PacketMan Re-Emerges

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

PacketMan Re-Emerges


Back in 2002, before blogs, Twitter and Facebook, a key way to get your message across was to write articles.  I wrote a monthly article for many years for the famously yellow-colored Internet Telephony Magazine.  Things are a little different now – while there is still a yellow-colored Internet Telephony Magazine and there still is an IT Expo, TMC corporation, who runs both of those, now has a very, very large website, runs webinars, and hosts bloggers.  So the magazine is one of their properties as opposed to the main key property.  It is a testament to the power of VoIP and then to to keep current.  Anyway, as you know, I am now a weekly blogger here.

Nine years ago, in that magazine, I introduced a character called Packetman, who would travel through the networks as a packet and observe what was going on.  One of the main adventures of Packetman involved the far-fetched concept of VoIP in a wireless fashion!  Imagine that!  Of course, Skype and other mobile over the top VoIPings are now commonplace.  Packetman was put on ice nine years ago, but with global warming, was inadvertently thawed out.  So Packetman has been very curious lately.  What has he noticed?

First of all, given the preponderance of different IP networks, be it a service provider network, or an enterprise network, and the growth of direct SIP trunks, we are now seeing “border elements” of a different name than we years ago.  Nine years ago, we were connecting IP networks to TDM networks and the border element called a gateway was all the rage.  So PacketMan, to go from one network and to the other network, would need to get transformed into a different format through the gateway and then he could move on.  Kind of like needing an electrical adapter plug to/from the US to/from the UK to/from Europe. 

So now that we now have native IP networks talking to other native IP networks, border elements are all the rage.  It’s called a Session Border Controller (SBC) and it goes in the networks, at the edges, in the same places that the Gateways went.  So Packetman needs to pass through an SBC now on his journey along the networks.  He gets scrutinized and checked out on his journey.  Kind of like going through the security lines in the airport.

As we move forward in time to the LTE network, which will be an all-IP network, clearly the border element of choice will be an SBC.  The Yankee Group even introduced a new term called a Policy Exchange Controller for these LTE network SBCs.   So Packetman may have to enter a new kind of room soon.

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