Cross-platform Rhino beckons telco developers

Just as developers are leaping on the mobile applications bandwagon, a Wellington company claims to be on the brink of creating a new market for telecommunications software.

Open Cloud Ltd. has written a cross-platform telecommunications application server, Rhino, which it says opens the way for developers to write programs that will run on a range of telecoms gear. But it needs to find a telco to help it prove the concept.

"Rhino is at the point where we can go into trials," says Open Cloud head Peter Barralet. "It would be great if we could do that locally," he says, but working with an overseas telco is just as likely.

Barralet has joined Open Cloud from Sun New Zealand agent SolNet, an investor in the company. He has the right connections: he was SolNet's telecoms account manager, and has been using that experience to try to interest TelstraClear in Rhino. However, he says TelstraClear has been preoccupied with integrating its network, following the coming together of TelstraSaturn and Clear last year.

Rhino is based on Sun's JAIN (Java APIs for integrated network) service logic execution environment (SLEE) specification. So developers familiar with Java and Java Beans would be well equipped to create applications for the platform.

Open Cloud business development director David Long (pictured) says there's "a reasonable amount of complexity" involved.

"But just as with J2EE projects, developers don't have to understand the specifics of vendor X's and vendor Y's platforms."

Applications for which there's a growing market include software to integrate Internet, mobile and fixed network services. Telcos that have built global networks based on acquisition of disparate platforms are also in need of software to integrate them.

Open Cloud has been "having preliminary talks" with a couple of local developers, but isn't prepared to name them. Long says the telecomms opportunity is similar to that which mobile application developers have taken to.

He says Rhino must first be shown to be scalable and fault-tolerant, which Open Cloud hopes to demonstrate with a telco collaborator in the "next three months."

Open Cloud has received $300,000 of Technology New Zealand funding for ongoing development, on top of an earlier $100,000 grant.