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Assessing the Options for Outsourcing Your Session Border Controller (SBC), Including SBCaaS

Posted by Paul Desmond

Jan 26, 2016

In a recent post we discussed how to decide whether you need a session border controller and the various deployment options if you determine you do need one. Two of the deployment options involve outsourcing the SBC function and, as promised, in this post we’ll look at the various options, rationales and benefits of going that route.Virtual_Session_Border_Controller_SBCaaS.jpg

First, let’s take another look at the two main options for outsourcing an SBC:

  • Have a third party reseller or service provider install and manage an SBC appliance or, more likely, a virtual SBC on your premise.
  • Buy an SBC-as-a-service (SBCaaS) offering from a service provider.

Benefits of the Premises-based, Managed SBC Option

To get a sense for how to decide which options makes the most sense for any given organization I talked with Brad Chalker, senior product manager with SBC vendor Sonus Networks. Much of the decision comes down to your company’s philosophy with respect to outsourcing and use of cloud-based services.

With that in mind, the first option, where the SBC remains on your site but is managed by a service provider, makes sense for a company that simply doesn’t have the IT expertise in-house to install and manage an SBC – or chooses not to dedicate its staff to the task.

Toward the latter point, for years many companies have used outsourcing in order to relieve their IT staff of the day-to-day “plumbing” sorts of tasks, opting to instead have them focus only on more strategic endeavors that can give the company a real competitive edge. In that regard, SBCs are no different from email or any other application a company may outsource.

Increasingly, providers are moving toward the virtual SBC model, where they can handle management and service orchestration of the SBC remotely, from their cloud environment. That eliminates costly, manual turn-up/turn-down processes, and offers the ability to dynamically scale the SBC as needed.

SBCaaS Model: Meant for the Cloud and a Real Option

The SBCaaS option, on the other hand, is a good fit for companies that are comfortable with cloud-based services in general, and the whole idea of not having equipment on their premises. Again, it’s more a philosophical discussion than a technical one, Chalker notes.

It is the advent of virtual SBCs running on commodity hardware that make SBCaaS offerings feasible for service providers. While providers could in theory offer the service using a series of appliances, the virtual model brings all the same benefits that IT groups have long been getting from virtualizing servers, storage and other infrastructure. Those benefits include faster deployment, higher utilization rates, ease of management and scalability, and lower overall operating costs.

Many IT organizations have been actively trying to move more and more of their infrastructure – servers, storage, firewalls, load balancers and the like – off of their own premises and into the cloud, Chalker notes. Simply put, they don’t want to be in the business of managing all that hardware anymore. The SBCaaS option is a good fit for organizations that have adopted such a strategy.

Finding a Happy Cloud Medium – for SBCs and Other Applications

Of course few companies typically have the luxury of going 100% in one direction or another, given realities of their legacy environment. Sonus itself is a case in point.

“We’ve adopted a cloud model. We use Salesforce.com, Office 365 and other cloud services,” Chalker says. “But some of our Microsoft Skype for Business implementation is still on premise because we already had it there and it’s not cost-effective to switch at this point.”

It’s easy to see how other companies will be in the same boat, moving some applications to the cloud as the opportunity arises while leaving others on the premises until the time is right. The good news is, with multiple deployment options available, moving an SBC into the cloud is a viable option now and into the foreseeable future, and with SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) adoption rates expected to grow from 30% to 75% or more in the next couple of years, it’s good to have options.

Topics: cloud, networking, Security, SIP, Session Border Controller

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