Oracle Plays Small Ball with the Acme Packet 1100
The release of the Acme Packet 1100 opens the addressable market for Oracle to play small ball and go after a group of customers and locations that it could not have before.
The term "small ball" is used in baseball to describe a team that wins by doing lots of little things well. Historically, teams wait for the big inning or look for the one big swing that wins them the game. Small ball can be just as effective, though, for those that have the strategy and patience to execute. (If you're from overseas and you're not familiar with baseball, just know it's a way more entertaining version of cricket with no tea served in the middle.)
In the UC space, Oracle, via its Acme Packet acquisition, has been a company that relied on swinging for the fences to grow its business. The company makes session border controllers and management tools for large enterprises and service providers. Because of this, Oracle tends to have larger deals, meaning the company typically plays long ball.
Next week is Oracle OpenWorld, and the big news is that Larry Ellison is stepping down as CEO and moving into more of an engineering role. However, there will be lots of other news from the show, including Oracle announcing the release of Acme Packet 1100 – an enterprise session border controller (E-SBC) focused on small to mid-size businesses as well as branch offices of larger organizations. The release of the 1100 opens the addressable market for Oracle to play small ball and go after a group of customers and locations that it could not have before.
While it's easy to say the release of the SMB-focused product is long overdue from Oracle, the needs of the small and medium-sized businesses are quite different than large enterprises. This means that building a product for this market involves more than just taking the enterprise product and making it smaller and a little bit cheaper. Many, many vendors have tried this over the years and typically have had little success until they actually create a product that's purpose-built for this market.
The Acme Packet 1100 isn't a "mini me" version of other E-SBCs. Rather, it's a product with the performance, features and capacity optimized for branch offices and small to mid-size organizations. Some of the highlights of the product are:
• Available as an Appliance - While the industry is gaga today over virtual appliances and network functions virtualization (NFV), most SMBs prefer the simplicity and performance guarantees of an appliance. I'm not saying that appliances outperform software or virtual versions, but by having it on a dedicated appliance, the business is assured that the processor, memory, interface cards, etc. are all optimized for that application. The appliance provides performance assurance, which is ideal for SMBs and branches since local IT resources can be an issue.
• Support for up to 360 Simultaneous Sessions - While the enterprise versions of the E-SBC can support thousands of sessions, that kind of capacity is overkill for smaller organizations. The 360 sessions should provide plenty of room for growth for voice, video and UC services in this segment of the market.
• Optional TDM Interfaces - This may seem a bit counter intuitive. In a market that's rapidly moving to IP, why build TDM interfaces on the E-SBC? In some ways, it could be viewed as Oracle prolonging the lifespan of old world communication services. That may be true, but outages do occur and TDM circuits provide reliable, cost effective backup connections when the IP network becomes unavailable. I believe this is the first Acme Packet E-SBC that provides TDM interfaces, and it's a good example of a feature that is specifically for the small market.
• Session Optimization - The Acme Packet 1100 supports quality of service measurements and hardware assisted transcoding between various UC systems. The processing in hardware means businesses can enjoy these features without any loss of quality or performance.
The release of the product is well timed to coincide with the growing adoption of SIP trunking in the small and mid-markets. The use of SIP trunks has been on the rise for the past five years or so, but has primarily been leveraged by larger organizations. Now that there are more best practices and more engineers who understand how to work with SIP trunks, I certainly expect to see a rise in the use of them by SMBs.
The SBC plays a key role in not only terminating the SIP trunks, but also securing the connections and providing a bridge to cloud services. For SMBs, the Acme Packet 1100 is a purpose-built platform that can speed up the shift to SIP trunks.