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SIP to grow leaps, out of VoIP bounds

Irwin Lazar, a senior analyst with Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, recently authored a report entitled "SIP: Unlocking the Promise of Open Communications" maintaining that Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is rapidly becoming the basis for unifying all enterprise real-time communications systems into a common, standards-based framework both within and across enterprise boundaries.

Lazar spoke with about SIP's emergence and how it will soon spread its collaborative wings to forever change enterprise communications.

What do you think about SIP? Is it overhyped or is it truly becoming the de facto standard for unification?
I don't think it's being overhyped by any stretch of the imagination. As far as standards go, there are no alternatives because SIP is the clear-cut winner. All the major players in real-time communications are now embracing SIP, so the industry makes it clear that SIP is the way to unification. Why is SIP further along in the residential market compared to the enterprise market where it is still in the early stages?
There is some degree of separation between the markets. Among service providers, SIP has arrived. The enterprise market is different because the SIP solutions out there today aren't quite yet up to par with the breadth and depth of feature sets they've come to expect from voice services. Enterprises see SIP as a future technology because it won't provide all that they need and want for another two years or so. Some vendors, such as Cisco Systems Inc., are still maintaining their proprietary protocols. What are the ramifications of that exclusivity and do you see these vendors hopping on the bandwagon in the future?
What you'll see by the beginning of next year are those vendors, including Cisco, replacing their proprietary protocols and putting all their eggs in the SIP basket. In the current world, you can't really mix and match vendors' products because it's all based on proprietary implementations for the system protocols. Once SIP is widely adapted, we'll have an IP world where anyone's switch can talk to anyone's router and communicate with anyone's server -- all working seamlessly on one system. Is SIP being hindered by proprietary third-party add-ons that vendors create to add functionality to products?
Many enterprises aren't snapping up SIP because it doesn't have the same feature sets as the legacy phone systems. Vendors have addressed that problem -- coupled with the issue of there being only 15 or so standards-based call features developed -- by developing proprietary add-on standards. Enterprise vendors are stuck because they want to develop robust SIP offerings, but have to do it in a proprietary fashion because the standards aren't there.

The problem right now is that SIP standards alone don't define every last telephony feature. We need a third-party independent group to take these features users are demanding and find out a way to standardize it all. The SIP Forum is trying to fill that role. What short- and long-term effects SIP will have on enterprises in particular?
In the near term, it will drive down the cost of owning a phone system by allowing enterprises to mix and match components from various vendors. In the longer term, SIP will bring many benefits to companies because of the applications it enables. When everyone speaks the same language, a lot of value-added applications will come to fruition. Another long-term effect will be changing how people see SIP. Right now, it's just seen as a VoIP protocol. As SIP brings more collaboration, presence and integration capabilities to the table, it will be seen for what it really is: a real-time communications protocol.

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How can the Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) help SIP bring those capabilities to the table?
SIMPLE extends SIP to support presence and instant messaging services. The beauty of SIMPLE is that it leverages the work already done for SIP, providing a framework for open standards-based presence and IM. This framework can accomplish two things: converge IM and presence with IP telephony and IP video into a unified system with a single interface; and it will also extend presence and IM systems beyond enterprise boundaries in such cases as making presence information available to partners and customers.

The adoption of SIMPLE will tear down the walls around current IM systems and services, and will enable a single means to share presence information between applications and services.

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