Heavy Reading
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

VOIP Session Border Controllers: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis

Telecom network operators, cable companies, and ISPs are now realizing what voice-over-IP (VOIP) vendors have known for some time: Any VOIP deployment will require session border control functionality in one form or another.

A session border controller (SBC) is a piece of network equipment or a collection of functions that control real-time session traffic at the signaling, call-control, and packet layers as they cross a notional packet-to-packet network border between networks or between network segments. SBCs are critical to the deployment of VOIP networks, because they address the inability of real-time session traffic to cross network address translation (NAT) device or firewall boundaries. Signaling protocols such as H.323, MGCP, and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) transfer information including media session endpoint IP addresses and UDP port numbers in different layers above OSI Layer 4 (IETF TCP/UDP). This information cannot be seen by a normal firewall or NAT device, so the subsequent sessions set up are not recognized, do not pass through firewalls, and have incompatible IP addresses across NAT boundaries. SBCs allow NAT and firewall traversal, normally by incorporating those elements with signaling controllers for the required signaling protocols.

VOIP Session Border Controllers: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis presents the most detailed, comprehensive competitive analysis of session border controllers ever undertaken. In key product categories, it provides granular information on every important aspect of the functionality and performance of each vendor's offering, in matrix format. It then uses a weighted system to provide a high-level view of which SBCs represent the best overall choice for different applications.

This report is based on extensive one-on-one interviews with service providers and equipment vendors, as well as an exclusive online survey of telecom operators worldwide. Sixty-six respondents, representing more than five dozen network operators, participated in the survey. Their responses offer insights into current network utilization levels, convergence plans, carrier interest in "packet-aware" metro and access networks, and finally, carrier awareness of pseudowires and the values associated with their use.

DOWNLOAD TABLE OF CONTENTS
DOWNLOAD LIST OF FIGURES
DOWNLOAD METHODOLOGY
PRINT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The detailed product analysis spans three types of integrated SBCs the two parts of a distributed SBC. The scored comparisons span the following product categories:

Intercarrier peering SBCs
Carrier access SBCs
Distributed SBC signaling controllers
Distributed SBC media proxies
Enterprise SBCs

In total, 40 different products are evaluated from 23 vendors, including:

ABP International Inc.
Acme Packet Inc.
AG Projects
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
Ingate Systems AB
Intertex Data AB
Jasomi Networks Inc.
Kagoor Networks Inc.
Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI)
Mera Systems Inc.
NeoTIP SA
NetCentrex SA
Netrake Corp.
Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK)
Newport Networks Ltd. (London: NNG)
NexTone Communications Inc.
Quintum Technologies Inc.
Sansay Inc.
Snom Technology AG
Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS)
Tekelec Inc. (Nasdaq: TKLC)
Veraz Networks Inc.
Versatel Networks Inc.

The report includes more than 90 tables, presenting more than 2,000 data points for direct comparisons among SBC products in different categories and for different functions. Each product feature is rated to provide a clear and complete comparative analysis of SBCs now on the market.

In addition to the intensive product comparisons, the report delivers in-depth analysis of how SBCs are now being deployed to enable VOIP services, as well as how the technology’s place is likely to evolve in service provider networks and in the telecom equipment hierarchy. Beyond information provided by SBC vendors, the report includes data gathered from VOIP softswitch manufacturers, including vendors that have SBC capabilities built into their products and those that lack SBC features.

The following softswitch vendors were interviewed for this report:

Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA)
Cirpack SAS
Excel Switching Corp.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY)
Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU)
MetaSwitch (a division of Data Connection Ltd.)
Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE: NT)
Samsung Corp. (Korea: SEC)
Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE)
UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI)
Verso Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSO)
VocalTec Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: VOCL)


Key Findings

Key findings of the report include the following:

Carriers of all shapes and sizes see a need for session border control, which means the prospects for SBC specialist vendors are generally bright. Carrier requests for proposal (RFPs) specifying session border control functionality are appearing in quantity now. For SBC startups, there are multiple sales-channel options, ranging from direct sales to partnerships with large incumbents. Several SBC specialists now have such partnerships in place. Exit strategies ranging from IPO to acquisition are viable.

Most major softswitch vendors are not ready to address session border control as a strategic part of their next-generation network plans. Suppliers such as Alcatel, Ericsson, Lucent, and Siemens are still shaping their "big picture" VOIP architectures and are concentrating their strategic thinking on that area. This should help SBC specialists maintain a leadership role in defining their market.

In the short term, softswitch vendors will continue to pursue partnerships with SBC specialist startups. Since they do not yet see this as a strategic product area, incumbent VOIP vendors will continue to source SBC products from one of the many startup vendors when the product is required by a much larger VOIP RFP.

In the long term, softswitch vendors may need to fill this portfolio gap through acquisition. If SBC functionality becomes more critical to future VOIP RFP success, the incumbents will not hesitate to improve their overall proposition by acquisition. The most obvious possibilities will involve existing partnerships between incumbents and SBC specialists.

Carrier VOIP architecture futures and vendor strategies are realigning around the requirements of fixed-mobile convergence. Most of the major incumbent vendors are now following the 3rd-Generation Partnership Project's (3GPP) IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) standard. The most advanced work on modifying this standard to accommodate fixed-access working and legacy PSTN service migration is being done by the TISPAN NGN group of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The question of whether SBC signaling control will be integrated into the softswitch or not will not be resolved until the move to an architecture based on IMS is well underway.

Products from Sonus, NexTone, Kagoor, Jasomi, NeoTIP, and Tekelec graded as best-in-class across the different SBC categories evaluated. Sonus earned the top spot in product comparisons involving intercarrier peering. In the carrier access evaluations, NexTone achieved the highest overall rating. Kagoor has the strongest products in the distributed SBC signaling controller category. Jasomi's PeerPoint earned the highest marks in the distributed SBC media proxy category. NeoTIP and Tekelec graded out as the best enterprise SBC products.

Report Scope and Structure

VOIP Session Border Controllers: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis offers a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the emerging SBC product sector. Dozens of product features are identified and evaluated based on a unique rating system developed specifically for this report.


[click on the image below for the full excerpt]


[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
The report identifies and classifies emerging categories of pseudowire-capable equipment, using the unique network taxonomy developed by Heavy Reading in previous reports.


[click on the image below for the full excerpt]


[click on the image above for the full excerpt]


The report is structured as follows:

Section I provides a complete overview and full key findings of the report.

Section II provides an overview of SBCs, including a description of what they are and why they are important, as well as a review of the key applications of SBCs for carriers and enterprises.

Section III presents basic product and strategy information for the vendors whose products are evaluated in this report, as well as for other selected VOIP equipment manufacturers.

Section IV offers a complete feature-by-feature product analysis for four kinds of SBC, distinguished by technology/architecture: integrated SBCs, distributed SBC signaling controllers, distributed SBC media proxy devices, and enterprise SBCs.

Section V contains complete competitive analyses and product ratings for all five SBC types by application.


The report is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

SBC vendors: How do your products stack up against your competition? What are the key strengths that you can present to prospective customers? What areas of your product line need further work?

VOIP equipment suppliers: How is SBC technology likely to evolve, and how will that evolution affect the way your products are deployed in service provider networks? Which SBC vendors are emerging as the most attractive technology partners because of the quality and stability of their products? What are your competitors doing to shore up their SBC technology story?

VOIP service providers: How does your strategy for deploying session border control match up to the way SBC products and functions are evolving? Are there better alternatives available for handling session border control in your network? Can you rely on your VOIP equipment vendor to handle this critical task, or do you need to look for new suppliers?

Investors: In what ways will SBC technology reshape the VOIP equipment and services landscape? Will SBC specialists be able to build a solid, long-term business, or will they need to find bigger partners? Which specialist companies are in the best position to succeed in this critical and growing sector? Which incumbent vendors are making the right moves?

VOIP Session Border Controllers: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis is published in PDF format.

LENGTH: 117 PAGES
PRICE: $3,495
GRAHAM BENISTON
Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading
Graham Beniston is an associate of Heavy Reading with over 25 years' experience in the telecom industry. During that time, he has worked in all narrowband and broadband technologies. His expertise includes IP over ATM, IP VPNs, mobile IP, IP satellite networks, and IP traffic management...
MORE
KEY FINDINGS
Demand is strong for session border controllers among VOIP service providers
Most softswitch vendors are not yet addressing the SBC issue in their products
SBC specialists will continue to find willing technology partners among larger vendors
Acquisitions are a likely long-term incumbent strategy to gain SBC expertise
Fixed-mobile convergence issues are having a profound effect on SBC development
Top-rated products are available from a range of specialist vendors and incumbents
SBC PRODUCTS RATED FROM THESE VENDORS:
ABP International Inc.
Acme Packet Inc.
AG Projects
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
Ingate Systems AB
Intertex Data AB
Jasomi Networks Inc.
Kagoor
Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI)
Mera Systems Inc.
NeoTIP SA
NetCentrex SA
Netrake Corp.
Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK)
Newport Networks Ltd. (London: NNG)
NexTone Communications Inc.
Quintum Technologies Inc.
Sansay Inc.
Snom Technology AG
Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS)
Tekelec Inc. (Nasdaq: TKLC)
Veraz Networks Inc.
Versatel Networks Inc.
SOFTSWITCH VENDORS INTERVIEWED FOR THIS REPORT:
Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA)
Cirpack SAS
Excel Switching Corp.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY)
Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU)
MetaSwitch (a division of Data Connection Ltd.)
Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE: NT)
Samsung Corp. (Korea: SEC)
Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE)
UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI)
Verso Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSO)
VocalTec Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: VOCL)
DELIVERABLES
117 pages of analysis covering session border control development and detailed competitive analyses of SBC products

Comparative ratings for 40 products from 23 vendors in five different subcategories

More than 90 data tables with more than 2,000 different data points for feature-by-feature product comparisons

Profiles of SBC vendors and key softswitch manufacturers identifying current market positioning and likely strategies

LENGTH: 117 PAGES
PRICE: $3,495
To view reports you will need Adobe's Acrobat Reader. If you do not have it, it can be obtained for free at the Adobe web site.