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TMCnet Speaks with ITEXPO Keynoter and Sonus Leader Ray Dolan

Session Border Controller Featured Article

August 02, 2012

TMCnet Speaks with ITEXPO Keynoter and Sonus Leader Ray Dolan

By Paula Bernier,

Executive Editor, TMC

ITEXPO (News - Alert) is just around the corner. We invite you to join us this October in Austin, Texas, to take part in the many educational, marketing and networking opportunities this TMC (News - Alert) event provides.

Keynote speakers at ITEXPO West include Chris Hummel, chief commercial officer with Siemens Enterprise Communications, and David Tucker, vice president and general manager of the Small Business Unit at Cisco – both of whom will give afternoon addresses on Oct. 3.

Robert B. Carter, executive vice president of information services and CIO with FedEx, and Raymond P. Dolan, president and CEO at Sonus Networks (News - Alert), are scheduled to speak on Oct. 4.

TMCnet recently spoke with Dolan about Sonus, session border controllers, IMS and his plans for ITEXPO.

Sonus Networks in mid June announced its intent to buy Network Equipment Technologies, Inc. (NET (News - Alert)) for approximately $42 million. What does this move indicate about where the industry is headed?
Dolan: Vendors, analysts and users have all talked about applications such as unified communications or high-def, low bandwidth video for several years, but the promise has been unfulfilled for a number of reasons – with proprietary constraints, cost and complexity all near the top of the list. The steady increase in the availability of SIP trunks and the clear demand by end users for an open, standard-based environment have finally ignited the move to SIP-based applications. We see the industry heading toward a tipping point, in which the enterprise communications infrastructure in the form of premises-based PBX (News - Alert) and desk phones of today will be disrupted by mobility and unified communications being offered by service providers through the cloud over SIP trunks.

This is a big market – between $9.5 and $10 billion annually. Sonus has been a leader in building out flexible, session-based infrastructures for service providers and enterprises with our SBC portfolio. With the addition of NET [a deal expected to close by October], Sonus will be able to deliver a purpose-built offering from core site locations out to small offices and branch offices. The promise of unified communications and other real-time dependent applications will only take hold when they can be deployed across disparate network topologies in a uniform manner across an organization and together with NET, Sonus will have the ability to finally address that need.

What does this move indicate about where Sonus itself is headed?
Dolan: Based on recent market studies we have commissioned, we see one in three enterprises embracing SIP trunking, and we see significant improvements in worker productivity through the use of unified communications. More importantly, we see our current customers – the tier 1 and tier 2 service providers – gearing up to become true cloud-enabled unified communications providers. Various catalysts are, therefore, in place to disrupt the legacy enterprise communications market. In this landscape, we see the combined Sonus and NET companies accelerating the enablement of cloud-based service providers by offering a complementary SBC and integrated Microsoft Lync appliance at the other end of the wire, to complement what already exists on the service provider side of the SIP trunk – the latter being something Sonus has significant leadership in.

As the market requirements evolve, Sonus has been clear about our intention to gain a leadership position in the SBC category, and we grew nearly four times faster than the market in 2011. With the recent introduction of our Sonus SBC 5100 and through the [planned] acquisition of NET, we have extended our SBC portfolio to address lower session densities, especially suited for the mid- and low-range enterprise segments. Our acquisition of NET [will accelerate] our organic plans by 12-18 months, deepen a valuable relationship with Microsoft, and bring deep ties to the U.S. government market through their portfolio of JITC approved solutions.

How have SBCs evolved to date? 
Dolan: When the first generation session border controllers were conceived, they were basically repurposed data firewalls which protected networks against basic IP attacks and topology hiding. These legacy SBCs did not have protection against spoofing, session floods, were not resilient, lacked transcoding and failed under denial of service attacks. The next generation of SBCs addresses the issues inherent to first generation SBCs and has evolved to become a cost reduction and productivity tool for enterprises and a vehicle for new revenue streams to service providers. Specifically. service providers have expanded their business by providing VoIP applications and SIP trunking services.

Enterprises have benefited by decommissioning their high-cost TDM trunks while increasing their productivity through unified communications, high-def, low bandwidth video and other SIP-enabled applications. As a result, the SBC has expanded beyond offering core security features to help enable a flexible, easy to manage core infrastructure so users can connect and collaborate more effectively.

What is the future for SBCs?
Dolan: The next generation SBC will be more resilient, will be able to handle more sessions and will transcode an even wider variety of multimedia codecs. Further, the next generation SBC will also be smarter and have edge applications that will allow them to make policy and routing decisions based on the end user’s profile. Put simply, as companies move toward session-based communications, many underestimate the rapid growth in scale requirements as users add additional buddies or friends to their collaboration applications or as they make those applications available on more than one device. Being able to manage real-time communications across disparate platforms with a high degree of intelligence through policy-based features will define future SBCs. In addition, future SBCs will be able to do edge routing based upon network outages and congestion.

Finally, SBCs will continue to drive cost savings for service providers and enterprises alike by allowing them to simplify their network design yet expand their application capabilities as they grow their businesses.

We’re hearing a lot about E-SBCs these days. How do they compare to SBCs?
Dolan: That is a great question, as there is a lot of confusion on the specific term E-SBC. At the most macro level, an E-SBC secures and protects the communication needs of enterprises, but typically without the same redundancy or density requirements that a service provider might demand and ideally with a simple out-of-the-box experience. The intersection between an E-SBC and an SBC has blurred as session count requirements across enterprises rise rapidly to support SIP-based applications and as the demands for ease of use and management by service providers take hold.

From a design philosophy, Sonus believes that great technology is only great if it is easy to deploy, intuitive to use and simple to manage. We have worked to apply that philosophy across our portfolio of SBCs – whether deployed by enterprises or service providers.

Can they be the same devices, but just used for different applications?
Dolan: Very often that is the case. To be specific, it really depends on the session count demands, transcoding needs and interworking requirements. E-SBCs are typically scaled down versions of what service providers deploy but modified to meet the cost points and technical requirements established by enterprises.

For example, some enterprises do not require redundant power supplies, network expansion cards or several gigabytes of memory while almost every service provider will have such features as a baseline requirement. Enterprises often have lesser degrees of network service liability to be concerned about as compared to a service provider but yet often want advanced features such as policy.

At Sonus, we try to make sure enterprises benefit from the scale and media transcoding capabilities set forth by service providers while service providers benefit from the ease of use requirements set forth by enterprises.

To what extent has IMS been adopted?
Dolan: NGN/fixed line service providers and cable MSOs have been driving IMS deployments to date. They have been deploying IMS largely to support VoIP services and have been quite successful in doing so. Until recently, IMS has enjoyed limited success in mobile networks, primarily due to the lack of a profitable business case for IMS. IMS requires a significant capex/opex investment, and there have been no really compelling services to make this profitable for mobile operators.

However, with 4G/LTE, mobile operators have to deploy IMS to support Voice over LTE, and they are starting to do so. As a result, VoLTE is fast becoming a major driver for IMS deployments.

That said, the lack of a profitable business case continues to be the most pressing issue for broader adoption of IMS.

What is your view on the prospects for IMS going forward?
Dolan: For the past few years, many expected RCS to drive IMS adoption but that premise has been set aside with the advent of RCS-e standards, which makes it possible to deploy a cloud-hosted RCS-e service without an IMS core. We believe that NGN/fixed line operators and cable MSOs will continue to drive IMS deployments in the short term. Specifically, they will deploy IMS to support residential and business VoIP. Most tier 1 mobile operators will deploy IMS to support Voice over LTE in their 4G networks.

However, tier 2/tier 3 service providers will look for alternative solutions that will provide them IMS-like functionality without having to incur capex/opex costs of a full IMS solution. Session management solutions that offer IMS-like functionality and provide interfaces to IMS applications and services will be attractive to these service providers and will, therefore, gain popularity in the marketplace.

Can you give us an inkling of what you will discuss during your ITEXPO speech?
Dolan: ITEXPO is a great venue to learn how great technology can be applied to change the trajectory of your business – whether as a service provider or an enterprise. The past decade has seen an amazing rise in technology tools and resources that were intended to make us more productive. Yet the most current U.S. Labor Department report shows that worker productivity is essentially stagnant.

Frankly, the very tools designed to make us more productive have started to overwhelm us and have the opposite effect as we manage dozens of e-mails, text, video and voice interactions each day. The advent and adoption of SIP has reached a tipping point, and I look forward to sharing specific steps companies can take to bring speed and simplicity to their organizations so they can work smarter, faster and more collaboratively.

Together, we can break through the complexity we as an industry have created and help reset productivity to a new level over the next decade.

Sonus Networks is a Platinum sponsor of
ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit Sonus Networks in booth # 901. Mykola Konrad, Director of Enterprise Product Management, and Raymond P. Dolan, President and Chief Executive Officer, will be keynote speakers at the event. For more information on IEXPO West 2012 click here.

Edited by Braden Becker

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