Looking Ahead: The Evolution of Services in SBCs
If you have a device that is seeing all your voice traffic and is now capable of doing more, why not ask it to do more?
SBCs have been around for a while now and everyone in the industry has agreed that the need for them is a) real and b) exponentially increasing. A natural follow-on question to this is: what's next for SBCs?
One possibility is the integration of more voice services because the SBC has an interesting position in most voice networks. As its name indicates, it is a border element for IP traffic, which means that as enterprises and service providers move from TDM and solely to SIP, all voice services will eventually transit through an SBC. In addition, Moore's Law will inevitably increase the performance of the SBC hardware. The combination of these trends creates an interesting potential--the integration of various services into the SBC. Meaning, if you have a device that is seeing all your voice traffic and is now capable of doing more, why not ask it to do more?
I have been speaking with enterprises and service providers that are already exploring this potential, and some of the possibilities for SBC integration include:
* PBX services
* Call recording
* Session management
* Application brokering
* Network and bandwidth management
Imagine a service provider purchasing an SBC and being able to turn on Centrex services for SIP customers hosted off that SBC simply by purchasing additional licenses. The service provider could also manage the SBC centrally so it does not become a management nightmare as more SBCs are purchased. This opportunity now opens up a new revenue stream from an existing capital outlay. Call recording is a feature that many enterprises use today. Embedding this functionality into an SBC simplifies the architecture of an enterprise-wide voice recording solution--avoiding port mirroring as an example.
Session management has many definitions, and one of them is the ability to route and manage any SIP session. With a centralized dial plan and policy control application embedded into an SBC, an enterprise can take advantage of SIP sessions transiting through the SBC to adjust flows based on network bandwidth and business policies.
The ability to perform application brokering allows service providers and enterprises to easily integrate real-time applications into their business process flows. Service providers gain the ability to generate new revenue streams and enterprises can offer their unified communications services to their employees.
With regard to network management, the integration could leverage the networked intelligence of a second-generation SBC and create a closed feedback loop in the network in which the measurements for the last session help to determine the routing for the next. For example, if the last session on trunk group A has higher-than-normal jitter, the centralized policy and routing server can automatically route the next session to trunk group B based on the peer/subscriber SLA. This kind of networked self-intelligence will be essential if today's carriers and service providers hope to keep the conversation (and the cash) flowing smoothly into the future.
Overall, the integration of these types of services into the SBC can, and ultimately will, give service providers and enterprises more value for their capital outlays as long as they make sure the SBC they are purchasing has the horsepower to evolve to support these types of services.