The growth of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based communications is one trend spurring the rise of session border controller (SBC) technology as a key means of securing IP communications. Many UC and VoIP vendors use third-party SBC tools for their platforms, but starting this week, Siemens Enterprise Communications is marketing an in-house SBC solution.
Siemens' product is called OpenScape Session Border Controller (SBC) -- the latest addition to its OpenScape line of UC and contact center offerings -- and it's specifically designed for the security issues that can arise with SIP-based VoIP traffic.
"Our OpenScape Branch offering had session border controller capability built into it already, it just didn't have the scalability we wanted for our larger enterprise customers," said Michael Leo, senior marketing manager at Siemens Enterprise Communications. "SIP has become the de-facto standard in the industry so you have various elements providing SIP capabilities."
Customers of Siemens' OpenScape Voice platform deploy the OpenScape SBC on most any industry-standard server, according to Siemens. The SBC terminates a SIP session outside of the enterprise's voice network. It then shifts that SIP traffic onto the enterprise LAN only after it's verified that the traffic has come from an authorized source and has no other "irregularities," as Siemens describes them.
According to Siemens, OpenScape SBC can support up to 4,000 simultaneous sessions and up to 15,000 users from a single server. The product itself is a Linux-based software application, and Siemens is both selling and pricing it in increments as small as a single session, which helps customers cut costs because they don't have to buy large session bundles they might not completely need, Leo said.
"We can be very cost-effective down to small numbers of worker deployments," Leo said. "You can customize and not have a lot of excess capacity that you're not using. Say you have 50 remote workers -- it's not like you have to buy 100 [sessions] to cover them. The way we're doing it lowers the initial investment cost."
SBCs are a hot technology right now; Infonetics Research in April said enterprise SBC revenue grew 70 percent in 2010 off of continued adoption of SIP trunking services by enterprises. The enterprise SBC market, Infonetics contends, will grow five-fold between 2010 and 2015, and Acme Packet and Cisco continue to lead it, together accounting for more than half of worldwide SBC sales in 2010.
Siemens, like many of its competitors, previously used session border control technology from Acme Packet. It will now focus primarily on its own SBC, but will continue offer SBC products from Acme Packet for the very largest deployments, and for organizations that have already standardized on Acme Packet products.
"We wanted to be the owner of our own roadmaps, and not have to go to a third party for feature requests," Leo said.
The overall growth in SBCs is no big surprise, Leo said.
"All service providers are using session border controllers defend their network edge," he explained. "So enterprise customers started saying, I need to defend my network edge, too."
"Think of it like you would a data firewall, but very much designed for VoIP," Leo added. "It has to work well. You don't care if your e-mail shows up two seconds late, but you definitely care if your voice shows up two seconds late."