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July 27, 2010

IP Fax and the Borderless Network: Sagemcom and Cisco Q&A

By Erin Harrison, Executive Editor, Cloud Computing

Unified communications centers on the concept of a borderless network experience. How does fax over IP fit into all of this? During Sagemcom’s recent exhibit at Cisco (News - Alert) Live 2010, the IP fax company interviewed CCIE engineers and fax experts and Cisco Press authors David Hanes and Gonzalo Salgueiro of the “Fax, Modem,and Text for IP Telephony” book. 

Hanes is the technical leader of Cisco’s Customer Advanced Engineering (CAE) team. He spoke with Sagemcom about IP fax and how it fits within the Cisco UC and Borderless Networks scheme. Their exchange follows:

Sagemcom:  David, in your leadership role within Cisco’s Customer Advanced Engineering (CAE) team, what are some of the top challenges customers face when deploying an IP fax server?

DH: Some of the top challenges that we see customers facing with IP fax servers usually hinge around SIP trunking….dealing with different service providers and their support of fax issues…that’s something we see a lot of.  Another thing we see a lot of challenges as far as IP fax servers is quality problems.  As far as coming through and stuff and dealing with errors on the circuits and so forth.  Those are probably the two base issues that we see.

Sagemcom: Cisco is very much focused on UC and the borderless network experience.  How does fax over IP fit into all of this?

DH: Fax over IP is very important when it comes to borderless networks and unified communications as a whole.  With fax over IP, specifically a fax server, you now have a centralized device that can basically aggregate all the faxes together and then you’re able to deliver those faxes to any device…whether it be a PC, a mobile phone, e-mail, or whatever you want.  Fax will play a critical role when you can bring all that together.

In speaking with Gonzalo Salgueiro (pictured at left with Hanes), senior engineer for Cisco’s Technical Assistance Center (TAC), he explained some of the major challenges in faxing over SIP-enabled networks, based on his role as also the SIP Forum’s (News - Alert) Fax over IP (FoIP) Task Group Co-Chair. His exchange with Sagemcom follows:

Sagemcom: Gonzalo, in your role as the SIP Forum’s Fax over IP Task Group co-chair, what are some of the major challenges you encounter on the topic of faxing over SIP-enabled networks?

GS: Some of the major challenges that we’re facing right now with SIP-based faxing revolve around multiple issues related to SIP/SDP negotiation issues, performance issues, single-number faxing…things of this nature. We’ve compiled a list of what these problem areas are.  The problem statement that we’re publishing as an informational RFC is going to be published by the IETF. One of the things that I think is going to yield some of the most important benefits is working with the i3 Forum, a kind of consortium of the largest IP-based carriers.  

We’re going to isolate some of the problem areas with tandem-based networks and inter-carrier ops that we’re able to have the same performance as TDM-based networks.  I think that effort is going to yield some important results, and it’s going to allow us to work for some of the challenges that really have been plaguing us for the last few years.”

Sagemcom: What are some of your predictions over the next 12 to 18 months for enterprise faxing….notably when comparing the H.323 standard versus SIP?

GS: I think that we are going to see, really, an accelerated growth in SIP-based deployments in fax. Much of the work that we’re doing in the SIP Forum right now revolves around addressing many of the SIP/SDP protocol negotiation and interoperability issues that we’re facing currently.  We’ve drafted a problem statement together related to exclusively SIP/SDP negotiation, and this has resulted in a contribution that is being submitted right now, has recently passed the TR-30.1 review, and is being submitted this July to the ITU to be added to the T.38 specifications that addresses some of the negotiation issues that we’re seeing.  We continue to see some strong install base numbers in regards to H.323, but there’s been considerable growth in the area of SIP…and it’s where we’ve been turning our attention right now.

For more information on IP fax and the borderless network, check out the Cisco Live interviews with Sagemcom.

Erin Harrison is a senior editor with TMCnet, primarily covering telecom expense management, politics and technology and Web 2.0. She serves as senior editor for TMC's (News - Alert) print publications, including "Internet Telephony", "Customer Interaction Solutions", "Unified Communications" and "NGN" magazines. Erin also oversees production of TMCnet's weekly iPhone (News - Alert) e-Newsletter. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison

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