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SIP Surprises

Ask me if I like surprises and the answer will always be, "It depends." Do I like the surprise of finding that my car won't start on a morning when I have a can't-miss appointment? Absolutely not. Am I thrilled about an unexpected bonus in my paycheck? You bet I am.

When I was given a copy of The SIP School's SIP Survey 2015, I found all sorts of surprises that had me vacillating between joy, shock, and disappointment. There were also quite a few "You don't say?" moments that made the survey both informative and enlightening. Every time I feel I know everything there is to know about the state of SIP, I am surprised with a new tidbit of information that proves just how dynamic this technology is. It has been nearly 20 years since SIP was first introduced to the world, and it's still a moving target.

It is not my intent to simply restate everything in the survey. Instead, I am going to pull out what I feel to be the most pertinent information and offer up an opinion or two. The full survey is available here for download for those who want to dig in deeper.

Let's start with a few basics about the survey.

This is the fifth year the survey has been given, and a record 1,098 communications professionals provided answers to 24 questions. A big change from previous years is that this time around there were more respondents from SIP trunks consumers (62%) than providers (38%). To my way of thinking, the experiences of actual users are a more important gauge of the state of SIP than those that sell trunks and backend services. I want to know how it is being used more than how it is being marketed. To me, that is a much better metric of success and acceptance.

Next, the questions were designed to segregate users from providers. While users were asked to answer all 24 questions, providers were asked to skip questions two through 16. This reinforces the emphasis on usage over delivery.

Other basic groundwork data includes:

Lastly, while the respondents were located across the globe, the numbers are skewed toward those in the United States. Specifically, the distribution looks as follows:

Given that the majority of respondents were Avaya shops, it came as no surprise that out of nine different SBC vendors, the Avaya SBC was the most prevalent at 17.05%. It was also no surprise that Oracle Acme came in at a close second with 16.09%.

The number that both surprised and concerned me was that 17.62% had no SBC at all. Are these people not aware of just how vulnerable their communications system is when they willingly choose to not install what I consider an essential VoIP security device? I wonder how they might feel about that decision after their first denial-of-service attack or REGISTER storm?

I wasn't surprised that quite a few chose to not offer up their SBC information. After all, security often begins with keeping your mouth shut.

I was happy to learn that 16.83% of the respondents never had a problem with their SIP trunks, but that means that 72.15% (11.03% have yet to deploy SIP trunks) experienced issues with their provider, edge device, or PBX. Problems with audio quality were the most common complaints with the infamous one-way-audio taking on the lion's share of the grievances. Since that can typically be attributed to configuration issues, the biggest problem may really be poor design and implementation.

I enjoyed reading the reasons why some respondents never experienced a problem with their SIP configuration. These included:

Next page: Operational problems, monitoring and WebRTC adoption challenges

Help Me!

When it came to receiving help for problems, no one provider of SIP technology was a shining star, with resellers suffering the most in the eyes of the respondents. Sadly, I have encountered far too much ignorance across the board and have been brought in to help salvage a number of installations that went (or were on their way) south. Clearly, this needs to quickly improve as carriers move away from traditional ISDN trunks and steer their customers toward SIP. Everyone needs to step up their game.

In addition to asking for help, enterprises are doing what they can to internally support their systems. Yet another surprise was that the tool of choice for monitoring voice services was Wireshark. While I'm a big fan of Wireshark, it's nearly always an after-the-fact tool and practically useless when it comes to real-time monitoring. I would much rather see a greater reliance on all encompassing tools such as Prognosis (9.17%) and Empirix (10.80%).

I was happy to see so many questions about WebRTC and its place in unified communications. While 19.86% of the respondents had never heard of it (clearly, my fellow bloggers and I need to work harder), most had an understanding of what it is and why it's important.

Of all the questions, my favorite was the one that addressed the challenges of using WebRTC. While most respondents personally felt they had understood WebRTC well enough, they weren't so sure about the rest of the world and gave "Lack of Understanding" as the biggest adoption challenge.

If you want to take this further, I again invite you to download the survey and come to your own conclusions. Since this is the first year that users were the predominant respondents, it's difficult to make comparisons with previous surveys, but this makes for a good starting point. My hope is that year after year we see progress in terms of adoption and understanding, with fewer after-the-face problems and issues. SIP isn't going away, and it's essential that enterprises become more comfortable with the technology and the skills of those that bring it to them.

Andrew Prokop will be helping enterprises understand and leverage SIP in his tutorial session at Enterprise Connect, taking place Monday, March 7 at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando. Register now for the event to take advantage of advanced rates.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

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