Session Controllers Are Going Places

The session border controller (SBC) sector has emerged as one of 2004's hottest niche markets, and the upstart vendors vying for the attention of carrier customers and large vendor partners have ended the year on a noisy note.

This year, the sector has grown from a tiny seed to become a healthy bud. Total session controller sales in the whole of 2003 were $29 million, according to Infonetics Research Inc., but in the third quarter of 2004 they generated $19 million, the equivalent of $76 million a year (see Carrier VOIP Gear Sales Hit $450M).

And the Infonetics team expects annual SBC sales to hit $430 million in 2007.

With that sort of growth in prospect, the sector's vendors are battling to put themselves at the front of the shop window. Here are some of the recent SBC news highlights.

Nextone's Next Step
One of the leading session controller players, NexTone Communications Inc., set out a new technology vision earlier this month by announcing its Real-Time Session Manager (RSM) (see NexTone Unveils Session Manager).

This, says Nextone's marketing guru Dan Dearing, is a move that will set Nextone apart from its rivals, and places it at the heart of operators' next-generation strategies. He says the RSM, combined with Nextone's Multiprotocol Session Controller, provides "the same sort of QOS for IP services as the PSTN provides for today's circuit-switched services, and, like the PSTN, separates the signaling from the media."

He adds: "Carriers need to traffic engineer their networks, and we're helping in that process by making routers become more session-aware, as they're not designed to distinguish user traffic on a session-by-session basis."

Dearing claims that an MPLS router can sort traffic according to whether it's real-time or not, but it can't tell whether the real-time traffic is being generated by a priority customer or not. "That's the awareness our system delivers."

It also means Nextone's gear is working alongside the very routers he believes will subsume some of the capabilities that many other SBC vendors promote as key product characteristics, such as security. In principle, that's also one of the findings of a Light Reading Insider report published earlier this year (see Session Controllers: Limited Lifespan?). Nextone's approach moves it away from the model proposed by many competitors, says Dearing, and gives it a chance to strike partnerships with key router vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR). (See NexTone Demos MPLS Control.)

Nextone also recently announced a major European deal and a partnership in Japan (see NexTone Wins KPN Deal and NexTone Names Japanese Partner).

MERA Gets Nearer
Nearer to what, you ask? Nearer to being a global player to which the other SBC vendors should pay more attention.

MERA Systems Inc. has been busy updating and augmenting its technology, and picking up new customers (see Mera Enhances Session Controller, MERA Launches VOIP Platform, European Carrier Deploys MERA, Uzbektelecom Deploys Mera , and Asia Telecom Uses MERA's SBC).

Acme Bags Seasonal Deal
Yes, it's a Turkey contract! Geddit? Whatever… (see Acme Packet Scores in Turkey).

Other than that, Acme Packet, which was recently shortlisted for a Leading Lights award, has been a bit quiet of late (see LR Picks Private Marketing Finalists).

However, a company spokeswoman says that, in new customer terms, there are a couple of "biggies in the pipeline." They should see a doctor about that.

Other recent session border controller news of note includes:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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