A question-and-answer session on what topics will be hot at this year's SIPNOC conference.
2010 was a breakout year for SIP trunking, with customer implementations on the rise and vendor revenue more than doubling by some accounts.
With this in mind you can expect to hear a lot of talk about SIP trunking at the SIP Forum's annual SIP Network Operators Conference (SIPNOC) that's due to be held April 25-27 in Herndon, Va. But Marc Robins, the SIP Forum's managing director, says that SIP trunks won't be the only hot topic as SIP security and even SIP faxing protocols will be popular at SIPNOC as well.
PRIMER: SIP trunking
Here's more from Robins:
Why is SIP trunking such a big topic right now?
The first answer to that question is easy: It's because the infrastructure for SIP trunking is in place now. The bandwidth is there and the pipes that service providers are giving to enterprise customers is extremely good. Packet loss and other issues surrounding QoS have been resolved very well and today you can say that SIP is as or more reliable than the public switched telephone network.
The second answer is that people still need to know a lot about interoperability to make sure SIP performs as it should. There are multiple options that can make it difficult for the players involved to be consistent in how they deploy SIP trunks. The SIP standard is so complex and provides so many different options it's not easy when you look at the standard to know what everybody else is doing. So for instance, if the SIP trunk provider plays by "Option 1" in the standard while the PBX provider plays by "Option 2," the end user will find that both options are technically correct but when it comes time to have a problem-free communications session you're going to have a lot of issues.
How is the SIP Forum working to resolve interoperability issues?
We've put together a task group that will outline some best practices called SIPconnect that will make it easier for people to interoperate. SIPconnect won't make everything happen automatically but instead of the troubleshooting process going on for weeks, we're hoping to get it down to a matter of hours or days. SIPconnect says that if the ISP and IP-PBX were both installed and were programmed the way SIPconnect lays out it will vastly reduce a lot of bickering and back-and-forth between users, carriers and IP-PBX vendors.
We're basically creating a profile and are trying to create a clearer set of rules. This is not to say that without SIPconnect you can't do SIP trunking. It's just that the downside will be that there's a long troubleshooting research phase trying to figure out what the other side is doing. And if either side of the equation isn't forthcoming that's where you run into situations where things don't work and nobody knows why.
What are some of the big themes that SIPNOC will be covering this year?
Well obviously we're going to be covering a lot of stuff around SIP trunking. Some sessions are going to tackle supporting HD voice, which seems to be speeding up in terms of market adoption. We've seen two panel discussions generated a lot of interest in particular: One is on SIP security, where panelists will detail protections and procedures that SIP providers can take to ensure security on SIP. The second one is about fax-over-IP, which is significant because faxes are still used frequently in both the U.S. and in Asia.
Why is fax-over-IP is so significant, especially since we don't typically think of fax machines as cutting-edge technology anymore?
Believe it or not there are a lot of fax machines still in use, as they're legacy equipment that are not easily tossed away. Yes, the medical industry is moving more toward the digital e-fax type of deployment but they're not there by any stretch of the imagination.
Additionally, the transition from TDM-based faxing to IP-based faxing has been a difficult one. Although there are protocols spelling out how an IP fax session should be performed, the ways that the technologies have been implemented have not been entirely consistent. So we've joined with the i3 Forum [an industry group dedicated to expediting IP voice communications on a global scale] to create testing for IP fax sessions. We will run thousands of fax calls between carriers and will collect some very hard data to reveal where the problems are.
Who should be interested in attending SIPNOC?
This is a highly technical-oriented event, it's not designed for marketing executives. Our goal is to pull folks into a safe environment where they can be open about issues they're having with SIP-based services. We want to raise the bar in terms of the level of information sharing that goes on and to prevent people from making the same kinds of mistakes. In general we're looking at topics that are going to interest the people in charge of implementing the technology, not the people who are making decisions about whether to deploy certain applications or services. These are the guys who get called in once a business has already invested in a technology and are told to make it work.