|Europe II 2007
|SIP network strategies
Olle Westerberg is the CEO, of Ingate Systems. He has had more than 20 years of experience in the technology sector in a wide range of roles, from hands-on software development to company leadership. Mr Westerberg held senior management positions with Ericsson, DSC Communications and Alcatel with a focus on international sales and marketing activities, serving as Vice President, Private Operators at Ericsson Switzerland and Vice President, Sales, EMEA at DSC. Mr Westerberg gained first-hand experience with small business needs as the CEO of Swedenís first dedicated e-service company, Buybridge. Mr Westerberg holds an MSc in Engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm) and a Master of Business Administration degree from the London Business School.
The movement towards all-IP communications, as a way to provide seamless connectivity between networks, is almost unstoppable. Within a few years, we are likely to see just about every communication device and every network using IP. SIP, the Session Initiation Protocol, is a simple tool that creates the communications ësessionsí that make VoIP, multimedia distribution, presence sensing, instant messaging and a host of other services possible. This is transforming the way businesses communicate internally, with clients and with customers.
The Internet has literally transformed the way companies do business. When the Internet first started as a defence, research and university network, few anticipated just how widely accepted its use would be. Email and Web surfing have become so popular that today they are used on a daily basis by nearly every company around the world. New Internet-based applications are changing the communications landscape even further; VoIP (Voice over IP) is quickly becoming one of those transformative technologies that will soon make us wonder how we ever did business without it. VoIP is a real-time service, itís one of those tools that, unlike email, lets us communicate immediately, as do instant messaging that lets us chat with colleagues right now, and those ëpresenceí features that let you know who is available for a quick call right now. Real-time communications applications – not only VoIP – are becoming increasingly useful to companies with broadband Internet connections. SIP, Session Initiation Protocol, is the standard upon which all of these real-time applications are based. If SIP hasnít become a big part of your corporate network strategy, it should. There are a number of significant advantages to using SIP, including interoperability and future-proofing. SIP – Session Initiation Protocol SIP began as a way to start sessions between users on the Internet. It has since become the basis for a wide variety of applications, such as IP telephony with video, presence, conference calls with video, application sharing and instant messaging. In the future, SIP will enable applications from games to the monitoring and control of a smart home. SIP has grown beyond the desktop – it has become the standard protocol for multimedia on the third generation mobile phone system (3G, IMS). A powerful force driving the acceptance of, and production of applications for, SIP is Microsoftís Office Live Communication Server. In addition, most if not all of the leading PBX vendors are now deploying SIP-based, IP-based PBXs to meet the demands of the market. SIP uses the same infrastructure as the Internet. It is a standard protocol with the purpose of ensuring interoperability. Since SIP is a standard, all products based on SIP should work seamlessly with one another. This straightforward approach future-proofs the network – as it is automatically set up to leverage new SIP-based technologies as they are developed. IP telephony IP telephony – where ordinary telephony is transported over IP – represents just a fraction of the communication capabilities for which SIP was created. Manufacturers are busy churning out products and software that take advantage of the standard Internet protocol. SIP telephones, PC clients, SIP servers, SIP-based IP-PBXs, routers and firewalls that handle SIP are just the beginning of what we can expect from companies eager to bring SIP to the enterprise. Within a company, using the local network, SIP can bring every employee IM applications, presence, white boarding and even video – along with VoIP – to share ideas and communicate. With tools, employees can choose the form of communication most appropriate for their needs. With SIP, these communications tools can also be used outside the enterprise network for secure real-time applications with external customers or partners and, as well, to provide these capabilities to branch offices and remote workers, reducing costs and improving efficiency. Leveraging the network In order to leverage SIP outside the enterprise, the network must handle both incoming and outgoing SIP traffic, so the firewall/edge device must also be SIP-capable. The majority of current firewalls and NAT-routers, network address translation-routers, are not designed to handle real-time communication, restricting the use of VoIP and the like to within the enterprise LAN. In order to communicate with anyone – employees working from home or from hotels, business partners or even customers – situated outside the LAN, the enterprise firewall must have SIP support. Firewalls or network edge devices with SIP support should also provide effective control over the SIP traffic flow and, at the same time, protect the enterprise network, including the IP-PBX, against attacks and unauthorized use. Like any enterprise-class firewall, they need to handle the SIP traffic while maintaining control and security of the traditional data traffic to and from the enterprise network. Global connectivity One of the IETFís, Internet Engineering Task Force, goals in creating SIP was to facilitate global connectivity, so that everyone would be reachable anywhere, at anytime. Breaking down the barriers of country, time zone, even liberating us from the constraints of landline telephone communications, SIPís true vision was to bring the global business community together for collaboration, to improve productivity and generally help everyone work smarter, together. Global connectivity is beginning to happen in three steps. First, the adoption of SIP trunking, a technology that rapidly reduces communications costs by eliminating redundancies and making a connection between VoIP and the PSTN, public switched telephone network. The next step is allowing remote workers to utilize their corporate VoIP, IM etc. by accessing these features from anywhere, as long as there is access to an Internet connection. Last, this revolution toward global connectivity will happen as enterprises communicate with each other, freely and in real time over the Internet. SIP trunking A SIP trunk is a SIP-controlled link between an IP-PBX and a service provider for voice over IP. Unlike traditional telephony, where a physical, wired and switched connection is needed to connect the caller to the receiver, a SIP trunk uses logical connections from one point to another over an IP network, working the same way the public Internet functions. The emergence of service providers offering SIP trunks to enterprises means that enterprises can outsource their PSTN connectivity to a third party – the service provider. All calls, including long-distance calls, are carried over the Internet – even internationally – and the connection to the PSTN is as close as possible to the party you are trying to reach. The call is passed over the PSTN from that connecting point to its final destination. For companies doing business globally, this can have a significant impact on long-distance communications costs. SIP trunks reduce costs by making it unnecessary to purchase ISDN, BRIs, Basic Rate Interfaces, PRIs, Primary Rate Interfaces, or local PSTN gateways. SIP trunks also produce long-term savings by supporting business growth. Existing broadband IP connections typically have enough excess capacity to handle VoIP calls, often without needing to purchase additional capacity. Remote workers Nearly 40 per cent of employees, according to recent studies, work away from the office occasionally. Most want access to the tools that the IP-PBX offers at their office. SIP can deliver that and enable real-time communications for remote users situated behind residential NATs or hotel NATs.There are solutions that enable SIP traffic to traverse both near-end firewalls/NATs and far end NATs while maintaining security. Today, a number of companies offer these far-end NAT traversal solutions for the remote worker, satellite office, etc., that effectively extend the desktop to wherever employees may be and enable secure, universal access to IP communication from any available Internet connection. Enterprise-to-enterprise As more and more enterprises implement SIP-based communication tools, it will be possible to communicate between enterprises in real-time over IP. Let your customers choose the best communication method for their location and needs: application sharing; IM; real-time video; or, VoIP. In time, with SIP, we will achieve the true vision of global connectivity. The vision of true global connectivity is for everyone to be able to communicate with anyone, anytime, wherever they may be located at that moment. For this to happen, SIP must become a universal protocol supported on all devices – from computers to phones. Right now people equate IP communications only with VoIP. However, with SIP, our communications options are expanded beyond voice. When SIP is widely deployed, interaction will become more collaborative, with partners, vendors, employees and even customers using the most effective tool for every occasion, whether it is instant messaging, presence, voice, video, application sharing, white-boarding or file sharing. Preparing the enterprise network for SIP prepares it for the future and creates a network that today gives users a variety of effective, efficient, forms of communication with a rapid return on investment.