New SBC Positions Sonus Networks In Enterprise Channel

Though best known for supplying IP infrastructure equipment to carriers, fast-growing Sonus Networks is expanding its customer purview to enterprise businesses and regional service providers with the launch of new session border controllers (SBC).

It's all part of a push by Sonus -- which also has an enterprise channel program on the way -- to capitalize on the growth of SIP technology and how customers' embrace of SIP is creating lucrative opportunities for companies that understand the importance of SBCs.

"The vast majority of SBCs up to this point have really been about enabling telephone companies to converge voice and data onto a single infrastructure," said Todd Abbott, Sonus' senior vice president of worldwide sales, in an interview with CRN. "While VoIP has been around for a long time, it really has been a premise-based technology that without SIP and SBCs didn't really move to the wide area until the last seven years. But the industry is moving to the next phase of SIP and what it was intended to do, which is cloud-enable applications in a unified way across a heterogeneous environment. We're expanding what we can do to enterprise."

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Sonus' new product is its SBC 5100, which targets customers in the 250 to 10,000-session market -- a segment growing 26 percent year-over-year according to Infonetics Research.

Like Sonus' other SBCs, it is intended to provide secure access to SIP trunking, which in turn lowers the cost and makes the use of UC applications like voice and video easier. The SBC 5100 boasts features such as voice codecs, routing and call control, as well as advanced features like advanced SIP message manipulation and built-in denial of service protection, including the ability to be used in access and peering situations along with a standalone enterprise SBC.

Sonus also confirmed a software upgrade that comes standard to the 5100 and has also been made available as an update to its other SBC 5000 products, including the high-capacity 5200 model, which can support 64,000 sessions on a single server.

The release of Sonus’ 3.0 software includes support for Microsoft Lync, Lawful Intercept and Access Service Provider features, updated application management and platform management user interfaces, and a density improvement that enables Sonus SBCs to provide, in the 5200 product, 17,200 transcoding sessions along with high-definition codec-based routing.

Plenty of companies have SBC technology or OEM, or they resell it from major SBC players like Acme Packet, Abbott said. But, a lot of those solutions also seem to fit only homogeneous vendor environments, he argued, which is not what customers seek.

"When you talk to enterprise customers, they're looking for the underlying technology to enable what is inevitably a heterogeneous environment," said Abbott, who joined Sonus in May 2011. "Whether Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Siemens, they don't want to rip and replace, and they don't want to spend their capital. They've got to deliver applications."

That ability becomes especially critical, Abbott said, with the emergence of mobile devices and the BYOD trend.

NEXT: Sonus Wants A Few Good Enterprise Partners

Sonus will announce its enterprise channel strategy in the coming weeks, Sonus' Abbott said, and it's the company's intent to have a high-touch model but sell 100 percent through partners to enterprise customers. Pricing for its SBCs will be on a per-session basis depending on customer needs.

Sonus sells mostly direct to its large telco customers, with some partners -- mainly systems integrators -- participating. But Abbott said that in addition to its enterprise program, Sonus has also been introducing solution providers into its service provider coverage model, especially to tier-2, -3, and -4 type carriers whose requirements bear some resemblance to large enterprises wrestling with SIP and cloud infrastructure.

Sonus will remain selective, he said.

"This isn't 'open the door and sign up a lot of partners,'" Abbott said. "But, we are looking to expand our coverage. We're focused on the ease of doing business for the channel. We will never compete with our channel partners."

Sonus, which reported $259.7 million in revenue for its fiscal 2011, is also continuing to hire as the company expands.

Particularly notable is the number of Avaya alumni that have joined Abbott and Sonus in the past year, including well-known former Avaya executives such as Wes Durow, now vice president of global marketing, and Nancy Maluso, vice president and general manager, communications applications. Joseph McLaughlin, a former channel chief for Novell, BMC, Open Text and IBM, joined Sonus in April as vice president, global channels.

With widespread adoption of SIP only now hitting its stride, the opportunities for SBC and technologies that benefit from SIP infrastructure will expand, Abbott said. He likened the current customer embrace of SIP to what the industry went through in the early days of Internet Protocol and how that created demand for other technologies that made IP-based capabilities easier.

"If you go back to the early days of IP, we didn't have a good understanding of how the routing backbones needed to scale," he said. "If you think about cloud-based UC, this is the complexity of delivering a session that's truly comprised of all the UC components, whether that's voice, video or data. The complexity of scaling the edge of the network -- it really hasn't realized its true hype because of the lack of SIP-based infrastructure. So a fit-for-purpose company like Sonus is positioned to lead the industry."