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Optical/IP

Veraz Gets More Controlling

Veraz Networks Inc. has become the latest softswitch vendor to encroach on the session border controller market by extending the functionality of its Controlswitch product (see Veraz Adds to Its Softswitch).

The move comes as greater volumes of VOIP traffic need to be handled across multiple IP networks, and as the niche but growing session controller market starts to gather momentum (see Report: Session Controllers in Demand and Session Controller Market to Explode).

Veraz's approach, aimed squarely at the carrier market and available from the first quarter of 2005, is to split the signalling and media-processing functions of VOIP calls that are often integrated into the same platform. With Veraz's approach, the signalling functionality sits within its centralized softswitch, while the media processing is done within distributed border gateways (sourced from any number of vendors) that sit at the intersection of IP networks.

This approach, says the vendor's senior director of product marketing Ed Camarena, provides a more efficient topology to deal with internetwork VOIP traffic handoff, as the signalling function is not then duplicated by the softswitch and the border gateway, minimizing latency and simplifying the management of VOIP sessions.

Camarena is keen to note that Veraz has based this separation on the Midcom (Middlebox Communications) standard developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifically to address the issue.

"We're trying to lead the market towards open standards, and we're talking to a number of the existing session border controller vendors about adopting the Midcom model," says Camarena, who has no doubt found an ally in session controller vendor Kagoor Networks (see Kagoor Offers 3-Way SBC). "And it means there's less duplication of effort, and a more cost-effective approach as the number of peering points between IP carriers increases," says the Veraz man.

Camarena says the technology is being trialed, but that he can't name names at present. He also adds that his development doesn't mean Veraz will stop working in partnership with the standalone session border controller vendors.

So will all softswitch vendors evolve their products to offer such functionality, given that Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONSE) has already announced session-border functionality in its core product (see Sonus Takes Session Control)?

Graham Beniston, analyst at large at Heavy Reading says, "All the softswitch vendors will likely go this way. It's a very important technology to understand. I wouldn't buy a softswitch from a company that didn't understand session border controller technology and the need for it," though that doesn't mean all softswitch vendors will take the exact same route as Veraz.

Beniston says that splitting the functions means "you can have a series of grunt boxes doing all the hard work, while a centralized smart box does all the thinking." Beniston adds that he's investigating the pros and cons for a report that's due for publication next February.

Beniston also says such moves might also end in market consolidation if some softswitch vendors decide to buy the technology they need instead of developing it themselves, noting that a number of close relationships have already been forged (see Siemens Resells Kagoor Controllers and Marconi Resells Newport Session Controller).

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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