One of the great things about being at TMC’s ITEXPO Miami is that even the water cooler conversations are scintillating. I had the opportunity of talking industry trends and market realities with Steven Johnson, president of VoIP infrastructure provider, Ingate Systems, and was delighted to have a lively and incredibly insightful back and forth about a range of topics including the state of the SIP and SIP trunking markets, unified communications (UC), session border controllers (SBCs), WebRTC and Microsoft Lync.
I wanted to share parts of that discussion and urge you to attend the sessions Steven will be part of, or stop by the Ingate Systems booth so you can join the conversation.
Markets with momentum
We started with my observation that the SIP and SIP trunking markets, even after many years, are still both a show-stopper and a game-changer. Johnson said the reason he enjoys talking at ITEXPO is that, “There is still a substantial audience for information about SIP. This covers the basics as to what it is, how it works, why it is important and tangible benefits and goes to right to a discussion of who should I be talking to and what do I need to know about to assure I find a trusted partner that is a fit for my enterprise’s unique circumstance.”
He continued, “It is encouraging that remains a very important topic for IT professionals at organizations of all sizes to get their arms around despite what may seem like old hat to those who have already taken the plunge and are deriving great operational results.”
He could have added that reality is that VoIP is not just a future inevitability, but for most companies, what SIP enables needs to be mad a central consideration of their communications present.
This led to an interesting discussion about one of the things taking a big SIP enables – unified communications. Johnson actually caught me a bit off stride with the observation that, “UC is misunderstood. Most people say, ‘Oh that is video.’” He noted that the big challenge with UC is the “U” since there are still challenges for making it unified or the precursor term the industry used “universal.” Indeed, as Johnson explained, “The real issue is Fax over IP. It cannot be done reliably because any delay at all in the transmission botches up the fax. The only time it works is on end-to-end networks. This is why the SIP Forum is working on a solution. The industry needs one because fax is not going away because it is the only legally recognized way to obtain a valid signature from a remote party in a timely fashion.”
I noted that fax services that deliver the fax to me in an email were a solution that I liked since it meant I only printed those faxes I needed, but he countered that still did not obviate the need for high-speed, secure and accurate fax to fax, and that enterprises for a host of reasons need that capability to work seamlessly over IP networks. Point well taken.
Watch out for WebRTC
Not that the previous comments were dull, but the talk then really got interesting. Johnson stated that what he has his eyes on is WebRTC. “What is the effect of WebRT?” he asked me rhetorically. He answered by saying, “It has the ability to displace SIP and SIP trunking. Right now it is click to talk for real-time communications from a web browser. However, it is much more than just another protocol that is an enabler for people talking with each other, and If Google pushed WebRTC multimedia real-time peer-to-peer communications it could totally disrupt the market.”
He had me at “disrupt the market.” He noted that services providers and traditional providers of communications solutions need to be rethinking their roles as WebRTC evolves. He believes in fact that despite the trend toward centralization, enterprises should be looking at decentralized models with more smarts at the edge and that service providers can still participate in call minutes but they are going to have to be smart about where and how they play in evolving ecosystems since there is ample opportunity for them to own and operate that edge.
Two other questions were on my mind that got equally interesting responses. I asked if he thought the promise of SIP interoperability would become a fact. As a solutions provider whose businesses is providing ways for customers to fully maximize the advantages of SIP and hence get maximum value out of UC, he is keenly interested that the industry, “Come up with a set of interoperability standards and best practices that everyone can agree on.”
He was speaking to the fact that not all SIP is alike and that one of the reasons why adoption, which he believes is a case where all ships rise when the tide comes in, has been slow is because legacy providers of SIP remain convinced that true interoperability would be bad for their business. I too happen to believe that the market unfortunately is characterized by those marketing interoperability while practicing proprietary solutions. I also believe that history suggests long-term sustainability in communications markets, Group III fax and SMS being great examples, says interoperability always trumps proprietary and that success goes to those whom embrace inclusiveness.
As Johnson noted, “The market for SIP and SIP trunking is still growing for next several years and could grow more and faster with interoperability, and this would drive the UC market as well. SIP has proven it works and works effectively. And SIP is now primary in large accounts.”
My second and last question had to do with Microsoft Lync and its impact on the UC market. In noting that “Lync is a very good product” and is helping validate the UC market, the intense desire and need of enterprises of all sizes to improve collaboration internally, throughout the ecosystem and with customers, is going to make people take a hard look at Lync.
And as Johnson closed, “If nothing else, the push for Lync and Lync integration, is going to mean a lot more VoIP traffic.”
He could have added that Lync 2013 with its Skype integration portends that his definition of “a lot more traffic” is going to be something of a moving target whose momentum is picking up speed.
As I said at the top, the water cooler talks at ITEXPO generate great food for thought. Hope you can join us; to say that the water is fine would be an understatement. Time for a big SIP.
To find out more about Ingate, visit the company at ITEXPO Miami 2013, happening now in Miami, Florida. Visit Ingate in Room B114. For more information on ITEXPO Miami 2013, click here.