Many businesses turn to enterprise session border controllers (eSBCs) to manage and secure their SIP services and their unified communications systems. But choosing the best eSBC is tough.
The market for this hardware is especially crowded, notes Infonetics Research principal analyst Diane Myers. Although just four companies lead the sector—Cisco, Oracle, AudioCodes and Sonus Networks—16 others also compete in the eSBC space.
“The market cannot support 20 vendors,” Myers says plainly. “Over the next three to four years, the sector will shake out.”
How to shop in a shaky eSBC market
That means buyers have to find a vendor likely to survive a market consolidation, so their hardware will be supported over the long term. Usually, it’s best to bet on the market leaders. But the eSBC space eschews such straightforward logic. In this area of the IT industry, many of the small-market-share vendors are actually quite large overall, with substantial sales of other kinds of network technology, Myers explains. In a market consolidation, these manufacturers may continue to offer eSBCs, particularly to complement their full network-tech portfolios. So as an eSBC shopper, you can’t dismiss a vendor simply because it has a small portion of the eSBC market. That manufacturer may have staying power after all.
Complicating matters further is the fact that many eSBCs have similar features and capabilities and no particular controller stands out. For instance, security functions and quality of service (QoS)-based routing are typical offerings.
Compatibility is the key
Myers’ advice to ease the eSBC shopping experience: don’t focus on comparing features. Instead, focus on compatibility. Specifically, identify eSBCs designed to work with the unified communications platform that you have installed or plan to use.
“If you’re getting [the eSBC] from a SIP trunking provider, they’ve already prequalified the equipment to work with a specific unified communications system,” Myers says. “But if you’re doing it all on your own, you have to make sure that eSBC has been tested to work with whatever systems you have on your premises.”
That advice could soon prove particularly valuable for many organizations. According to Myers’ market analysis, more than 75 percent of North American businesses plan to use SIP trunking by 2016.
So if your organization isn’t using SIP yet, chances are eventually it will. That’s when you’ll face the difficult eSBC selection process. Remember: when it comes to finding the best eSBC for your organization, compatibility is what really matters.