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Optical/IP Networks

DCL Opens Session Controller Sector

Software stack developer Data Connection Ltd. (DCL) opened up one of VOIP's key emerging markets today with the launch of a session border controller (SBC) product for equipment vendors (see DCL Offers Session Control Stack).

The firm has developed software, called Data Connection's Session Border Controller (DC-SBC), that vendors can either integrate into existing products, such as edge routers or softswitches, or use to develop a standalone SBC to launch into a rapidly growing market (see Session Controllers Stir IPO Interest and Session Controllers Are Going Places).

DCL says the software costs "a fraction" of the amount a vendor would have to spend developing a product from scratch (100 man-years and $25 million, reckons DCL) or buying an already extant SBC vendor, and would enable them to develop a product or add functionality in a matter of months instead of years.

As a guide, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) recently acquired one of the more established SBC vendors, Kagoor Networks, for $67.5 million (see Juniper to Acquire Kagoor).

DCL already counts the industry-leading infrastructure vendors, including ADC Telecommunications Inc. (Nasdaq: ADCT), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), as customers for its protocol stacks, such as IP routing, VOIP, ATM, and MPLS.

Joe Whitehouse, director of marketing at the firm's Network Protocols Group, says "this is what we've been doing for some time in other areas such as IP routing," and it uses 80 percent of the technology already available in its VOIP protocol stack.

And DCL's doing just fine from that line, plus the growing revenues from its Class 5 replacement company, MetaSwitch (see Data Connection Reports Record Revenues and MetaSwitch Gears Up for VOIP Boom ).

Now DCL plans to bump up its revenues even further by exploiting a market that, according to Infonetics Research Inc., is due to be worth $434 million in 2007 compared with less than $100 million in 2004 (see Report: Session Controllers in Demand).

Whitehouse even sees the SBC product delivering the greatest revenues of all its protocol products, with router and softswitch vendors the most likely to use the technology, though IP PBX and firewall vendors might also be interested. "The companies we're talking to about this product see it as a natural extension of what they're already offering, and a great opportunity."

One of the key features of DCL's stack is that it can be used in one product, a unified SBC, or divided into its separate elements and deployed in different products in a distributed architecture. That gives it a portability unmatched in the sector, claims the firm.

DCL's CEO Phil McConnell says the company already has customers lined up for when the product becomes generally available in September, following its first shipments in August, though he can't name the companies involved. "This is a great opportunity for well established vendors that have been partnering up to now," he notes.

Between now and August there is still an "extraordinary amount of testing," especially around interoperability, that needs to be completed, adds McConnell.

So what does this mean for the SBC vendors, such as Acme Packet, Jasomi Networks, Netrake Corp., and NexTone Communications Inc., among others, that are currently partnering the major vendors?

Infonetics analyst Kevin Mitchell says it's clear this type of functionality will end up in products such as edge routers, and he expects to see a Kagoor blade in Juniper routers in the future, but that doesn't mean the standalone products are obsolete. "They'll continue to evolve," says Mitchell. "There's room for both approaches." He adds that, while the DCL announcement is "another indication of the long-term end game," he can't see it hastening sector consolidation or squeezing out any current players.

With Juniper having already snapped up its SBC technology, which firms are likely users of the DCL offering? Graham Beniston, Heavy Reading analyst at large and author of a recent report on the SBC market, says if he were at DCL, "I'd aim it at companies such as Fujitsu Europe, Huawei, Italtel, and ZTE. I think it's more likely to be used by the softswitch companies than the router vendors." (See Heavy Reading Eyeballs VOIP Control.)

"There's certainly a place for it. It's a hot market," Beniston adds. And what about Cisco? "I expect Cisco to enter the SBC market this year anyway, without having to use DLC's technology."

Martin Taylor, VP of technology strategy at DCL's own softswitch vendor, MetaSwitch, says there are plans to add session controller functionality into MetaSwitch's product line, but no plans to develop a standalone product.

"We expect media policing functionality to be incorporated into [other vendors'] edge routers, but they'll need to be controlled from something that's signaling savvy, so we expect to add functionality into our call agent servers," says MetaSwitch's Taylor (see MetaSwitch Expands Softswitch Portfolio).

But that move isn't on MetaSwitch's immediate roadmap, he adds, and the company "hasn't yet articulated" which functions might be added or when that might happen. Ah, a mystery...

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading


For more on this topic, check out the Heavy Reading report: VOIP Session Border Controllers: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis