Call quality, and the ability to scale and prioritize voice sessions and UC applications aren't just carrier concerns anymore. From headquarters down to the smallest, overseas branch office, enterprise IT has to ensure that critical unified communications applications won't fail.
Session border controllers (SBCs) can help IT determine how communications will be initiated, conducted and terminated over the WAN. Sonus Networks Inc. is making it easier for enterprise IT departments to scale up their central Sonus SBCs and to enhance branch survivability for Microsoft Lync environments with existing branch SBCs.
Although SBCs traditionally have been a service provider offering, vendors are developing affordable enterprise SBCs as well, said Akshay Sharma, research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "Acme Packet and Cisco, in addition to Sonus, now have enterprise SBCs, so users have choices."
Sonus SBC: Session control, branch survivability in a box
Sonus, a Westford, Mass.-based IP networking company, historically focused on carrier-grade SBC technology but shifted gears to target the enterprise market last year after it acquired Network Equipment Technologies. The new Sonus SBC offerings are the result of the vendor maturing that acquisition, Sharma said.
The company is expanding its Sonus SBC 5000 Series with the addition of the modular Sonus SBC 5110 and Sonus SBC 5210. Customers can field-install digital signal processor (DSP) cards in these Sonus SBCs as their networks grow, or in response to poor call quality, said David Tipping, vice president and general manager of the SBC business at Sonus.
Sonus built modular platforms because enterprise customers were looking for DSP technology for more advanced media capabilities -- such as scaling voice, UC and security applications up or down, Tipping said. "We built a modular chassis in order to allow for both [enterprises and service providers] to grow the DSP density or capacity as they require it," he said. "This has allowed our customers to buy the capacity they need to start up with, and then scale up as their network grows or their requirements change."
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Sonus' software release -- version 3.1 -- will add Microsoft Lync survivability for branch offices on the vendor's existing Sonus SBC 1000 and SBC 2000, which are purpose-built for Lync deployments, Tipping said. This Survivable Branch capability allows users to maintain their Lync-based communications via a 3G or 4G connection in the event of a WAN outage.
"Branch office survivability creates a redundant capability," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS at Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research. "If an enterprise has one Lync server, or only in a couple of locations and the core network goes down, the branches will stay up and users can still receive phone calls."
Branch survivability is especially important as enterprises spread out geographically, Myers said. "Even if headquarters goes down, the branch offices can still remain operational and have that required and expected communication functionality," she said.
Session border controllers strengthen VoIP
Even as enterprises grow, not every business has embraced Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with open arms. There are still many legacy perceptions about IP phone services not being as resilient as the public switched telephone network (PTSN), Gartner's Sharma said.
"Some enterprises believe that VoIP is not carrier-grade and does not have quality of service or reliability, but an SBC is a way to make [VoIP] resilient, with failover and survivable branch capabilities," he said.
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