Feature Article

A Lasting Bond: SIP, UC Stick Together

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

Unified communications and the session initiation protocol, or SIP, are coming together in important new ways.

Irwin Lazar, vice president of communications and collaboration research at Nemertes Research, says SIP is becoming a key protocol for unified communications. One important recent development on this front is that SIP increasingly is being used to enable interconnection with conferencing, including videoconferencing. Lazar says many of the videoconferencing vendors are moving to SIP. Indeed, Steve Johnson (News - Alert) of Ingate in a recent TMCnet story said video is the next frontier for SIP.

"We're beginning to use SIP protocol for something more than voice," Johnson said.

He added that SIP video allows users to initiate a video session on an ad hoc basis so that the only equipment a user needs is a laptop and a camera.

"You don't need anybody to intervene to accomplish this," Johnson said, adding that everything runs just like any other application that interacts with the Internet.

At least two Ingate clients already are enjoying the benefits of video over SIP.

For Omnitor, which works with the deaf and hard of hearing population, video over SIP allows signers to come online quickly, eliminating the delays associated with certain types of interpreter services. For, Librestream, which supplies solutions for manufacturers and machinery outfits, it enables field support people to initiate and hold videoconferences to diagnose and repair problems they may be experiencing on a factory floor or from an oil rig, for example.

Nemertes Research recently came out with a paper called "SIP-O-Nomics: Saving Money and Simplifying Architecture with the Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert)." In it, the company states that UC deployments "are rapidly growing, with 60 percent of IT practitioners saying they are implementing unified communications. Those deploying are seeing tangible, quantifiable benefits such as increased sales, reduced travel, more efficient use of field support personnel, and greater contact center optimization, in addition to gains in productivity."

The white paper points out that SIP provides the "glue" that is used to integrate disparate communications systems, including phone, e-mail, Web chat, fax, conferencing, etc., into a single unified architecture.

Chris Thompson, senior product manager at ADTRAN (News - Alert), has a similar perspective on the UC-SIP relationship, saying the UC aspects of SIP now are starting to emerge.

Nemertes Research reports that UC deployments “are rapidly growing, with 60 percent of IT practitioners saying they are implementing unified communications.”

Until recently, he says, people were focused primarily on the telephony side of SIP, just the basic telephony functions. Now, however, whether it's through SIP or things like Web interfaces or Web tools, there are new and interesting UC applications coming out.

Thompson goes on to say that we're now seeing ADTRAN and others offering solutions that allow for communications-enabled business processes and integration involving SIP and UC. Because of IP and SIP telephony, he says, organizations' databases can be tied into telephony systems to enable new UC functionality.

For example, he explains, a back-end system from the telephone infrastructure can hook into an MLS system for real estate to enable a real estate agent to capture caller information and send potential buyers details on select listings. This is just one example of a UC/SIP application that can improve productivity because, in this case, it reduces the human latency that would occur if the realtor had to wait to return to the office before locating the prospective buyer's contact information and sending that individual an information sheet.

Integrating UC and SIP solutions with the applications and back-office systems already in place at businesses seems to have become a key theme for communications solutions providers, and it's not hard to understand why. It makes applications that are already well understood and widely used even better.

Indeed, Davide Petramala, vice president of marketing and sales at esnatech, told UC in an interview last year that his company adds UC functionality to its customers' existing applications, like SalesForce.com or Groupwise or whatever, so customers don't need to be trained on new platforms. That way, he said, customers can instantly realize better productivity of all the communications services they have.

Esnatech's Telephony Office-LinX 7.1 recently was named a recipient of Unified Communications (News - Alert) Magazine's Product of the Year Award.

Telephony Office-LinX - which integrates with all major Groupware and collaboration platforms, including Microsoft Exchange 2003/2007/2010, Lotus Domino 6.0 or greater, Novell (News - Alert) GroupWise, and the company's newly launched communication services for hosted Google Apps - is a SIP-based application server that can be deployed with any organization's existing data infrastructure. It integrates existing voice infrastructure (both legacy and IP) and mobile networks with any on-premises or SaaS-based business solution such as Google (News - Alert) Apps. And it provides rich presence, mobility, speech and unified messaging services for enabling real-time communications in any environment.

“Until recently, people were focused primarily on the telephony side of SIP, just the basic telephony functions. Now, however, whether it’s through SIP or things like Web interfaces or Web tools, there are new and interesting UC applications coming out.”
– ADTRAN’s Chris Thompson

At last year's ITEXPO (News - Alert) West, Don Brown, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Interactive Intelligence, in his keynote speech took the idea a step further - talking about UC systems as not only a way to improve productivity related to such applications, but as an actual impetus for helping companies adopt communications-enabled businesses processes that define and track various workflows.

The value in communications is in getting more work done with fewer people, Brown said. "To me this has to be the goal of any revolution in technology," he added.

SIP also can help extend IP PBX (News - Alert) connectivity to help companies realize savings and improve productivity.

An example of recent news on that front involves Grandstream Networks, which sells IP voice/video telephony and video surveillance solutions, and Skype (News - Alert). The companies this fall announced that Skype for SIP interoperability testing and certification of Grandstream's IP PBX and gateways has been completed successfully.

That means users of Grandstream's GXE502x series IP PBX and related gateways can start to reap significant cost savings by directing their outbound calls to mobile phones and landlines worldwide via Skype at very competitive rates. SMBs also can allow customers and remote employees to make free inbound calls to their corporate PBX systems using Skype from anywhere in the world.

"By certifying its PBX and gateway equipment as interoperable with Skype for SIP, Grandstream is enabling its thousands of business customers to easily connect their existing PBXs and gateways to Skype and to receive the same financial and productivity benefits that businesses already get when using Skype software on their desktops," says David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business. "Having a premier partner like Grandstream join the Skype for SIP interoperability program demonstrates the value of the Skype for SIP offering and we are encouraged by what this means for the many businesses that can now save time, money and stay ahead of the competition by using Skype."

Gsrandstream's customer premises equipment involved in the interoperability announcement supports unified voice, video, fax and data. UC

Alice Straight, a Web editor for TMCnet, the online portal of UC Magazine’s parent company, TMC (News - Alert), contributed to this piece.