeley DB requires no human administration or maintenance."
"Open source also frees customers from vendor lock-in," Olson added. "It's easier to integrate, debug, tune, and extend functionality, all without relying on the vendor."
Woog said bmd wireless -- which supports the two main platforms of Alphaserver running Tru64 Unix and using HP IN7 signaling stack and the PA-RISC line running HP-UX and using HP Opencall -- looked for performance over functionality in going with Berkeley DB.
"Some of the components of bmd's products require persistent storage of call or short message-related information," Woog said. "Although full-blown relational database management systems are used, they are sometimes simply an overkill from a functional point of view for specific data we need to keep.
"We therefore looked for an efficient database management system, whereas Berkeley DB immediately jumped into mind," Woog added. "We were already using Berkeley DB in other open source products, like OpenLDAP."
Woog said that after a testing and trial period, Berkeley DB was chosen because of high reliability, performance, and ease of installation "without having to maintain and monitor any other third-party products like a relational database management system. Each component using Berkeley DB just incorporates a library and is ready to access the database at hand."
Woog added that the wide use of Berkeley DB in other projects, particularly in open source, was also a reason for the decision.
"We are very pleased with Berkeley DB and are planning to expand usage of the database," Woog said.
Speeding support and adoption
Sleepycat wants to liven up around the market for mobile infrastructure and more specifically, mobile messaging, which it claims is emerging as the key engine for growth among wireless operators.
Citing figures from market researcher Ovum, Sleepycat said that approximately 85 percent of wireless operators' data revenues are generated from SMS traffic. The Ovum research also puts the global messaging industry at nearly $70 billion by 2007.
Olson said bmd wireless, which is also used as the platform for MSN and all SMS-related Hotmail and Messenger functionality in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is among a wide range of companies in various industries looking more to open source.
In addition to the cost savings, Olson said companies are also looking for better support at lower cost, which they can get in the open source world but not from proprietary vendors.
"Oracle support is not only expensive, but also it takes an extraordinary long time to reach a true expert, who probably inherited the product from others," Olson said. "For open source companies like Sleepycat, it's very easy for customers to reach the original author of the code.
"On the question of quality, open source software achieves very high quality and stability much faster than proprietary software," Olson added. "We're able to leverage a very large ecosystem that really puts the code through its paces much faster and more comprehensively than a single, proprietary vendor's QA department could."