Dipping Your Toes into the SIP Stream

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There are surprises and there are surprises.

For instance, I like it when I come home after a long day at work to find that my wife made dinner reservations at my favorite Saint Paul restaurant – W. A. Frost. I also like it when I finish my tax returns and discover that I don’t owe thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.

I’ve also had the less-fortunate variety several times and can do without that kind of excitement.

One thing is certain: I don’t like getting surprised at work. Those surprises generally involve more toil, looking foolish, ending up with less money, putting in longer hours, or all of the above. The looking foolish part happened to me recently, but instead of moping about it, I decided to use it as a teaching tool.

This article originally appeared on SIP Adventures and is reprinted with permission.

I recently began working with a company and their carrier on adding SIP trunks to an Avaya PBX. Unfortunately, I was brought into the project late in the game and quite a bit of discussion had already occurred. Perhaps I was told all the details or perhaps I was not, but the result was that I was under a few false assumptions about what the customer wanted and what the carrier was set to deliver.

Specifically, it turned out that yes, SIP trunks were being deployed, but the customer wasn’t actually set up to work with direct SIP. That carrier, which happens to be Verizon, was providing the SIP, but the SIP was terminating on a Cisco 2911 router configured as a SIP-to-PRI gateway. So, SIP to the demark point and ISDN to the customer’s communications system.

It’s no wonder that I couldn’t get straight answers about session border controllers and session managers. There weren’t any and the customer wasn’t about to deploy them.

Now, if I were an unscrupulous sales guy, I might try and tell the customer that he was making a bad decision and up-sell him on equipment that he wasn’t ready to deploy, but thankfully I am neither a sales guy nor unscrupulous. Instead, I embraced this as a viable solution that will serve the customer well until he is ready to move a little deeper into SIP.

There are situations where SIP — at least total SIP immersion — is not the best answer. A business may have a number of good reasons why it wants to dip its toes into the SIP stream, but it wants to do so in a measured and controlled manner. It wants to reap some of the benefits of SIP, but is fully conscious of what it can and cannot afford.

This particular business has an Avaya system that has been kept up-to-date on software and hardware, but is still predominately TDM. They understand the benefits of VoIP, but haven’t invested in a VoIP-ready network. Additionally, the nature of this business is not one that has Ethernet cables where they are needed for telephony. Although antiquated by today’s standards, analog and digital telephones are still in wide use by many businesses. This business needed a compelling reason to change and until they got it, things were staying put.

Still, they wanted to take advantage of some of the benefits of SIP and SIP trunks are a great place to start. They can eliminate many of their costly ISDN trunks, create a better business continuity strategy, consolidate networks, and take the first step towards what may ultimately be a much larger leap into SIP.

Related article: Wow, I Can Do That with Unified Communications?

Baby Steps

So, the idea of bringing in those SIP trunks, running them through a SIP-to-PRI gateway, and terminating T1s on their existing line cards is a perfectly good choice. One day they may decide to take things a little further, but other than having to re-purpose a fairly inexpensive Cisco router, they haven’t thrown good money at bad.

Later on, they can move those SIP trunks away from the 2911 to an SBC without having to completely redesign their SIP solution. SIP is flexible enough to support quite a few of these transition solutions. That Cisco router could just as easily have been one of the many SIP-to-TDM gateways offered by AudioCodes.

In the end, my surprise turned out just fine. Granted, I was a little confused for a while, but that’s nothing new. Once I understood what was what, I was able to assist Verizon with their implementation questions and get the customer rolling down the road to SIP.

That’s the kind of work surprise I can deal with.

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What does a Smart City look like? We’re defining it with a new partner

The city of the future is a Smart City, emboldened by technology that folds in government, industry, and consumers. For this to happen, it needs a strong foundation—an infrastructure that can withstand heavy traffic, particularly during times of crisis.

At Avaya, we’re partnering with 22 Capital Partners to prototype the Smart City platform in the Gramercy District in the Washington, D.C. area. 22 Capital Partners approached us as they were looking for a partner with distinctive technical knowledge. Specifically, they wanted automation capabilities for the infrastructure to make it easier to deploy and manage. We’ve already been working on Smart City projects with our customers, such as the City of Taylor, Michigan, which has laid the groundwork for a Smart City Platform.

Now, with 22 Capital Partners, we’re taking it a step further.

The right foundation means a stronger city

Our building blocks for the Smart City are similar: we want to pull together public safety, smart healthcare, smart education, smart retail, and smart banking and make it accessible to citizens. The key to our partnership is that we are so closely aligned to build this next-generation infrastructure foundation to evolve and deliver best-in-class services. It’s a lot like the literal foundation for the city of Dubai: Dubai is built on sand. Without the proper foundation, it would not still be standing. But with the proper foundation, they’ve built a world-class city with skyscrapers—and the world’s tallest skyscraper to boot.

It’s the same with the Smart City of the Gramercy District, taking a creative approach to building a foundation with infrastructure. This will allow for a more secure infrastructure, mitigating cybersecurity threats and gaining agility while lowering capital and operating expenses. Communications and networking infrastructure need to be automated to simplify deployment, particularly as the Smart City expands to include all the consumer devices that will connect wearables and IoT applications, including smart appliances.

To build the Smart City foundation that 22 Capital Partners and Avaya have envisioned, we’ve rolled in Avaya’s Software-Defined Network (SDN-Fx) technology, Contact Center, Unified Communications, Customer Engagement and Avaya Breeze™ software solutions. 22 Capital Partners’ Smart City Platform, 22 CityLink, uses our foundation to keep pace with the demand for mobile, social, and cloud-based services within the Smart City, from citizens, the government, and industry alike.

The future of the Smart City means convenience—and safety

As we continue to move forward with the Smart City platform, the goal is to provide a consistently good experience for users with a holistic approach to turnkey virtual networks and applications. At Avaya, we have the ability to deliver across various verticals and provide the opportunity to implement smart buildings, allowing consumers to experience it live, not just as a demo or prototype. That’s what the Gramercy District is doing: going live to allow all who are working, living, shopping, and playing within the Smart City to experience its power firsthand.

And it’s not just for play. The Smart City of the future can have life-saving implications. For example, in a crisis situation such as an auto accident, it can integrate a 911 call with other components, like electronic road signs to warn of hazards and SMS alerts to citizens. It can gain control over city cameras to feed data to the emergency response team—or even allow the caller to cede control over their phone camera to provide a video feed. The outcome of this is a safer city: when you dial the emergency number, the smart device provides the exact location to first responders. Meanwhile, the dispatch center can push video on how to perform CPR, for example. It brings systems together for the safety of citizens and uses the power of analytics to suggest alternate routes to travelers who have installed the application, using an API from a mapping application.

Ultimately, it will provide a completely different digital experience than what consumers are getting today. Whether it’s for play, work, living, or an emergency situation, the Smart City of the future will attend to citizens’ needs while ensuring their information is secure and providing uptime that means they can use the applications regardless of what is happening around them.

For that, we’re excited to see what 22 Capital Partners will build on the foundation of Avaya networks.


New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: Three Ways to Keep Up (Part 3)

The 2016 Rio Olympics may be over, but the excitement is still palpable. As I watched the performances from some of today’s most gifted athletes, I couldn’t help but think about this blog series on business innovation and the need to push further.

Think about it: U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, yet she succeeded in smashing even her own world record in the 400m freestyle competition. Meanwhile, Simone Biles—the most decorated female gymnast in World Championships history—has a floor move named after her called “the Biles.”

My point here is that the very best in the world don’t become so without continually innovating and pushing themselves. In this same vein, businesses today must excel in an environment where not only keeping current but driving innovation is mandatory. In fact, nearly 60% of CIOs surveyed by IDG this year said that innovation is a top business mandate. If you take away only one key point from this series, I hope it’s related to this need to continually innovate within your business.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series outlined how companies can evolve their contact centers and networking strategies to keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation. But these are only two parts of a massive puzzle that companies must piece together.

As I mentioned earlier, it feels near impossible to cover everything that has changed within the last 25 years in technology and business. What I can tell you is this: the innumerable changes that have happened have led to what we here at Avaya call “digital transformation.”

Digital Transformation: A Mindset Fueled by Technology
Digital transformation is a belief that the greatest innovation is driven through digitization and simplification. By automating information, simplifying processes and connecting more objects through the Internet of Things (IoT), businesses can transform from the inside out.

It’s critical that business leaders understand the importance of reengineering their organizations in this way. Why? Because 75% of CIOs surveyed by Deloitte last year said that digital technologies will significantly impact their business. Because IDG’s survey found that more businesses are scrambling to prioritize budgets as a result of this deep focus on digital transformation. Because research shows that the IoT will consist of more than 34 billion connected devices by 2020.

This digital transformation isn’t just happening at the enterprise level, though. Take a look and you’ll see the changes that are happening all around you. For example, you may notice a smart meter on the side of your neighbor’s house that allows them to view real-time energy usage on their smart device. You may see cars parallel parking themselves on the side of the road. We’re seeing everyday objects, cities, campuses and hospitals becoming Internet-enabled in ways that were incomprehensible decades ago. I even tweeted recently about Wilson Sporting Goods getting in on the action with the “Smart Football,” which will quite possibly change the game of American football.

The Greatest Challenge of Digitization (and How to Overcome It)
Digital transformation opens the door to a smart new world where outcomes and possibilities are constantly being reimagined. At the same time, however, it’s creating more unique, industry-specific needs than ever before. These needs drastically vary and can be challenging to meet.

For example, healthcare organizations need to efficiently connect doctors with care teams via cutting-edge medical devices and communication capabilities. All of this needs to be done while remaining compliant with industry regulations.

On the other hand, financial organizations need to securely deliver anywhere/anytime/any-device account access to customers while ensuring fraud prevention. Meanwhile, educational directors need to deliver a next-generation learning experience as well as a safe campus environment for students. You see where I’m going with this? The list of vertical-specific needs goes on and on.

The problem we’re seeing is that many companies don’t understand that there is no cookie-cutter framework for digitization. Just like every Olympian’s tools and training are different, every company’s digital transformation will look different depending on its vertical-specific needs.

So, in a world where business needs are getting more granular by the minute, how can organizations keep up? How can they stay on top as true innovators and change seekers?

I can’t tell you in good conscience that there’s an end-all solution here, because there’s isn’t. At Avaya, we believe the key to mastering digital transformation begins with the right support. In other words, you need to find the right strategic partner/integrator who will work with you to determine your vertical-specific needs and how you can meet and exceed them. Better yet, find a partner/integrator who can also deliver the solutions you require to quickly adapt to your customers’ needs and capitalize on new opportunities. This way, you can avoid most of the leg work while keeping a leg up on the competition.

Your partner/integrator of choice should have a deep focus on such things as analytics, automation, networking, security and IoT. Above all, seek a partner/integrator that has a solid understanding of and passion for smart vertical solutions.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the possibilities today for businesses are limited only by the imagination. Find a partner/integrator who’s ready to step into your world and come along for the ride.

New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: Three Ways to Keep Up (Part 2)

If you’ve read Part 1 of this series, you hopefully now have a solid understanding of how businesses must keep up with today’s pace of innovation in order to thrive. If we’re going to talk about innovation at the enterprise level, then we must talk about what’s happening within IT.

Network infrastructure is the backbone of every organization. For some companies, that backbone needs serious strengthening due to advances in communication and collaboration. The way employees connect internally and externally today make IT changes vital for sustainability. System engineers, network architects and CIOs are responsible for ensuring their organizations not only stay current, but surpass the status quo.

Networking over the Decades

We’ve seen nothing short of explosive growth within the world of connectivity in the last 15 to 20 years. For example, research shows that in 2000 only 6% of the world were Internet users. By 2015, that number had increased to about 42%, representing 3.1 billion users worldwide. That same year, revenue from mobile data services peaked at $105 million—today, revenue hovers around $500 billion.

In just 25 short years, we’ve evolved from the dawn of the World Wide Web to a complete digital overhaul. Consider, for example, Web-based collaboration solutions that seamlessly combine capabilities like video conferencing, IM and file sharing. All functionality is available via the touch of a finger from any device, anywhere, anytime. This means you’re no longer tied to a physical location, but you still need a hell of a strong network connection to handle it all without costly bouts of downtime.

All of these changes are powerful enough to render legacy networking solutions inadequate to meet Digital Enterprise needs. Today it’s all about Ethernet and IP. The problem is that these are such complex, hierarchal, multi-protocol environments that they’re unable to support desired business outcomes and agility (at least not without the highly sophisticated provisioning tools needed to hide all this complexity, which MPLS is also required). Clearly, not every enterprise businesses can afford and sustain such high OPEX costs. Today, about 95% of customers still live in this legacy environment, while expecting different results. It seems unreasonable to expect different outcomes.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with organizations that deployed these older solutions back in the day. That was simply what was available at the time, and it can be difficult to find an exit strategy. But this is no longer good enough. Legacy solutions don’t work, and will not allow your business to digitize or move at the pace it needs to in order to continually innovate and excel.

SDN: Networking of Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

So, what’s the solution? You have to look at an alternative for your networking infrastructure. For many businesses, this alternative involves software-based architecture, like Software-Defined Networking (SDN).

SDN promises to enable users to directly control the network resources by separating the network control plane from forwarding functions. The architecture is to be easily-manageable, open standards-based, and vendor-neutral, enabling businesses to sufficiently handle today’s dynamic computing and storage needs. Perhaps most notable is that SDN is not to depend on proprietary software. This enables users to write their own application profiling in order to easily provision network resources.

Overall, the SDN market is set to grow from $289 million in 2015 to $8.7 billion in 2020, representing a CAGR of 98%. That’s pretty impressive stuff, and I’m not just saying that as a chief technologist of Software-Defined Architecture.

The bottom line is your business will only go as far as its network infrastructure will take it. If your business is running on restrictive architecture, will you be able to master data context, awareness and intelligence? Will you truly unlock ubiquitous connectivity? We definitely need something different. Your organization deserves something better than a legacy model.

The objective is clear. We need to deliver a solution that’s way more agile, more resilient, open and secure. To this end, there are generally two paths available to get to SDN:

  1. Traditional SDN: Traditional SDN is aimed at centrally building a software controller and bringing all of the control plane protocols in a legacy environment towards application profiling. It’s widely believed that this profiling approach makes it easier to deploy apps. In this way, if you want to deploy a certain solution, you can access a pre-defined application profile from every angle—for example, security policies—but how complex was it to create the profile? The intentions here are good, but in my opinion this path involves the development of complex and sophisticated provisioning tools. This is simply a new programming approach that aims to reduce complexity, but doesn’t guarantee it. As such, many wonder if this is the right strategy.
  2. Fabric-Based Architecture: This option involves maintaining a distributed control plane and reducing the legacy multi-protocol dependency while benefiting from centralized management (orchestration). The simplification of the control plane is a much better approach: fix the problem, don’t try to mask it. Simplicity allows businesses to become that much more nimble, dynamic and competitive. We’ve been seeing a lot of startups lately working to rebuild the control plane too, hence the market is starting to come to the same conclusion, but Avaya has already delivered it, making it a key competitive differentiator.

Let’s be honest, there are pros and cons to both traditional SDN and fabric-based architecture. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that business leaders are educated on their choices in order to make informed decisions that are best for their organizations, while choosing the path that will meet their business needs TODAY—not years from now based on promises!

If you’re looking for more resources to help shape your software-based strategy, check out these blogs:

Coming up: Part 3 of our series will take a look at the bigger picture of complete digital transformation and what that looks like across multiple verticals.