While much of the technology news this week has been dominated by data center announcements, there is more to IT than software-defined networks. This week, session border controller vendor Sonus announced the version 4.0 release of its flagship SBC 5000 product line.
The 4.0 release gives the SBC a more significant role than it has had in the past. Historically, as the name might imply, an SBC is used at the border of networks to manage and secure IP sessions. Sonus is now positioning the SBC as an internal device that controls traffic moving across network boundaries, as well as traffic moving within the enterprise network. This means being the control element for LAN, WAN, off-net and mobile traffic.
Additionally, most engineers consider the SBC to be a device that manages voice traffic only. Sonus now wants the SBC to handle all types of multimedia traffic, particularly video. The emphasis on video certainly doesn’t imply that video is more important than voice, chat or other collaborative applications. It’s just that video is a beast to manage because of the amount of bandwidth it generates. The Buggles wrote a song in the 80s called “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but in IT video kills the corporate network, if not managed correctly.
Video weeds out the weak and exposes any kind of flaw in architecture and will literally crush IP links that are under-provisioned. For many businesses, this can be the difference between applications performing well or video interfering with core applications, which will ultimately disrupt the business.
Another challenge with video, and I have heard this over and over by resellers and customers, is that there are too many video silos within the corporate walls. Immersive systems, room-based systems, mobile video and desktop cameras can all be found within most companies, but these solutions are difficult, if not impossible, to get to work with one another.
The 4.0 release uses the Sonus Policy Engine to offer better control of network. When a video session is invoked, the SBC can determine how much bandwidth is available between the two points and the policy engine can automatically allot the appropriate amount of bandwidth to establish the video session. On low-bandwidth links, such as over the WAN, the SBC can throttle back the video so business applications aren’t impacted.
Also, Sonus has built video interworking into the platform to provide interoperability between the different video formats and systems. Customers that want to have interoperable video today need to either write some custom code to tie these systems together or use some sort of cloud-based service. Now the customer can use the interworking features in the Sonus SBC and accomplish interoperability without the traffic leaving the corporate network.
While video has been nice to have for many companies, mobile video and software-based infrastructure can make video a much more important collaboration tool. For many companies, video will become a “need to have” technology.
Another significant milestone in this release is that Sonus has achieved Lync 2013 qualification. While Microsoft is a relative newcomer to voice and video, make no mistake, the Lync trend is real and Sonus should be among the many vendors that capitalize on it. Microsoft has been a strong advocate of SIP trunking and is starting to push the voice and video capabilities more. I would expect 2014 to be the year Lync voice becomes real, so the Sonus announcement is well timed.
I find this release from Sonus interesting in that the new features, combined with the virtual form factor the company released earlier in the year, should make the SBC a core part of UC as organizations look to scale deployments enterprise-wide.