Buoyed by its increasing traction in the session border controller (SBC) market, Sonus has come out fighting with the launch of a software version of its flagship SBC product, saying its main rivals aren't delivering true virtual versions of their core platforms.
The new product, due to become commercially available in November, is the SBC SWe (software edition), which the vendor claims is the only software SBC on the market that has all the features and scale of an equivalent hardware-based product.
That's a claim that will raise some eyebrows at SBC rivals Acme Packet (now part of Oracle), Dialogic Corp. (Nasdaq: DLGC), AudioCodes Ltd. (Nasdaq: AUDC), and Genband Inc. , among others: Dialogic, for instance, announced its own software-based virtual SBC only weeks ago, while the virtualization of Acme's portfolio was one of the reasons Oracle Corp. snapped up Acme Packet. (See Dialogic Virtualizes Its SBC, Metaswitch Goes Virtual With Its SBC, and Is Acme a Virtual Gain for Oracle?)
Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS) is adamant that it is the only vendor that has any sort of scale that's equivalent to a hardware-based SBC with a software-based product that can range from low resources to hundreds of thousands of sessions. "It's the same code base as our 5000 product line with the same performance," says David Tipping, vice president and general manager of Sonus's SBC business, who adds that the capacity of such virtualized functions can be ramped up by deploying clustered CPUs in the cloud, making it very flexible.
For Sonus, it's the ability to scale from low-density deployments of less than 800 sessions (which accounts for the majority of instances, according to the vendor) to much more dense deployments, all provisioned via a software download, that is the key selling point. "It's easier for customers to set up and scale, and it's easy to configure," claims the Sonus man. (I guess you might call that a Tipping point, or you may not.)
Sonus has made significant headway with its SBC business in the past year or so, and recently reported that its SBC-related second quarter revenues of $29 million were up by 52 percent compared with a year earlier. In 2012, Sonus grew its SBC market share to 19 percent, up by 7.3 percentage points from 2011, according to Infonetics Research.
Why this matters
Any company in the SBC market needs a virtual product to be credible, so this is a move Sonus needed to make.
The development of its virtual SBC is a positive one for Sonus, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Jim Hodges. "The session border controller and the functionality it supports is well suited to software-only implementations, and now Sonus has a product to better meet customer requirements," notes the analyst.
It's also something the market expects, as carriers and analysts alike have long identified core IP network elements as the most suitable for early network functions virtualization (NFV) deployments. (See Orange Has High Hopes for NFV.)
But comparing its own performance claims against the specification sheets of rival vendors, which is what Sonus has done to fuel its claims of enhanced capabilities, is like walking a tightrope. If the company can get an independent test facility to run multiple software SBCs through their paces and make a comparison, then that would make for an interesting set of statistics.
There's no doubt, though, that Sonus, which has been busy making friends of late, has some of its former swagger back and is looking to mix it up in the NFV market. That's going to make the virtual core market even more interesting.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading