Feature Article

August 25, 2009

Reducing Costs, Boosting IP and Keeping Up with Security Threats: All Part of Acme Packet's Focus

Even as more enterprise customers are looking to enhance their interactive-communication services as the economy improves, they’re still watching bottoms line very closely.
Acme Packet, Inc., a leading provider of session border-control products and services that enable the delivery of trusted, first-class interactive communications (from voice to video and data), is differentiating itself by helping its clients do both: reduce costs while boosting IP offerings.
Jonathan Zarkower, director of product management for Acme Packet, recently chatted with TMC CEO Rich Tehrani on the economy - plus some of the strongest communications growth areas (and opportunities) in the near future, from wireless local-area access networks to WiFi in airplanes.
At ITEXPO West 2009, held Sept. 1-3 in Los Angeles, Zarkower deals with another big issue: The challenges of securing and enabling interactive communications for enterprises, contact centers and government agencies.
In his presentation, “Secure Threat Mitigation in Enterprise Telephony Environments,” Zarkower will address new security threats that can lead to lost revenue, diminished customer loyalty, corporate brand devaluation, liability exposure and regulatory non-compliance penalties.
As for firewalls, SIP ALGs, routers, NATS and SBCs, “we’re finding that there are many who still do not understand the differences,” Zarkower says, “so I’m hoping I can help to educate the growing number of organizations investing in IP-based interactive communications.”
The full exchange follows.
RT: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?
Organizations are more interested than ever in cutting costs, even if it means investing up front to do so over the long term. The growth of SIP trunking is proof of this. The ROI for replacing legacy PRI trunks with IP-based trunks is compelling in and of itself. When you tack on the benefits of how SIP-based communications provide access to new services and applications that can help drive revenue growth, as well as other opportunities to reduce costs, it becomes a no-brainer. Of course, service providers, enterprises, contact centers and government agencies all utilize session border controllers in SIP trunking services and applications, and that is reflected in the continued growth of Acme Packet.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?

More than anything, Acme Packet has built its reputation and its success by listening to our customers and investing in solutions that help them solve the problems inherent in delivering secure, high-quality IP interactive communication services and applications. What our customers tell us by and large is that they want our products to play an expanded role in their networks.

Again, I’d point to the growth of SIP trunking as a key driver for how we are investing, with the obvious example being our acquisition of Covergence this past April. On the product side, network and element management is an area where we are very focused, as our enterprise customers and channel partners are constantly looking for ways to reduce opex. We want to continue to enable them to reduce costs, while at the same time, helping them to enhance their IP-based communications services and applications. 

Our service provider customers, also influenced by economic conditions, are expressing a great deal of interest in utilizing our platforms for delivering new services or as a means for consolidating their networks. We have invested in new products such as the Net-Net SR, our session routing proxy (SRP), and the Net-Net SG, our multiservice security gateway (MSG), as well as continued enhancements to our SBC product family. For instance, we recently added a slew of IMS-related capabilities and comprehensive support to our SBC for IPv6-IPv4 and SIP/SIP-T/SIP-I interworking. All of these capabilities will ultimately help our customers manage costs while continuing to expand their service offerings.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?

That’s a broad question, but even though wireline residential VoIP services show continued strength, we’re seeing strong demand in wireless, as well as SIP trunking and hosted services. Fortunately, Acme Packet products play a significant role in delivering all of these services.
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?

Wireless “local area” access networks are the future. WiFi is already ubiquitous and deployed in many homes, enterprises and public venues. As a replacement for local area Ethernet, it’s been a boon for data-oriented communications, but less so for voice and other forms of interactive communications because of issues such as coverage, quality in the presence of overload conditions and availability in handsets. But WiFi will also compete with femtocells for “local area” wireless access services. Again, Acme Packet products play a key role in service delivery over all wireless access networks.
WiFi in airplanes is a niche service that’s perfect for data services. However, there is much controversy over whether voice should be allowed on airplanes because it’s disruptive, vocal nature regardless of the technology – WiFi or femtocells.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?

For Acme Packet, all regions are continuing to experience strong growth. The reason behind this is that IP-based interactive communications deployments supporting voice, video and multi-media, especially those that cross network borders, are still embryonic in terms of subscribers or users.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?

It’s pretty clear that President Obama is somewhat of a technophile and his platform makes some pretty clear statements about how technology can be used to keep America competitive in the global markets, contribute to the development of clean energy, etc. The Broadband Stimulus package initiated by the administration has been interesting to watch unfold, particularly in regards to the reignited net neutrality debate. While few would disagree that subscribers should be able to access legal content, web sites, applications, etc, there is plenty of disagreement on whether or not service providers should or should not have the opportunity to create enhanced tiers of service to offer options beyond best effort or minimum bandwidth service. Just as there choices for mail service - think FedEx vs. first-class US mail - access to high-priority and high quality IP transport services should also be available and not by forcing service providers to offer those services for free. After all, QoS-enabled network infrastructure costs real money to deploy and operate.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
In addition to my laptop, I use a Blackberry, but I’m also still lugging around my old 4th Generation iPod purely for music. I bought the accessories and tried using the Blackberry for music and video, but was disappointed. Also, the web interface and number of really good apps are limited on the Blackberry. I wish there was one device that was good at everything, but unfortunately, I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google Android platform?

One thing iPhone 3G has demonstrated is that it really may be possible for a single handheld device to do everything. Going forward, it’s possible that Android, or perhaps another platform, will deliver better usability and great apps plus high quality telephony and multimedia communications to every mobile service provider’s network as opposed to a few. 
It will also be interesting to see how initiatives such as the GSMA’s Rich Communications Suite will help service providers deliver a variety of interactive communications services to these devices or if competing initiatives such as Web 2.0 will prevail for some services or applications. Ultimately, these innovations will create a number of challenges for service providers to sustain high quality levels, high service availability and security. Not everything will interoperate seamlessly, and we may have to deal with new regulatory issues or new types of SPAM. Fortunately, Acme Packet has a long history of helping service providers address these types of challenges, so you can be sure we’ll be in the thick of things either way.
RT: I understand you are speaking during ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles. Describe your talk and tell us what companies or people should attend.
My presentation at ITEXPO West is called “Secure Threat Mitigation in Enterprise Telephony Environments” and it addresses the multi-faceted challenges of securing and enabling first class interactive communications for enterprises, contact centers and government agencies. In particular, there is a lot of noise in the market about what types of network elements are necessary for securing enterprise VoIP and UC infrastructure, services and applications. Hopefully my talk will help eliminate some of this noise. It’s meant for anyone who is interested in what’s really needed to secure enterprise VoIP and/or UC infrastructure, services and applications. It’s for those who would like to better understand the roles firewalls, SIP ALGs, routers, NATs and SBCs play or don’t play in VoIP/UC security. We’re finding that there are many who still do not understand the differences, so I’m hoping I can help to educate the growing number of organizations who are investing in IP-based interactive communications.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?

Acme Packet enables the delivery of trusted, first-class interactive communications—voice, video and multimedia sessions—and data services across IP network borders. Our Net-Net family of session border controllers, multiservice security gateways and session routing proxies supports multiple applications in service provider, enterprise and contact center networks—from VoIP trunking to hosted enterprise and residential services to fixed-mobile convergence. They satisfy critical security, service assurance and regulatory requirements in wireline, cable and wireless networks; and support multiple protocols—SIP, H.323, MGCP/NCS, H.248 and RTSP—and multiple border points—service provider access and interconnect, and enterprise access and trunking.

Acme Packet has 835 customers in 95 countries, including 48 of the top 50 and 89 of the top 100 service providers in the world; and 8 of the Fortune 25 enterprises.

Our Net-Net family supports multiple applications in service provider, enterprise and contact center networks—from VoIP trunking to hosted enterprise and residential services to fixed-mobile convergence.

For enterprises and contact centers, our Net-Net product family enables the secure delivery of a broad range of interactive communications services and applications ranging from basic VoIP to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)-enabled unified communications. It secures the borders to the service provider IP network, the private VPN connecting major enterprise or contact center sites, and the Internet for connecting remote offices, teleworkers and callers to the contact center. It ensures interoperability of both legacy IP-PBX equipment and next-generation unified communications platforms and manages their traffic load and resource availability.
Acme Packet is a platinum sponsor of the 4GWE Conference — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. 4GWE, collocated with the ITEXPO, will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Visit Acme Packet at booth #4G4 in the exhibit hall. Don’t wait. Register now!

Follow ITEXPO on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo

Marisa Torrieri is a MobilityTechzone Editor.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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