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January 2007 SIP Magazine
Volume 2 / Number 1
SIP Magazine January 2007 Issue

60 Seconds with Timothy Winters,
Software Management Engineer

By Richard "Zippy" Grigions, Q&A



Timothy Winters is Software Management Engineer at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). Most of the lab’s work staff are students. Indeed, Winters started out as a computer science undergrad (1999-2004) and became a staff member. His communications background is in IP. He started in the Multicast IP Group and then moved to the IPv6 Group, where he has worked for the past two years. Now, he’s moved into the VoIP/IPv6 area. Founded in 1988, the lab is owned by the University but is supported commercially by the companies whose products they test. Historically the lab has focused more on IP than telecom, and it has a very strong base in testing all ‘flavors’ of Ethernet.

Richard “Zippy” Grigonis recently spoke with Timothy Winters about their testing of SIP-enabled products.

RG: Do you charge a straight fee for your work?

TW: We prefer a collaborative model. We’re officially a nonprofit even though we operate like a company, but we like to position ourselves as a neutral party because we don’t have shareholders who are waiting for us to turn a profit. We provide a neutral ground for companies to collaborate with each other and to promote conformance to standards so we verify that products perform to ITU and IEEE standards. We also test interoperability between multiple vendors’ products.

For example, let’s say that a company comes to us and wants to join or VoIP Group. We consider it a membership rather than us providing services, so they become a ‘member’ of what we call a ‘consortium’. They join the VoIP Consortium for an annual fee. They also provide one piece of equipment into a shared testbed to which all of the members of that consortium have equal access. For that fee we also provide them with as much testing as they can get within a fairness algorithm for everybody. We schedule the testing in one-week blocks. What that actually means is that, unlike other labs that charge per test or just give you a one-shot deal where you either pass or you don’t, we tend to work much more collaboratively with our members. The company can even come back with other products or with the same product to schedule another week of testing. Basically, a company can use as an extension of their R&D department. They can tweak the code as they go and leave the lab with a product that’s now a lot better than when they first arrived.

RG: How do you deal with confidentiality?

TW: We also provide confidential reports to each of these companies which are very technically detailed, describing exactly what we did and how the product fared. All of our member companies are listed on our website (http://www.iol.unh.edu) and we have about 20 different technology groups covering things such as IPv6, storage, VoIP, WiFi and what-not. We serve 150 member companies, and we work with the various industry forums.

RG: Where does SIP come in, exactly?

TW: SIP testing is part of our VoIP Consortium. We currently offer SIP conformance testing. We have a SIP Interop/’torture test’ suite we currently offer to our VoIP Consortium members. That basically tests an item against the standards, or, in the interoperability case, it takes specific test cases and companies get to use our testbed. Part of the agreement that member vendors have when they come to work with us is that they leave a platform here in the testbed and the equipment usually stays. So that makes for very large testbeds.

RG: With so much equipoment, do you hold ‘plugfests’?

TW: Oh yes, we’ll periodically have a week of open testing where we create a big network and anybody can come and throw things at it and we see what they do. As a neutral test lab, we provide a “DMZ” for industry plugfests for such organizations as the SIP Forum. In January 2007 we’re hosting the IMS Forum’s first interoperability test event. Still, a great deal of our work involves testing individual companies’ products for standards-compliance and multi-vendor interoperability. Our VoIP Consortium right now is populated by 3Com, BlueNote, Empirix, netopia and Sonus — for whom we provide interop qualification testing.

In short, our work results in a tremendous, unbiased, vendor-neutral knowledge base.

We like to think that our set-up here at the UNH-IOL practically guarantees a ‘win-win’ situation for both students and the companies whose products we test. As time goes on, I think you’ll see other examples of such alliances forged between academia and the corporate world. Students get valuable hands-on technical and testing experience, and companies end up with better products without spending all of their money on R&D.



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