Cisco SBC technology beats Acme Packet as enterprise market leader

Cisco SBC technology leads SBC market, more enterprises are choosing SBC technology from their UC vendor for greater interoperability and lower costs.

Cisco recently surpassed Acme Packet, a pure session border controller vendor, as the market leader in the enterprise session border controller market for 2012, according to Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc. This market shift demonstrates that enterprises are turning to their unified communications providers for session border controller products as they transition to Session Initiation Protocol trunking services.

Cisco grabbed 26% revenue market share for enterprise session border controllers (SBCs) in the first half of 2012, said Diane Myers, principal analyst at Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research.

Deep product integration and ease of use have been priorities for unified communications (UC) vendors. Enterprises that are already buying Cisco IP PBXs and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateways can easily add a Cisco SBC to a deployment.

"Cisco is the market leader for VoIP gateways," Myers said. "Because the demand for SIP trunking has increased in the last few years, we've seen [Cisco] build up their enterprise SBC market and take the lead away from Acme Packet."

As more UC vendors offer SBCs, enterprises are considering them over standalone SBC vendors. For an enterprise already working with a UC vendor-- like Cisco or Avaya -- the addition of SBC technology offers a "one-stop-shop" opportunity, said Akshay Sharma, research director for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

Cisco SBC: Deployment options help differentiate offering

While Cisco has been deeply involved in voice gateway technology for years, the vendor has become much more aggressive in developing SBC technology as the UC connectivity needs of its enterprise users changed, noted Jason Rolleston, director of product management for services routing technology at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc.

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The Cisco Unified Border Element (CUBE) SBC is interoperable with Cisco Unified Communications Manager and provides voice and video connectivity from the enterprise IP network to service provider SIP trunks. Enterprises can deploy CUBE as an application on many of Cisco's routers, including the Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 1000 series and the Integrated Services Routers (ISRs), which eliminate the need for a standalone appliance, keeping IT costs and deployment complexity down, he said.

Cisco's ability to integrate routers functions like traffic shaping and security with SBC capabilities has helped the vendor differentiate, Gartner's Sharma said. "[Enterprises] already need the routers, and while standalone SBC appliances can just prioritize voice calls, Cisco SBCs can also offer security and traffic visibility."

SBCs: UC vendors vs. third-party providers

While the market is still split, enterprises are increasingly buying SBCs from their UC or PBX providers -- especially if they are already an Avaya or Cisco shop, said Greg Collins, founder and principal analyst at Exact Ventures market research firm.

A UC vendor's SBC can offer enterprises manageability benefits that a third-party vendor may not, he said.

"Enterprises won't have to worry about interoperability, or learn another management system," Collins said. A Cisco shop can easily add SBC software to its existing hardware, he said. If the enterprise has trouble with its UC or SBC tools, service and support can be found in one place.

While Cisco will likely remain a market leader in the enterprise SBC space, other vendors have room to grow, Infonetics' Myers said. Many enterprises still chose pure SBC vendors or SIP trunking providers, she said. Not every UC vendor has a SBC product. For instance, SBC specialists like Acme Packet will target Microsoft UC environments.

Despite losing some market share this year, Acme Packet followed Cisco as the top enterprise SBC vendor in 2012, Myers said.

"Acme Packet is still a leader in this space, but many vendors in this market are starting to become more competitive and gain share, chipping away at where Acme Packet always has been," she said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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