After years of anticipation, the VoIP train has finally arrived at the station and you and your company desperately need a boarding pass before it leaves for its next destination. But, be warned this train is crowded and you must make sure your pass for the VoIP train is legitimate.
Your companys "ticket" is actually a VoIP development platform. Selecting the right VoIP development platform can put your organization on the fast track to VoIP success and increased revenue generation via the introduction of new services. Selecting the wrong VoIP development platform can result in endless delays that will ultimately result in customer churn, affecting your organizations reputation, and, most importantly, bottom line and chances of future VoIP success.
To this end, below is a checklist of the top five attributes you need to evaluate when selecting a VoIP development platform.
Support Of Open Standards
Successful VoIP application development is driven by open standards that have been adopted by the industry. It is imperative that the VoIP application development platform you select fully supports these open standards not only current standards, but emerging standards that will play a major part in defining the VoIP application development process well into the future. Remember: in the telecommunications world there is one constant change. Be prepared.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323, the first widely adopted VoIP protocols, are key standards that must be supported by a carriers VoIP development platform. SIP is a signaling protocol used to create media sessions, such as telephone calls, video conferencing, and real-time data streaming in an IP network, and was created by the International Engineering Task Force (IETF) as an open and flexible protocol that could accommodate new, rapidly emerging applications. Recently, SIP has replaced H.323 as the signaling protocol of choice for the majority of VoIP applications.
A popular emerging standard that should be on the shopping list for all those purchasing a VoIP development platform is VoiceXML. According to the VoiceXML Forum, an industry organization of more than 325 member companies whose mission it is to accelerate the worldwide adoption of VoiceXML-based applications, Voice XML is a markup language for creating voice user interfaces. It uses speech recognition and/or touchtone (DTMF keypad) for input, and pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech synthesis (TTS) for output. Callers interact with VoiceXML application via a VoiceXML interpreter (also known as a browser) running on a telephony server in an analogous way to Web surfers interacting with HTML applications via graphical browsers on PCs.
Flexibility to support the 3GPP IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture is also a must-have. IMS has been defined as a common platform/subsystem for providing innovative services to mobile and fixed networks. IMS is the architecture that merges the Internet with the cellular world, and makes Internet technologies, such as the Web, e-mail, instant messaging, presence, XoIP, and videoconferencing available nearly everywhere.
Support for open standards goes hand-in-hand with interoperability. Although standards are adopted to create an environment for a service provider to select best-of-breed technologies that will work seamlessly together, many vendors will extend the standards in a unique way. Select a vendor that has not only implemented the standards in an open fashion, but can provide the flexibility to quickly support interoperability with other vendor extensions or rapidly adopt new standards.
With multiple standards, complexity increases. In some cases, it may be desirable to provide integrated media server, media gateway, or signaling gateway technology in the VoIP development platform to rapidly deploy services, and minimize cost, complexity, and potential interoperability issues. If you decide to go this route, select a platform that provides technology options such as SS7, CAS, PRI, and Media to future-proof your investment.
Reliability And Stability
Subscribers that flock to VoIP services are the same people who have come of age in the Internet era and demand immediacy. As VoIP services are widely deployed at service provider locations worldwide, service interruptions are not acceptable, and quality of service is a main concern. Therefore, it is extremely important that a VoIP development platform be put through its paces to ensure it is a reliable and stable foundation for a carriers VoIP business. A VoIP development platform must be carrier-grade. Accept nothing less. Demand to speak with companies that have already implemented the platform. After all, the future success of your business could be riding on the VoIP development platform that is deployed.
What exactly is carrier-grade? It means more than having a hot-swappable fan tray or redundant power. It means having redundant support for all active components, and separating transport, signaling and OA&M to reduce susceptibility to intruders and to ensure better system performance.
It is assumed that you will be deploying a VoIP development platform to expand your operations subscriber base and revenue. Therefore, you must ensure the VoIP development platform can scale to accommodate your organizations growth easily and cost-effectively.
A key factor that must be considered is being able to deploy a properly sized system at an attractive initial price that will enable you to cost-effectively scale the system. As you will be expanding the platform, make sure you purchase the base system at a competitive price entry point in terms of dollars and ports, taking into account your total cost of ownership. The ease of scalability must also be investigated it shouldnt be a major, disruptive effort to add additional services and capacity to the VoIP development platform. Finally, make sure the platform has technology flexibility, and can support other emerging network architectures, spanning fixed and mobile networks.
As mentioned earlier in this article, telecommunications service providers must be prepared for change at all times. Plan ahead. It is essential that the VoIP development platform you select can easily accommodate the continuous telecom network evolution that will inevitably span multiple architectures. An ideal VoIP development platform will be easy to operate and upgrade, requiring less sparing and eliminating forklift upgrades.
Select A Proven, Experienced Vendor
There is no substitute for experience. Select a sustainable VoIP development platform vendor that has deep experience and an impressive track record of success equipping service providers with development platforms that have proven to increase revenue and subscribers. The vendor should have exemplary support and services to speed your time to market and improve overall satisfaction. The vendor should be knowledgeable of current and next-generation architectures and technology to enable evolution of services. Finally, the vendor should have a global presence, thereby enabling the application developer to implement services once and deploy worldwide regardless of the network.
VoIP is todays hot networking technology. The VoIP market is akin to the gold rush everybody wants a share of the treasure, and both seasoned professionals and common citizens will prospect. Selecting the right partner, with the right technology and vision, may be the most important decision on the track to success. IT
Harold Klett is vice president, product management at Excel Switching Corporation. For more information, please visit the companys Web site at www.excel.com.
If you are interested in purchasing reprints of this article (in either print or PDF format), please visit Reprint Management Services online at www.reprintbuyer.com or contact a representative via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 800-290-5460.