The maturation of VoIP as a technology is making IP telephony more attractive to enterprises. The potential of VoIP has always been tempered by the complexity and quality of service that it demands from a network, not to mention the financial commitment. Soon VoIP's promise of more robust communication will sway many enterprises into investing in IP telephony. One of the technologies that will aid in this respect is SIP.
SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, promises to be a key element to bringing true unified messaging to maturity. SIP is the IETF standard for allowing communication between different forms of multimedia. The protocol was created with the intention of being simple to use and extensible. It ensures that communication between devices is possible.
If you are interested in IP telephony it is imperative that you require SIP functionality from any vendor you are working with. With the scope of Internet Protocol expanding beyond the Internet, there is a very real opportunity for the integration of formerly disparate forms of communication. Voice, instant messaging, video and e-mail could all be integrated into a single communication medium. Different applications will be able to receive and deliver information in a variety of forms and through single or multi-user formats. SIP is the protocol that ensures that these different forms of communication can be integrated. For this reason, SIP should be a part of any communication software or applications
Don't get carried away with SIP quite yet, though. SIP does have its issues. In terms of security it is susceptible to spoofing and DoS attacks. SIP was designed to run in trusted environments. At this point, secure usage of the SIP protocol should be limited to only within an enterprise's domain. SIP uses an addressing structure not unlike URLs. In the coming years, possibly when IPv6 is fully implemented, SIP can become as ubiquitous as HTTP.
For now, demand that your vendors' applications are SIP enabled, but don't utilize the protocol beyond your own domain unless you can ensure safe transport through a VPN or secure authentication and communication between peers.
Benjamin Vigil is a technical editor for SearchEnterpriseVoice.
This was first published in June 2005