From the SIP Trunking Experts

August 25, 2010

ITEXPO Speaker Matt Vlasach: Landscape Is Changing to Better Accommodate SIP Trunking

By Ed Silverstein SIP Trunking Report Contributor

It’s not too surprising that SIP Trunking hasn’t taken off over the past few years, says Matt Vlasach,mobile UC architect at Unwired Revolution, which is an integrator of mobile infrastructure solutions.

Although many businesses have been eyeing SIP trunking for its cost savings potential for years, there has been a lot of hesitation by customers and system integrators due to upgrade costs and interoperability fears. But Vlasach says that the landscape is changing to better accommodate SIP trunking. Customers now are seeing the allure of Unified Communications, which generally involves moving to a VoIP-based phone system that supports native SIP trunking. There is also improved interoperability between PBXs and SIP trunking providers, leading system integrators to be more comfortable with recommending native-SIP trunking solutions over traditional PRI, Vlasach added.

Vlasach (pictured above) will be speaking during  Ingate’s SIP Trunk-Unified Communications Summit collocated with ITXPO, Oct., 4-6, 2010, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, CA.

Vlasach recently spoke with TMCnet’s Erik Linask in an interview provided in full below.

Erik Linask: What factors are boosting adoption of SIP Trunking?

Matt Vlasach:  I believe there are several interconnected factors at play that are resulting in the ramping of SIP Trunking adoption in SMB and Enterprise: cost reduction, improvements in PBX and carrier interoperability, and adoption of UC-enabled PBXs.

Although many businesses have been eyeing SIP trunking for the cost savings potential for years, there has been a lot of hesitation by customers and system integrators alike due to upgrade costs and interoperability (proper functionality) fears. For many, the return on investment to support native SIP trunking hasn't been significant or rapid enough to justify taking the leap during this recessionary time. Additionally, many have felt that deploying native SIP trunking is simply too risky due to interoperability and implementation problems, regardless of cost saving potential. Finally, there exists a low-risk and attractive alternative to native SIP trunking: a dynamic-T carrier offering that delivers many of the same benefits as SIP trunking (namely cost savings) with a tried-and-true PRI handoff to connect to existing PBXs, with little or no capital expenditure necessary. With these factors in play, it’s not too surprising that SIP Trunking hasn’t taken off over the past few years.

However, the landscape is changing to better accommodate SIP trunking. Catalyzing the change from the customer’s perspective is the allure of Unified Communications, which generally involves moving to a VoIP-based phone system that supports native SIP trunking. In tandem to this movement is the improvement of interoperability between PBXs and SIP trunking providers, leading system integrators to be more comfortable with recommending native-SIP trunking solutions over traditional PRI. These factors, combined with normal PBX turnover, are helping drive widespread SIP trunking adoption.

EL: How much has SIP Trunking penetrated the SMB market so far -- and how far do you think it will go?

MV: I think native SIP trunking has had limited penetration in the small business market, but larger success in the medium-sized business market. Medium-sized businesses (with 100+ employees) have larger and more complex trunking requirements that offset the cost of implementing SIP trunking. Small businesses, on the other hand, have a harder time justifying the upfront costs and are increasingly moving towards Hosted PBX VoIP offerings instead.

In medium businesses, I expect SIP trunking to replace PRIs in nearly all cases within the next five to 10 years. For companies of that size, adopting SIP trunking yields superb benefits by being able to scale trunking capacity (concurrent calls), reduce per-minute costs, and take advantage of virtual telephone numbers.

For small business, I think there is a trend towards moving to hosted PBXs, eliminating the need for trunking altogether. For your average small offices (1-30 users) with normal telephony requirements, there is simply too much initial and on-going cost compared to a hosted solution. However, for those small businesses (1-100 users) that require an on-premise PBX, SIP trunking will be very pervasive care of low-cost calling plans, national DID number selection and bundling of voice and data services in one package.

EL: What is the relationship between UC adoption and SIP Trunking?

MV: SIP trunking is a crucial element to the evolution of Unified Communications over the next decade. As UC adoption increases, the usage of SIP trunking will expand beyond simply access to the voice PSTN, but will enable service providers to extend rich media capabilities to their customer’s UC platform, including video, messaging, presence and other emerging cloud-based services. Additionally, “private SIP trunks” will be utilized to establish federations between different companies’ UC systems to enable direct and seamless inter-company Unified Communication capabilities.

Customers and integrators that use SIP trunks today are laying the foundation for this exciting new future. They are also learning early and important lessons about interoperability, security, network engineering, and Quality of Service considerations that are inherent to SIP trunks and important elements of a successful UC infrastructure today and into the future.

EL: How do vendors and service providers overcome the lack of consistency of definition around UC?

MV: Vendors and service providers overcome the loose interpretation of UC by rigorously marketing their own definition and vision of UC technology. So long as their offering provides multiple forms of real-time communication, they consider their product to be “UC”. Ironically, there isn’t much communication or collaboration between the key industry players to put a stake in the ground and call a defined subset of capabilities “Unified Communications”.

This is actually a real problem because it makes product selection for customers substantially more complicated. The buying process is typically extended while the customer breaks apart the feature sets of various UC offerings to make sure they get the features they want. There is also substantial risk of customer dissatisfaction if they assume a specific feature is a “given” in all UC platforms when that may not actually be the case.

EL: How important is the latest generation of smart phones to the growth of UC?

MV: As I see it, there will be two branches of growth for UC in the upcoming decade: mobility and interoperability. As UC becomes de facto on the corporate LAN, expanding rich UC capabilities to mobile users will be one major progression of the technology. The other front will be in terms of interoperability, which will allow end-users to seamlessly utilize UC features across companies, regardless of equipment manufacture or service provider.

In terms of Mobile UC growth, the latest generation of smart phones satisfies one of the major outstanding technology milestones required for the realization of enterprise-ready Mobile UC: the mobile form factor and platform. These new phones have the processing power and software architecture to support real-time and asynchronous communication to the mobile workforce. Just as importantly, end-users have fully embraced these smart phones as a tool to complete business, which will help drive mobile UC adoption and acceptance. The capabilities of these devices, combined with the quality of the networks they connect to, will predominately shape the evolution and success of mobile unified communications.

EL: What about video? How often is video deployed in a UC environment?

MV: From my experience, desktop video has been the slowest to catch on in a UC deployment for two reasons. First, the availability of high quality and sufficient bandwidth to support video media over the WAN for all users at any time is still somewhat hard to come by. Many mid- to large organizations still grapple with QoS issues for voice calls, let alone voice plus video media. Unless sufficient network resources are available, customers will hold off on deploying desktop video to avoid the potential of a poor end-user experience.

The second reason is not a technical one, but based out of social preference. For the majority of internal business communications, most users want to have rapid, efficient interactions. This leads users to take advantage of IM, voice, and presence since those technologies provide only the most essential means of communication. Video, on the other hand, is unique from its other UC counterparts insomuch that by using it, you generally slow communication instead of making it more efficient. This in turn makes desktop video a novelty in the eyes of most users. Of course there are occasions where video is highly desirable, which is why room or cart-based video conferencing technology will continue to evolve and play a major part in the UC environment.

EL: Do users understand the security concerns around UC?

MV: From my experience, users are generally unaware of the security implications of UC. As with many business technologies users are instructed to use, the primary focus of the user is on the performance and availability of the system. Security is rarely a consideration because most users assume that the systems they are provided are reasonably secure for use wherever it “works”. Although this is sound logic, this isn’t always the case in practice. In general, increased security creates increased complexity and deployment struggles, and different products have varying levels of minimum-security requirements to operate. A common practice of product manufactures is to have most security mechanisms disabled out of the box to simply implementation, yielding insecure communication channels for end users.

EL: Why have you chosen to participate in the SIP Trunking-UC Summit?

MV: I wanted to share my real-life experience with the deployment of SIP trunking and Unified Communications. I think there is an incredible amount of marketing hype and misunderstanding of what is actually possible with SIP and UC technologies. Therefore, I thought it would be valuable for an audience to see a real and operational example of a UC deployment examined from a business and technology perspective. Additionally, I just love this stuff and it is exciting to share what I have learned to help drive the industry forward.

EL: What will attendees get out of your session?

MV: I hope that attendees get a stronger grasp of what is actually possible with today’s available technologies in terms of UC and SIP trunking. Beyond sharing a real business case for UC, I plan to share some practical tips and caveats to watch out for when considering and deploying a UC system. Finally, I hope to paint a picture of where UC is heading, specifically in the mobile space.

To find out more about  Matt Vlasach (News - Alert) and Unwired Revolution, visit the company at ITEXPO West 2010. To be held Oct. 4 to 6 in Los Angeles, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event.  Matt Vlasach is speaking during Ingate’s SIP Trunk-Unified Communications Summit. Don’t wait. Register now.

Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet's InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Ed Silverstein
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