Particularly for small businesses, 2006 brought forth an explosion of choice in the voice-over-IP market as a flood of companies introduced IP PBX services and appliances, particularly from networking companies targeted toward the low end of the market and startups building and developing on the recent advances in open-source telephony software.
As with all things, eWeek Labs expects to see a corresponding retraction in the market, likely toward the end of 2007. Based on our initial looks at the PBXes, phones and media gateways from consumer-grade networking companies such as D-Link, we expect these types of offerings to be among the first to disappear from the marketplace.
We also expect to see many casualties from around the Asterisk community, as only a few companies have distinguished themselves.
In the coming year, we do expect to see an uptick in the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking market, as VOIP implementers look to reduce costs by outsourcing trunks to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
In a typical VOIP deployment, a company buys and maintains media gateways that allow their VOIP implementation to connect with the PSTN. SIP trunking allows companies to offload this need to a third-party company by sending the PSTN-bound signaling and media transport to a service provider that maintains a national or international network of media gateways.
This allows a company to leverage its data connection to the Internet, possibly obviating the need for dedicated voice circuits and saving the money that would be needed to maintain media gateways.
Some SIP trunking providers, such as BandTel, have advanced network architectures and partnerships with other companies that allow SIP trunking over an existing network connection while still maintaining high QOS (quality of service).
Other trunking vendors, such as NetLogic, instead want to sell customers a dedicated VOIP circuit that is optimized for voice traffic in order to offer an SLA (service-level agreement).
SIP trunking vendors are working hard to forge alliances with IP PBX vendors, so customers should check with their PBX maker to see if a solution or partnerships are already in the works.
Opening up VOIP infrastructure to the Internet is fraught with potential for networking and security woes, however, so we also expect to see increased action in VOIP enabling and security products.
For instance, Ingate makes available SIP-enabling products, including firewalls and SIPerators, to help combat these problems.
Until now, weve felt that In--gates products represented a solution for a problem that didnt exist for most VOIP implementers. But SIP trunking may represent the first valid raison dêtre for such products, and Ingate is responding accordingly by inking partnerships with BandTel.
Indeed, there is growing recognition of the security threats to the voice infrastructure. In December, The SANS Institute for the first time included VOIP products among the potential targets in its freshly renamed Top 20 Internet Security Attack Targets.
The 2006 list reflects a growing number of vulnerabilities found in VOIP products, such as Asterisk and Cisco Systems CallManager.
Companies may have focused early VOIP security efforts toward sanctity of the voice stream, using encryption to ensure that calls could not be monitored illicitly. But of more concern should be the potential for DoS (denial of service) attacks and voice spam made possible via anonymous connections to the voice system.
The good news is that organized efforts to collate and disseminate information, guidelines, and best practices about VOIP vulnerabilities are already under way.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.