Tango Networks and the App-Less App
This company creates and sells what can rightfully be called a highly featured SBC, providing additional functionality by marrying it to an application server.
Some of you may remember my article, When the Session Border Controller Became the Toaster. While a bit of what I wrote was tongue in cheek, I was serious when I said, "I want SBC manufacturers to impress me with more than how many sessions they support." It's all too easy for today's cutting edge technology to become tomorrow's commodity, or as I put it so lovingly in my article, tomorrow's toaster.
My article spurred companies such as AudioCodes to take on my challenge and tell the world how their SBCs aren't toasters. They had fun with what I consider a very serious subject, and when all the dust had settled, I learned about the innovations AudioCodes and other SBC vendors were rolling out or had planned for future releases.
My love of session border controllers (yes, I am a card carrying geek) and ferreting out who is doing what led me to the virtual doorstep of Tango Networks. Founded in 2005, Tango Networks is a company that has put a lot of emphasis on enterprise mobility and business continuity. With a broad scope of products and solutions, its sweet spot is bridging the gap between service providers and enterprises.
On a personal note, I discovered the company is chock-full of quite a few of my former Nortel coworkers. Back in the day, we worked together on a carrier grade SIP soft switch we called the MCS 5200. Like much of what I did during my Nortel years, we were very far ahead of the technology curve and created powerful multimedia solutions before most people knew how to spell SIP.A New Kind of SBC
Tango Networks creates and sells what can rightfully be called a highly featured SBC. It does everything that an SBC should do in terms of security, network address translation (NAT), SIP adaptation, routing, virtualization, dial plan management, and media forking. However, those are all the toaster aspects of an SBC, and as I've already made perfectly clear, I want something more. Better yet, I expect something more.
With Tango, that "something more" comes from the fact that its product is an application server married to a session border controller. It's the application server and its unique powers that make me sit up and take notice.
Before I go too much further, though, let's take a look at the way that most communications vendors deliver enterprise mobility.
Whether it's Avaya, Microsoft, Mitel, or Cisco, they all provide an application (or two) that runs on a smartphone. Depending on the vendor, the services that these applications deliver include the following:
- Policy adherence
- Calling Name and Calling Line display manipulation
- Enterprise dialing rules (e.g. 4-digit dialing)
- Call recording
To start using these features, iPhone users go to the App Store and download the appropriate app, while Android users do something similar with Google Play. The point is that every vendor requires something on the mobile device to allow users to invoke enterprise telephony features.
Now, I am sure that you've all noticed that iPhones and Samsung Galaxies already have a native telephone application. Ignoring SIP clients and concentrating on those apps that use cellular services (e.g. Avaya Communicator), it might seem odd to have two user interfaces that essentially make the same kind of calls. Why can't you use the built-in app for enterprise dialing and save yourself the hassle and potential security risks of downloading third-party software? Tango Networks asked itself that question and couldn't come up with a good answer.
This is where the application server half of the Tango Networks SBC comes in. The application server connects to a wireless carrier's Call Session Control Function (CSCF) or Mobile Core to act as a gateway and policy engine for enterprise users. It works something like this:
- The mobile user uses the telephone's native dialer application to make a call.
- The wireless carrier realizes that this telephone has been registered to an employee at XYZ company.
- The wireless carrier queries XYZ company's Tango Networks SBC for routing and call handling instructions. This utilizes the application server half of the SBC solution.
- If the user dialed an enterprise number (e.g. a 4-digit or 7-digit internal number), the call is sent to the enterprise via a SIP trunk. This utilizes the SBC half of the SBC solution.
- If the user dialed a public telephone number, the wireless carrier routes the call to the PSTN.
- In all cases, policy for that user determines Calling Name, Calling Line ID, class of restriction, class of service, call recording, and other user-specific rules.
At this point in time, Tango Networks is partnering with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile to deliver these services, and Verizon integration is in the works. The goal is to make enterprise telephony services seamlessly available across the board regardless of the wireless carrier or the communications system it connects to (Avaya, Microsoft, Cisco, Unify, ShoreTel, Mitel, etc.). Again, this is all accomplished without needing to download an app and train users how to use it.Repeat After Me
Earlier on I mentioned call recording. The Tango Networks SBC can perform media forking that integrates with most of the biggest players in call recording, including: Verint, CTI Group, Gwava, ACS, and Cognia. Media forking enables an enterprise to apply compliance rules on its employees' calls, no matter where those calls are made. The same call recording rules that apply when the user is in the office using a hard phone apply when he or she is on the road making and receiving calls on a mobile device.Mischief Managed
As companies grapple with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) from the standpoint of security and compliance, Tango Networks helps eliminate some of the hassle while extending an enterprise's policies to all communications devices and all call types, at all times. While there are certainly cases where third-party applications might be required, that doesn't have to be the norm. This tight and unobtrusive way of delivering enterprise communications to mobile devices is one of those times.
Clearly, this is no toaster.
Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.