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Virtualized session border controllers: Are there drawbacks?

More virtual and software session border controllers (SBCs) are being announced in the market, but are there any drawbacks to using them? Are there network performance problems to be wary of with software SBCs?

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SBCs are an excellent candidate for migration and virtual appliances. Unlike other dedicated hardware appliances, SBCs are typically less reliant on dedicated or specialized hardware. The drawback, of course, is that there is always some overhead cost for running in a virtual environment, so the performance of a virtualized SBC will likely never equal that of the same software running natively on physical hardware.

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For that reason, many of the SBC vendors still suggest dedicated hardware to handle deployments involving a large number of sessions. In smaller-scale deployments, on the other hand, a virtualized SBC can handle the traffic load without problems. Likewise, if an SBC is needed to provide translation between two distinct UC applications, a software-based option might be a cost-effective alternative to deploying additional hardware.

Software SBCs also offer something that their hardware-based brethren cannot: deployment flexibility. As a virtual machine, a software SBC can be deployed in an enterprise data center, alongside UC services in a hosted or cloud deployment, or even embedded as part of an all-in-one IP PBX.

Ultimately, the decision to choose hardware- or software-based SBCs is not an either/or situation. As the need for SBCs within enterprises increases, a mix of software- and hardware-based SBCs will likely become the norm.

For more information: Check out this SBC tutorial.

This was first published in June 2013

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