This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility magazine.
Today’s communications networking environment is rapidly changing and very complex. IP has become the new transport methodology for delivering voice and video services, while converged applications are growing quickly and video is expanding at exponential rates. More IP networks are being installed and used as core networks, and until recently, these were considered adjunct networks connected to core TDM networks through gateways. However, these core IP networks are now increasingly being used today as the primary service delivery network.
While the world is moving more toward an all-IP infrastructure, the global communications scene still includes a large TDM component. So all-IP networks will still need to interconnect with existing TDM networks. This means there will be service delivery challenges encountered in making these disparate networks work well together. Because of this, a premium will be placed on technology solution providers experienced in connecting IP with legacy TDM networks; who know, understand and appreciate both sides of this mixed communications world; and who can develop solutions that can serve the broadest range of networking options while at the same time supporting a wide range of multimedia IP-based services.
The session border controller is a being counted upon as a critical component to meet these requirements. SBCs not only provide functionality at the borders between network environments to support baseline voice services, but they also enable and support a host of new IP-based services and applications, including high-definition voice and real-time video communications.
In terms of benefits for service providers, the SBC, counted upon in many ways with regard to IP-to-IP interconnection, sits at demarcation points between the networks and provides a wide range of important functions for security, protocol translation, normalization and call handling. An SBC enables seamless communication between different service provider networks and end user networks that are comprised of elements from an array of equipment manufacturers.
SBCs can also help network operators manage calls, regulate data flows, fix or change protocols and syntax, and overcome obstacles that network address translation devices and firewalls may pose for IP calling. In addition, where SBCs are inspecting the sessions – both multimedia and control traffic – as they are entering the network, they are also able to play a major role in maintaining high availability by helping to mitigate potential system failures and network overloads that can result when networks are confronted by denial of service attacks.
Another notable benefit of SBCs is that they can help expand the options enterprise organizations have when it comes to considering choices for communications equipment and solution – for example, a premises-based IP PBX (News - Alert) or hosted solution. Because an SBC compensates for or corrects potential incompatibility issues, customers have a wide variety of services and service providers to select from, and might no longer need to give primary attention to factors such as compatibility that in the past may have limited their communications options. As a result, SBCs allow for enterprises to be flexible in terms of taking a best-of-breed approach when choosing a platform or solution that most fits their needs, and helps to remove or minimize the limitations or restrictions imposed by one service provider versus another. In addition, while SBCs deployed within service provider networks provide infrastructure protection for the operator, those deployed at the enterprise edge provide protection against malicious attacks for enterprise networks.
In conclusion, although SBCs were once being looked upon primarily as a security device, they have taken on an expanded role for fostering successful connectivity and providing high-quality IP service. SBCs can provide vital support for SIP normalization, QoS, NAT traversal, IPv4-IPv6 interworking, support for a host of multimedia value-added services, and much more. Jim Machi is senior vice president of marketing at Dialogic (News - Alert) Inc. (www.dialogic.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi