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January 20, 2009

Ingate's Steven Johnson Talks SIP Trunking, ITEXPO with TMCnet


By Rich Tehrani CEO, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC



Stockholm, Sweden-based Ingate Systems AB, is a company that offers products to enable Unified Communications over the Internet including SIP-capable firewalls and SIParators for service providers, IP-PBX vendors and end-users.

 
With a number of businesses choosing Unified Communications as a powerful business tool, service providers are looking to SIP trunks to connect Local Area Networks to the outer world via the Internet and/or managed IP-Lines. As well, Session Border Controllers are needed to securely manage incoming and outgoing traffic.
 
To highlight the importance of these topics and a number of other SIP-related issues, Ingate's President, Steven Johnson, will present a session titled, “SIP Trunking: Issues, Opportunities, and Solutions” at the upcoming INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo East 2009, the company is also hosting seminars on the topic of SIP Trunking happening February 2-4, 2009 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in room B114/115.
 
Johnson took some time recently to chat with about the company, its future plans, and more.
 
 
Our correspondence follows.
 
 
Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
 
There have been many people who have influenced my career direction and whatever success I have had. But the person who was the most influential in the way my career has progressed was Dr. John Kreick, former president of a Lockheed Martin company, who gave me the opportunity to lead a telecommunications initiative and eventually raise money for a spin-out of the product line. This helped me develop my strategic thinking, and taught me the need for marketing to a constituency of customers, and investors.

What excites you most about our industry?
 
Voice over IP is a revolutionary approach to communications, offering enterprises the opportunity to reduce cost, but also to improve productivity. This is one of those unique moments in time when a new technology is placed into practice that can provide multiple benefits to its adopters at just the right moment in history. Besides that it is very interesting to be working in an industry with so many bright and imaginative people who are bringing the promise of Unified Communications to reality.

What pain does your company take away for customers?
 
Ingate’s products remove impediments to adopting SIP and SIP Trunking which include NAT / Firewall traversal and PBX and service provider interoperability (to name a few).  We also ensure network security and secure the SIP traffic (including VoIP and SIP trunking).  We also provide additional features that allow companies to expand their use of SIP to remote workers, improve Quality of Service, and add advanced security to the deployment.

How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
 
Our chairman, Karl Stahl, identified that SIP would be the protocol of choice for Voice over IP and that there would be a need for a NAT traversal solution to enable enterprises to adopt SIP. About three years ago we were strategizing our direction and realized that SIP Trunking would be the catalyst for the adoption of SIP and the evolution toward Unified Communications.  With the help of TMC, we have organized the SIP Trunking seminars at the ITEXPO to educate all constituents about the benefits of SIP Trunking and how to best deploy the service. We are now looking ahead to supporting the evolution of SIP Trunking into the future of Unified Communications.

What does your dream mobile device look like?
 
For me the most important feature of a handheld mobile device is that it is a good phone with a good directory that can be synced to my Outlook. Ideally the phone would have support for both GSM over the 2G cellular network as well as SIP over WiFi.  I prefer to do Web browsing and emails on my laptop, for which my criteria is that it have good ergonomics and be very light. While the iPhone and the BlackBerry are both interesting devices, I feel they are neither good phones, nor good devices for email or browsing, and I prefer to keep those functions separate.

If you were forced to head Nokia, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco, Nortel or the US… Which would you pick and why?
 
I would take the U.S,. because in my opinion we are headed into a catastrophe if we don’t change the economic focus of our government.  We need a return to a production economy that is not so focused on services, but rather on the creation of real value.

Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the U.S. and abroad?
 
Expand the availability of broadband service.

How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
 
Open Source has allowed many developers to push the envelope and as a result has encouraged mainline companies to move faster in developing those same features on their products. This is the role that I think Open Source developers can play in the evolution of technology and there is of course a lot more yet to do.

When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
 
Perhaps 2011.

Apple? RIM, Nokia?
 
RIM has a chance to now leapfrog Apple and become a more major player in the handheld market. Nokia I believe is lagging.

What surprised you most about 2008?
 
There are many things, but the one that stands out is the turnabout in the economy. In the spring we were looking at oil at $150 per barrel on the expectation of growing world demand. By the end of the year oil had fallen below $40 per barrel, a precipitous drop, on the basis of a worldwide recession. It surprises me that in our “rational markets” we could have such a turnabout in such a short time.

Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
 
Our infrastructure is old and inadequate to support a Unified Communications strategy and we need to pump in billions of dollars to expand our broadband delivery infrastructure and replace enterprise PBXs with IP-PBX installations.

Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
 
No, oil will rebound when the economy improves and in the meantime the OPEC and other oil producing states will limit production to prop up the price. We need to become energy independent and we need to preserve the environment. The green movement should be encouraged with a true focus on sustainable and renewable resources such as wind, geothermal, clean coal and flex-fuel vehicles.

How does IP communications help in a recession?
 
We have evidence to support the fact that SIP Trunking can save companies a lot of money. At the SIP Trunking Seminars in Miami in February, one of our customers, Kool Smiles, will present their ROI results from adopting SIP Trunking. They saved 40% of their phone bills, and were able to recover the entire cost of their upgrade within 12 months. That same type of story is playing out with others as well, and in a recession we are all looking to save money, and this is a way to accomplish that objective.

You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
 
I want everyone to be aware of the great benefits of SIP and SIP Trunking, and more importantly to be able to interact in real-time to ask questions and have their particular concerns addressed.

Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
 
The economy will not rebound as quickly as anyone would like and we will be talking about the recession well into 2010.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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