This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
Sansay Inc. opened for business a decade ago, bringing to market its high-performance session border controllers. Yet Sansay probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think SBC. But, company executives say, perhaps it should be – particularly if you’re a service provider seeking a carrier-grade solution with top-drawer support, and a hardware and software warranty.
“We have spent our time and money where it matters – in product development and support,” says Andy Voss, Sansay president and CEO. “If you didn’t know about us until now, it’s because we wanted to grow at a rate dictated by our ability to provide superb support vs. faster [growth] but compromising on service.
“Sansay grew by word of mouth based on a reputation for the best product and support in the business,” he adds. “We are now ready to grow past the industry secret stage.”
Voss is being humble in calling Sansay an industry secret. In fact, more than 300 organizations have Sansay appliances deployed in their networks. Sansay customers include domestic and international wholesale service providers; prepaid outfits; hosted voice application service operators; residential and business VoIP service providers; and inbound and outbound call centers, and call center traffic aggregators.
That includes AireSpring (News - Alert), which is using Sansay solutions to support its enterprise call center and wholesale SIP trunking services; Impact Telecom, for which Sansay provides part of the underlying infrastructure for U.S. domestic wholesale termination services for high volume VoIP service providers; IPBell, which is leveraging Sansay technology to enable wholesale and retail service provider, and hosted business VoIP provider, operations; and VoIP Innovations (News - Alert), which has installed Sansay appliances in its wholesale DID footprint.
“Our customers generally are more demanding in terms of rapid customization of our products to their specific applications, thousands vs. hundreds of call set ups per second, ease of use of the products in the network, and ease of migration as the customers expand and add new revenue-generating services. Whereas Acme and Metaswitch SBCs’ primary application is, or at least began, as something for subscriber-side applications, Sansay SBCs were designed to deal with the special demands of inter-carrier routing and expanded to include subscriber-side requirements. And, as will become increasingly evident over the next few years, Sansay has 10 years invested in what the company says is the perfect architecture for cloud-based, secure, high-performance voice, fax and video communications infrastructure.
Most service providers are by now aware that they require session border controllers for security, interoperability, least-cost routing, call admission control, CDR generation, and media handling, says Voss, adding that most VoIP-based providers have acquired SBCs or built their own.
“Our ideal scenario is when they got their education from working with another vendor, so they can be pleasantly surprised by the contrast when they engage with Sansay,” adds Voss. “Many customers who come to us have had experience with other vendors in our category, and find they prefer Sansay’s performance, price, ease of use and/or support. That’s not to mention our approach of doing anything we can to help them thrive, which is a lot considering our teams’ 17 years of developing and deploying what used to be called next-gen telecom infrastructure back when the prior generation of TDM solutions were still being deployed.”
Sansay’s VSXi VoIP SBCs can be deployed in the core or at the edge of a network to manage VoIP traffic between SIP proxies, SIP UAs, H.323 gateways, IP PBXs and H.323 gatekeepers. The company designed these appliances specifically to handle a high number of calls per second, deliver high availability, perform fast and sophisticated call routing, and enable rapid adaptation to changing network environments, explains Voss. A single VSXi node scales to 1200 cps and can support up to 25,000 sessions. Sixteen-node clusters of the appliances can scale to 19,200 cps and 400,000 sessions – and with what Sansay says is greater than 99.999 percent availability.
The appliances’ routing tables and LCR capabilities optimize bandwidth costs in a variety of VoIP peering applications, allowing carriers to interconnect without requiring traditional Class 4 TDM switches in the call path. Replacing Class 4 functions including call routing, CDR generation, security and network privacy, the VSXi also acts as the billing switch between carriers at what Sansay says is a fraction of the cost. As a result, VoIP providers can move the peering function off softswitches and gatekeepers to make networks more secure and reliable, and a wide range of services more profitable. In access applications, Sansay’s VSXi VoIP session controller works in conjunction with Class 5 switches, feature servers and gateways, and enables differentiated services, interoperability and secure firewall/NAT/call admission control.“Sansay has had a purpose-built architecture for standard Intel servers since commencing development in June 2002,” says Voss, who with other former Nuera execs Jerry Ryner and Max Sheng established Sansay. “From our days at Nuera, developing carrier gateways and softswitches in the ‘90s, we started out at Sansay with an architecture that dealt with signaling, media and applications as separate functions that need to work well together – but with each customer having a specific set of requirements to optimize for their customers, facilities and traffic.”
While market leader Acme Packet (News - Alert), and others like Metaswitch, are probably the names most frequently associated with the SBC space, Voss says he and his colleagues (Ryner, Sheng, and Glen Gerhand, Sansay’s vice president of product management) think of those companies as the “new guys” in the VoIP infrastructure market. That’s because Sansay executives have had extensive experience in this arena.
“Sansay was founded in 2002 by a founder and key technical executives from Nuera Communications (News - Alert),” Voss elaborates. “Nuera was founded in 1995 to focus on VoIP gear for service providers and became known as the technology and market leader in service provider VoIP infrastructure – carrier-scale gateways, softswitches, signaling gateways.
“We deployed over $100 million worth of VoIP infrastructure there before Acme and others in our current SBC market were even founded,” he continues.
But while Nuera had success, and attracted investments from such venerable companies as AT&T, Motorola (News - Alert), GE and Goldman Sachs, Voss adds that Sansay management took a different approach to getting the business up and running. For the first year and a half, Sansay ran as a “starve-up”, then raised just enough outside capital to pay salaries for another year of development until the payments for the initial round of orders came rolling in, he says. The fact that management owns a majority of Sansay shares, he adds, allows the company to take a longer-term approach, and focus on customer satisfaction first and foremost.
“Our development is focused on standard Intel servers with tight change control over hardware components and drivers – same as we did at prior companies where we spent more than half our R&D budget building custom hardware,” Voss says. “Now we cut inventory costs, focus all our R&D on features that benefit our customers, and we and they benefit from rapid increases in performance as we allow customers to migrate to faster hardware over the years for only the price of our servers – vs. having to purchase a new product.”
This has been a winning formula for both Sansay and its customers.
The company, which has been profitable and cash positive since 2007, last year reported revenue of $5.1 million. That was a 50 percent increase from the previous year. And the company expects 2012 revenue of $10 million.
Voss says Sansay is seeing significant growth in wholesale, call center and dialer applications, and because of investments it made in recent years in development and interoperability certification, the company has experienced “dramatic growth” in access-side SBCs used by hosted voice application service providers. The company also has broadened its product portfolio to include routing and stateful, session-aware transcoding solutions.
Customers typically use Sansay technology initially to support 2,000 to 10,000 session deployments. But Sansay has customers that have grown to 50,000-session deployments and continue to expand rapidly, Voss says.
Given the team’s experience at Nuera developing solutions for service providers with millions of subscribers, Voss adds, Sansay expects to be ready and able to support millions of concurrent call sessions per customer in the next several years.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi