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JAIN's Addiction: The Java Advanced Intelligent Network

  • By Apu Shah
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Telecommunication software is on the verge of a revolution. Closed, proprietary programming environments are giving way to an open, extensible, reusable and services-oriented framework based on Java. JAIN — The Java Advanced Intelligent Network effort promises to bring service portability, secure network access, and network integration to the world of telecom and Internet networks. The JAIN effort will define standard Java interfaces and environments for service creation, testing, management, and deployment over wireless, PSTN, IP, and other networks. 

From Dumb to Intelligent Networks: The network evolution

I'm sure you know what a network is, but let's just reiterate for the sake of completeness. A network is a group of interconnected devices. These devices may be computers, satellite links, cell phones, etc. Every network employs the model of switches and routers, which are the devices and logic that allow connections to be made between the devices of the network and empower data to find its way across the network to its ultimate destination. The applications that run on a network are termed services.

Java becomes the enabling technology for solving existing problems in the telecom industry.

Prior to the mid-1960s, services were hardwired on the switching devices. These are what can be called Dumb Networks. They had limited logic and processing capabilities. The service logic was specific to the switch, not easily modifiable, not extensible, and not scalable.

To counter this, Stored Program Control (SPC) was introduced at that time. This was a major step forward, since service logic could be programmed, rather than hardwired. However, SPC was still proprietary and not extensible. Service logic could not be reused due to dependencies on the switch and interoperability issues. You could call these Semi-Dumb Networks.

The mid-1970s brought about a milestone in the history of telecom networks with the introduction of Common Channel Signaling Networks (CCSN). SS7 is the protocol that the devices on CCSN use to communicate. As a result these networks became popularly known as SS7 Networks. This was a brave departure from the earlier networks. In those, service control information (handshaking and call-setup information) would be transmitted over the same physical link that would carry the call. This meant that the process of setting up a telephone link would exclusively lock the physical call path from source to destination. The physical link locking and setup was a waste if the destination was busy. In SS7 Networks the signal control information was transmitted independently of the physical call path through packet-switching systems known as Signal Transfer Points (STP). This eased congestion on the physical call paths and proved to be an enabling technology for call information services like Call Waiting and Caller-ID. SS7 Networks marked the foundations of the Intelligent Network.

JAIN will standardize interfaces and programming models for intelligent network services.

In the 1980s service logic was removed from the switching systems of the network and placed on devices called Service Control Points across the network. The service logic was switch independent but remained service dependent. The service would define its own interfaces, which the switch must adhere to. If the switch wanted to use some other service, it would have to learn these new interfaces and implement them too. The next wave of evolution marked a reversal of this process. Services started implementing standard switch callback interfaces and any service could be plugged in as long as it implemented that interface. These service independent networks are known as Intelligent Networks (IN). Other networks, like Wireless and IP data networks, are converging with IN to form the Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN).

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This article was originally published on October 20, 1999

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