IP telephony specialist Sonus has unveiled a software-based Session Border Controller (SBC), offering greater scalability and flexibility than hardware SBCs for both service providers and enterprise users.
Due for general availability in November, the Sonus SBC Software Edition (SBC SWe) is based on the same code that powers the firm's hardware-based SBC 5000, but is delivered as a virtual appliance instead.
This enables customers that already operate virtual server environments to deploy an SBC for less than the cost of a typical hardware appliance, according to the firm, as well as making it easier to scale up if necessary in future.
An SBC serves as a gateway for IP telephony calls based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), providing services such as translation between different implementations of the SIP protocol that often exist between different service providers, and acting as a kind of firewall to enforce security.
According to Sonus chief technology officer Roger Jones, the main advantage of a virtual SBC is that you can start small and scale up as required, and the level of maintenance is also greatly reduced.
"With hardware appliances, there is a starting level of concurrent sessions, below which they don't make economic sense, but with the SWe we can start at 25 concurrent calls and scale up depending on the server horsepower underneath," he said.
The number of concurrent calls that the SWe will be able to handle depends on the number of CPUs and amount of memory supported by the underlying hardware, but modern servers should have little trouble handling quite a large number of concurrent sessions, according to Jones.
However, hardware appliances are not going to go away in the immediate future, as these typically come with specialist hardware such as digital signal processors (DSPs) for handling complex transcoding operations to translate between different audio-encoding schemes, for example.
As is often the case, Sonus is releasing the SBC SWe first as a virtual appliance for VMware infrastructure, but Jones said that the firm intends to support other hypervisors.
"We're also looking at a range of different opportunities where we can place that virtual machine into different network pieces of equipment, as long as those support the Open Virtualisation Format (OVF)," he said.
The SBC SWe can be deployed either on a corporate network or inside their service provider's data centre, according to Jones.
"It's not a technical issue where it sits, it's about whether they want to own their own security layer or entrust that to someone else," he explained.
The Sonus SBC SWe requires VMware ESXi 5.1 or above with a virtual CPU clocked at 2GHz or above and at least 5GB of RAM. While Sonus said that its software SBC is a more cost-effective alternative to a hardware appliance, the firm declined to disclose pricing.
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