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So much of the world is focused on being environmentally friendly, including the green mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle." This thinking has crept into the world of communications providers, through service oriented architecture (SOA).

The basic idea of the SOA approach is there is a huge amount of reusability and repeatability across all of the products a service provider sells. They may sell a huge number of distinct products to customers, and by and large to the customer the products may look enormously different, but from an internal carrier perspective they might be 98 percent the same and it's only the extra two percent that makes them different products. So the concept of being able to reproduce that 98 percent from product A in order to produce product B is utterly brilliant to anyone in the communications space.

But let me back up just a minute to clarify some terminology. In the world of communications, it's reasonably well accepted that internal capabilities and functionality are called "services," and services are put together to create "products." So, products are the things that consumers buy.

In the past, this distinction didn't really exist in a non-service oriented environment. And so for every new product an operator wanted to sell, the company basically had to design it from scratch, and write all the constituent parts of the new product.

Take bundling, for example. Where traditionally we might have thought of voice, Internet connectivity and television service as three separate services, someone had the brilliant idea of "triple play" and suddenly it became a brand new product, when in reality it's just three things stuck together.

If you're a provider trying to get back on its feet after a tough recession -- and stay several steps ahead of an increasingly tough market -- you probably want to be able to offer new products at the drop of a hat without having to invest significant human resources and time getting things off the ground and out to your customers.

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