Tag Archives: audit

Introduction to Session Border Controllers

High definition video conferencing is a standard right now. If it will change, it will only change to an ever higher definition such as Ultra HD (involving 4K and 8K). Virtual workplaces, telecommuting and working from home becomes more and more easy and so organisations go expanding, sometimes forgetting about network requirements ending up with new capacity limits or reduced quality of their video communication solution.

A Session Border Controller can help with many problems there might be, but it is not a remedy for every issue ever to occur on your video conferencing network. I wrote this article to give you some more insight into what a Session Border Controller is, what it does and how it can help your corporate communication.

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What is a Session Border Controller?

A Session Border Controller is a network component designed to safely link networks with a different security requirement and setup. They are mostly utilised for VoIP and video conferencing networks to establish secure connection sessions. The Session Border Controller therefore allows control of signaling and transfer of media data in a secure way.

What can I do with a Session Border Controller?

Session management allows service providers to control the session routing, establish interoperability across environments with differentiating standards, enforce bandwidth policies or create an interface to a third party application. To keep it short and simple: A Session Border Controller optimizes solution performance and overall service quality, it allows a rapid service deployment or growth and it protects infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Who develops Session Border Controllers?

Based on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers from October 2012, Acme Packet (recently acquired by Oracle) excels in execution as well as vision scope, making them the leader of the magic quadrant (see graphic). Other competitors are Huawei, Sonus, Genband, Metaswitch Networks, Dialogic, ZTE and Technicolor.

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Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers by Gartner Research

Acme Packet is very interesting due to their focus on unified communications networks and even offering solutions especially designed for video conference networks of manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya / Radvision, Cisco (including former Codian / Tandberg technologies), LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo. Supporting and enabling interworking these technologies the Acme Packet solution avoids potential for vendor lock-in, protecting the investment made in video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints.

What are the technical functions of a Session Border Controller?

The functional scope of a Session Border Controller can vary, depending on what the individual device is designed to do. However to reflect a maximum of capability information, we would like to list the following functions that can be found in Session Border Controllers:

Connectivity

  • IPv4 / IPv6 interworking
  • SIP manipulation
  • NAT traversal
  • VPN connectivity
  • H.323 / SIP interworking

Quality of Service (QoS)

  • Traffic policies
  • Call admission control
  • ToS / DSCP bit setting
  • Resource allocation
  • Rate limiting

Security

  • Defense against DoS attacks
  • Can prevent toll fraud
  • No topology hiding possible
  • Malformed packet protection
  • Signaling protection via TLS and IPSec
  • Media protection via SRTP

Media processing

  • DTMF delay and interworking
  • Media transcoding
  • Tones and announcements
  • Data and Fax interworking
  • Support for Voice and Video calls

Regulatory

  • Call prioritization (e.g. for VIP usage or emergencies)
  • Auditing functions for internal audit or for law enforcing organisation
  • Business Intelligence, reporting, management information, source for billing information

Summary

Even though not a mandatory part for VoIP or video conferencing networks, Session Border Controllers have a great potential to add value to the communication services of organisations. The relevance increases for service providers companies as the functions described above can significantly increase the quality and performance of a serviced network.

If you have questions, remarks or other types of feedback please drop us a line in the comment section below. Thank you!

Good Collaboration through Knowledge Management

The other side of the coin of organisational growth and how to fight it with Knowledge Management.

In order to work well with each other and collaborate, it is not only important to utilise appropriate collaboration technology. A good starting point is to understand each other and knowing what others are doing as well as what one can expect from their services.

In rapidly growing organisations, it can happen that people who previously worked very close with each other are more and more separated over time. Maybe not even in a physical way, but people are getting more and more skilled in their particularly focused task and might be even joining different teams permanently.

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Markus Mattern, holding a presentation around high-level video conference bridging.

This is a natural side-effect of organisational growth and there are a few things that can be done to prevent this from becoming a negative influence to the service quality. One thing that could be done is to increase the focus on Knowledge Management. Turning tacit knowledge into “common sense” can make a huge different when working with clients, other companies or even within the same organisation.

As GMS is not excluded from such effects we have developed a way of sharing knowledge and providing insight into each team’s work. That is why Markus Mattern, in his capacity as one of our Senior VIP Video Conference Bridge Operators, has taken great effort into preparing a presentation around technological and operational details around his and the team’s work.

Initially this was planned as a single workshop for the few of the company who might be interested in learning a bit more about other teams. However we received so much positive feedback about people who wanted to join that we actually had to make several workshops and even include the weekends.

The Workshop

The content of the presentation was prepared in a very appealing and visual way, so everyone in the audience could understand both the operational procedures and requirements of the video bridging service as well as the technical introduction on the video conferencing infrastructure no matter what their background was.

In this workshop we used Cisco TelePresence infrastructure devices as examples and described the function of a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) and all it can do as well, as all the things even a good video conference bridge operator cannot do. We do this because we believe that even within the same company it is absolutely key to have clear expectations of what can be done and to know the things that cannot be done.

Markus explained what the Video Communication Servers (VCS) are there for and how they are utilised to traversal through corporate firewalls in an audit complaint way. This is very important for enterprises with a very tight network policy on the traversal between intranet and internet. But it shows that if the firewall traversal is well planned, configured and managed a lot of costs on ISDN (or all in best case) can be saved.

After all sessions have finished we received quite good feedback from everyone and are looking forward to the next workshop maybe from a different department then.

Thank you, Markus!