Cisco Integrates Session Control
Today, (Nasdaq: CSCO) plans to announce it's adding a session border controller (SBC) to the XR 12000 router, the edge router based on the new IOS XR operating system. The technology, which will be available to all XR 12000 models, is in trials now, with production shipments slated for the first quarter of 2006.
It's one of a cluster of announcements coinciding with Cisco's Worldwide Analyst Conference, which convenes tomorrow in California.
Some observers have long believed that other boxes could subsume basic SBC functions. It doesn't have to be routers: (Nasdaq: SONS) has melded SBCs and softswitches. (See Session Controllers: Limited Lifespan?, Sonus Takes Session Control, and Session Controllers Walk the Runway.)
Naturally, Cisco likes the router argument.
"This is an integral function, just like Layer 2 VPNs or Layer 3 VPNs. Session border control becomes another function inside the router," says Suraj Shetty, a director of marketing for Cisco's routing and service provider technology group.
The surprising part is that Cisco didn't follow the lead of (Nasdaq: JNPR), which acquired SBC startup Kagoor Networks in May. Speculation about Cisco buying an SBC startup dates back to 2003, but Cisco says its technology was developed in-house. (See Juniper to Acquire Kagoor, Juniper Completes Kagoor, Redline Buys, and NexTone in Tune With Cisco?)
But Cisco's move doesn't necessarily spell doom for vendors of SBCs, says Kevin Mitchell, director of marketing for (and until recently an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc.).
"Session border controllers incorporate a lot of functionality now. It's not just about NAT [network address translation] or firewall transversal," Mitchell says. "There are a lot of other security elements and high availability elements."
SBCs are considered vital to VOIP services, as they preserve the signaling that sets up a real-time session. That information can otherwise be lost because certain signaling protocols such as SIP or H.323 -- the two that Cisco highlights in today's announcement -- can't get past NAT or firewall boxes.
An SBC typically sits at the junction of two networks. In the case of the XR 12000, Cisco expects to see the technology go in the local loop, where the customer and service provider networks touch, or at peering points between service providers, says Peter Clarke, another Cisco director of marketing.
Clarke says Cisco plans to add session border controllers to "a broader set of platforms" -- i.e., other routers -- but the company isn't yet saying which ones.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading