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How important are session border controllers within a UC architecture?

Session border controllers can be an overlooked aspect of UC architecture, but that doesn't mean they aren't vital, says analyst Michael Brandenberg.

How important do you think session border controllers (SBCs) are within a UC architecture? Do you think there needs to be more detail and research on these devices and VoIP security?

SBCs are an often overlooked but extremely important component of a modern unified communications (UC) infrastructure. Along with translation services between incompatible (SIP) devices or services, SBCs also serve an important role in protecting the enterprise network and UC platforms from denial of service, toll fraud and other attacks.

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While VoIP access and SIP trunking service providers protect their own networks with large-scale SBCs, they do not typically suggest that customers protect their own networks with an enterprise session border controller (E-SBC). Even on carrier MPLS networks, open connections to the UC infrastructure represent a security risk for organizations.

Beyond security and translation concerns, companies are deploying more E-SBCs to support mobile devices outside the corporate walls in a UC architecture. In this type of deployment, users can securely use mobile UC applications in the field without connecting to a virtual private network (VPN), eliminating the hassle and overhead typically associated with VPNs.

Looking ahead, E-SBCs are likely going to be an important element in WebRTC applications. Deployed at the demilitarized zone and the network edge, the E-SBC is in a logical position to provide conversion services between external WebRTC clients and SIP-compatible UC servers. Many SBC vendors have WebRTC gateway support on their product roadmaps, and the rest are likely to follow as the WebRTC standards become more formalized.

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