There is no harm in repeating a good thing.
As a writer about all things communications, I love the fact that there is always a new subject to explore. Manufacturers are either updating existing products or unveiling something completely new and different. Technology is constantly evolving, and change is coming at a feverish pitch. On top of that, there are so many different aspects to the underpinnings of unified communications that I could tackle a different concept or protocol every single day and never run out of things to say. The downside is that all this material makes it impossible to be an expert in practically anything, but I am humble enough to admit my shortcomings. I know what I know (and fake my way through the rest).
In Taming the Dial Plan Spaghetti Monster, I gave you 1000+ words on dial plans, E.164 numbering, and session management. While I was pleased with what I came up with, I knew that I was only scratching the surface on these topics. It would have been easy to come up with thousands of words on each of those topics and still have more to say.
Additionally, while I did throw in a few product names, I kept things pretty generic. Specifically, I mentioned that companies like Avaya, Cisco, and AudioCodes produced and sold session management products, but I didn't give you any specifics. Today, I would like to partially remedy that and take on one of those vendors and its offering.
AudioCodes is a relative newcomer to the session management space, but that gives the company the benefit of seeing everything that came before it. It saw what worked, and perhaps more importantly, what did not work.
What works is the notion of creating a robust routing engine that can facilitate the movement of SIP messages from anywhere to anything. This requires SIP header manipulation, protocol and packet normalization, the application and enforcement of security policies, and a network dial plan -- all of which are implemented with the goals of transparency, efficiency, and speed.
What doesn't work is painlessly managing the complexity of configuring and maintaining the communications systems of the typical medium to large enterprise. It's not uncommon for these businesses to interface with multiple telephony carriers, have lots of branch locations spread around the globe, and deploy a mixture of communications platforms from several different vendors.
Seemingly insignificant configuration changes in one place can often lead to a catastrophic loss of communications elsewhere. Swapping out one interface, server, or gateway for another can break existing call flows or create bottlenecks that slow everything down to a crawl.
This is where the new AudioCodes Routing Manager (ARM) can make a difference. Built around the knowledge that today's IT directors are struggling with the complexity of their communications systems, networks, and the myriad of ingress and egress points those systems support, ARM approaches network management from a holistic standpoint. Rather than forcing administrators to deal with a collection of disparate components flung around the world, ARM allows enterprises to focus on how they want their traffic to flow and let the ARM software dynamically build, manage, and monitor the necessary links.
Using concepts derived from software-defined networking, ARM decouples devices from the network routing and policy layers. This enables a routing-centric approach to managing a VoIP network. For instance, an administrator can create a multinational dial plan that focuses on connecting people rather than on SBC placement, network bandwidth, multiple routes, current traffic conditions, and carrier costs.
That's not to say that those things aren't important. However, instead of forcing the technician to have to work those configurations out on his or her own, you put the intelligence into the network and allow ARM to decide how to best route calls from point A to point B. Not only does this save time during the configuration phase, but OpEx costs go down when the network dynamically determines the best routes depending on traffic, cost, outages, and any number of dynamically shifting factors.
The benefits of this holistic approach are many:
ARM's graphical user interface is the key to making VoIP management as simple as a game of hangman. An administrator drags and drops gateways, call servers, and PSTN connections onto a canvas in order to broadly define an enterprise's network. Once the inventory is complete, connections can be built with a single click. Additionally, as network elements (e.g. AudioCodes Mediant session border controllers) boot-up, a process of auto discovery occurs that allows each component to automatically register with ARM. This allows ARM to learn the specifics of the network including bandwidth restrictions, SIP session sizing, and gateway resources. Once this information is known, the best routes can be discovered to create optimal, cost effective, and on-the-fly call flows.
As easily as a VoIP network is laid out, routes can be programmatically tested before users attempt real calls. This assures IT departments that they've built their dial plans correctly and calls will go where they are supposed to go.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of dynamic, or on-the-fly, routing. The truth is that large VoIP networks are rarely static, and routing decisions are best made at the moment of routing.
ARM determines a number of factors before a route is engaged including the following:
This allows calls to follow the best route at any given moment in time. Additionally, the CEBP aspect of ARM routing allows an enterprise to create customized rules that would not otherwise be possible.
I started this article stating that I could write thousands of words about any one of the topics having to do with session management, and the same is true for ARM. I haven't said a word about resiliency, database replication, network monitoring, dial plan management, service chaining and load balancing, importing user data, or a myriad of the other capabilities of ARM; but too many words would be contrary to the idea of an introduction. For a deeper dive, I invite you to check out ARM documentation, and watch this very informative video of ARM configuration in action.
Even better, for those of you present at this week's Enterprise Connect 2016, stop by the AudioCodes booth (#1529) for a live demonstration. Not only can you see for yourself what I've just written about, but you can talk directly with the experts. If you are like me, I expect you will be impressed by the simplicity, power, and flexibility of the AudioCodes Routing Manager.
See Andrew Prokop at Enterprise Connect this week! Soak in his SIP expertise in the Monday morning session, "Understanding and Leveraging SIP for Your Enterprise," kicking off at 9:00 a.m. ET. Then dive into Google Apps for Work in the Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. session " In Search of a Google Strategy for UC?"
Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.