Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
Read Full Bio >>

Eric Krapf | January 31, 2014 |


SBCs vs. PBXs

SBCs vs. PBXs As core communications platforms evolve, incumbent relationships will be at least as important as incumbent technology.

As core communications platforms evolve, incumbent relationships will be at least as important as incumbent technology.

For a while now, it's seemed to many of us that enterprise session border controllers (E-SBCs) could be positioned to be the next-generation call control platform, supplanting the PBX. E-SBCs sit at the crossroads of the next generation of enterprise communications--the edge where the enterprise and public networks meet. Logically, it sits a layer above the PBX, so it could serve to facilitate interoperation in multi-vendor IP-PBX environments, while also managing connections to an outside world that's increasingly, well, moved inside the enterprise: your teleworkers, your mobile workers, your contacts within partner/customer companies.

There's no reason that a next-generation PBX couldn't basically fill the same role--the PBX devours the SBC instead of the SBC devouring the PBX. And in fact the two largest legacy PBX players--Cisco and Avaya--have significant investments and businesses in SBC functionality, so for them (and their customers) the discussion may be somewhat academic. (Microsoft is a different case with Lync voice, since in their world the SBC, like many other elements, is deliberately farmed out to partners rather than being a Microsoft product.)

So how much the next-generation SBC disrupts the legacy communications market will likely have more to do with vendor relationships and enterprise strategies than with who's got the best technology. This came out when I talked with Carl Baptiste and Greg Zweig of Genband about that company's most recent release in this space, Smart Office 2.0 (see Sheila's writeup on the announcement here).

I posed this scenario to them: Suppose I'm an enterprise whose TDM or earlier-gen IP PBX is reaching End of Life/End of Support, and I really don't yet have the visibility into future communications needs at my enterprise--I don't know exactly how my users will be communicating and collaborating five years from now (what tools they'll want, what devices, how it all needs to mesh with whatever they're using by then in their consumer lives). But I know that in the meantime, we need a platform that carries forward from what we have now. Why wouldn't I just look to my incumbent PBX vendor, rather than thinking of a company like Genband? What does thinking outside the box offer me, today?

Carl and Greg responded that the new platform can deliver current-generation functionality as well as SIP-based compatibility with legacy gear--"We could go in and sell IP-PBX, but we don't need to tell them to get rid of their old Avaya. We don't have to disrupt their current environment," Greg Zweig told me.

But here's the thing: Genband isn't counting on changing the way enterprises think about PBX and SBC--in either their current or future incarnations. Instead, they're relying on something more tried-and-true: existing relationships and strategies. And here's where a move made five years ago starts to loom large: When Genband bought Nortel's carrier softswitching assets out of bankruptcy, they picked up not only a carrier play, but a large enterprise play.

"The biggest sales opportunity is the former Nortel base," Greg Zweig said. Genband is sitting on 320 installations of Nortel SL100 and CS2100 switches, at some very significant accounts--universities such as Stanford, Princeton, University of Texas, and Auburn; government agencies including the Social Security Administration; and medical installations such as the Cleveland Clinic.

Genband even added support for Nortel's proprietary Unistim call control protocol to Smart Office 2.0, ensuring that customers who don't see much future in desk phones can keep the old ones that they have now, rather than sinking a lot of money into new models.

We're starting to see some very interesting approaches to the market from SBC companies like Genband, Oracle (via the Acme Packet acquisition), Sonus, and AudioCodes. And at Enterprise Connect this year, we've got a session devoted to the evolving role of the SBC in the enterprise. The session will be led by Jim Allen, a consultant and former enterprise exec who's been working on these issues for years. Jim's also got a terrific in-depth piece here on No Jitter about architectures for high availability that blend legacy and next-gen technologies--a great read to sink your teeth into.

Follow Eric Krapf and No Jitter on Twitter and Google+!
Eric Krapf on Google+


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017
March 27-30 | Orlando, FL
Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Special Offer - Save $200 Off Advance Rates

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

April 5, 2017

Its no secret that the cloud offers significant benefits to enterprises - including cost reduction, scalability, higher efficiency, and more flexibility. If your phone system and contact center are

March 22, 2017

As today's competitive business environments push workforces into overdrive, many enterprises are seeking ways of streamlining workflows while optimizing productivity, business agility, and speed.

March 8, 2017

Enterprise IT's ability to innovate is critical to the success of the business -- 80% of CIOs agree. But the CIO role has never been more challenging than it is today, with rising operational respo

March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.