Q&A with Sonus’ David Tipping on Mobile First, Cloud First
On the heels of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), I had a chance to speak with David Tipping, Vice President and General Manager of the SBC Business, at Sonus. Tipping shared his views on Microsoft’s “mobile first, cloud first” strategy and the role of Session Border Controllers (SBCs). Here’s an overview of our Q&A discussion.
Pleasant: Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella introduced the company’s “mobile first, cloud first” strategy at WPC. What does this mean to unified communications (UC) customers?
Tipping: For any UC application to be wildly successful it has to be secure while providing a great experience.
In terms of “mobile first/cloud first,” it’s no longer about the desktop. People in IT spend an inordinate amount of time securing the four walls of their corporation from intrusion with things like firewalls and multilayer security that outsiders can’t penetrate. However, in a “mobility-first” environment, company information is now very open on wifi access points. For instance, if someone is using a mobile collaboration application (such as Microsoft Lync) to share data and make real-time edits to company forecasts, it’s possible that someone else could access this. If you’re not doing mobility correctly and securely with endpoint encryption, you may as well let someone in your front door and attach to your servers. The important thing to think about is security and quality of experience (QoE), which happens to be where SBCs come into play.
Pleasant: Can you expand on what you mean by “quality of experience and its impact?”
Tipping: People have come to accept echo or occasional dropped words in voice communications, but are less tolerant when it comes to collaboration and video. Think about your own experience; if you’re in a multiparty conference sharing documents or screens, you become disinterested when it stops working or if the video starts flickering. That’s a poor quality of experience.
We’re finding that many CIOs want to move applications to the cloud because of capex and opex savings and the other benefits cloud services provide. However, if the experience isn’t the same in the cloud or hybrid cloud as when the app is on premise, it could be a “resume-generating event.” The savings generated from moving to the cloud disappear in terms of lost productivity when the application fails to work properly.
Pleasant: Is this just a cloud issue?
Tipping: This can happen on-premises or in the cloud, but as the points of interconnection and technologies involved increase, the greater the potential for issues and troubleshooting needed. For customers, this raises the questions of “Is it my network, transport, or cloud infrastructure that’s causing the problem and which vendor do I contact?”
Pleasant: If looking towards a mobile first, cloud first solution, what should enterprises deploying UC be thinking about?
Tipping: Look for a strategy that allows you to have a point of demarcation in the network so you can be alerted if there’s a quality of experience issue before people call your help desk. If there is a problem, you need to be able to troubleshoot it and apply the right trouble tickets. Don't overlook the fact that UC and mobility go hand-in-hand. If you get too focused on building walls so that your information can’t get stolen but you don’t pair this with a device like an SBC offering security, the information can be transmitted in the ether for all to see.
With UC, you may have hundreds of people communicating and collaborating from home offices, coffee shops, airplanes, and wherever there’s public wifi, making it possible for people to snoop and access that information if you haven’t implemented the necessary security to protect this vital data as it is shared.
Here are some steps to take to secure information:
Make sure you have a device that understands real-time communications (RTC). Firewalls are static, but an SBC is dynamic and made for RTC...
Understand that encrypting the session from the corporation to the end user is as critical as protecting it against brute force.
Pleasant: Can you clarify the SBC’s role, and is an SBC needed even more in a mobile cloud world?
Tipping: Absolutely. SBCs enable mobility and ensure that your experience in the cloud is the same as you’d have on premises in terms of security and quality of experience. The SBC also helps identify problems and issues, and can look at the application as it transverses from enterprise out to the provider that houses the application, and from the mobile subscriber into the enterprise, or from the mobile subscriber to the application. Picture a triangle – the SBC looks at all legs and can see where an issue is coming from and identify the problem.
Pleasant: What is Sonus’ role in the “mobile first, cloud first” world?
Tipping: We enable the vision that Microsoft has announced. We help customers – through partners – move to mobility in a secure manner, and move to a cloud infrastructure without having to worry about a different quality of experience for their end customers.
It’s important to recognize that not every SBC is created equally. You need the right SBC to get the “mobile first, cloud first” vision fulfilled, and you want to look for SBC companies that have experience helping enterprises make the transition. Sonus focuses on the UC market and can help enterprises make the transition to UC. It’s important to work with a vendor that has the expertise to make sure the UC deployment goes smoothly, especially in multivendor environments.
When looking at SBC solutions, it’s not just about speeds and feeds. There are other issues to consider and where many of the vendors differ. For example, not all SBC vendors offer:
24x7 follow-the-sun service
Endpoint encryption to support contact centers and UC mobility
Bullet proof intelligent borders
Legacy support for analog and fax devices
The ability to support an on board and centralized policy engine for integration of third-party SIP applications and IP PBXs.
Pleasant: Final thoughts, what’s your biggest take away from WPC?
Tipping: We’re thrilled that a major UC vendor like Microsoft sees the world as “mobile first, cloud first,” and we stand ready to help enterprises make this transition. If you’re a TDM premises-based organization thinking about a mobile first cloud first world, you need to understand what tools you need and how to make the transition, and make sure that an SBC is part of your solution.