CommuniGate and Partners Simulate 10 Million-Subscriber VoIP Deployment

Virtual server cluster sustains 1,000 calls per second—with headroom to spare.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jul 20, 2006
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CommuniGate Systems this week announced the availability of a white paper describing the results of a deployment test of its CommuniGate Pro Dynamic Cluster SIP Farm VoIP architecture, undertaken with partners Hewlett-Packard, F5 Networks, and Navitel Communications. (Sign up here to receive the white paper, Telco VoIP Scalability Test Results.)

The benchmark simulation of a moderate size carrier base of 10 million subscribers was conducted to prove the cost-effectiveness of scaling CommuniGate's architecture, by adding nodes, using either virtualization or physical additions of servers to the running cluster as needed.

Primary call load for the test was provided by Navtel's InterWatch R14 SIP-based load tester, with some additional inbound calls generated with the open-source "SIPp" load generator. M5 Networks' BIG-IP 6400 system handled load balancing chores for the cluster—eight-nodes (six front-end virtual servers that accept connections from the Internet and/or PSTN, and two back-end servers handling authentication and cluster management), all running on a single H-P Itanium Superdome system.

The benchmark call load generation topped out at 1,000 SIP calls per second (3.6 million calls per hour, each 60 seconds in duration) with up to 192,000 unique registered user-agent endpoints, some acting as callers, some as call recipients. (The testing scenario assumed about 1 percent usage among the 10 million subscriber population.)

Thom O'Connor, CommuniGate's director of product architecture told VoIPplanet.com "We got to a point during testing where we were throwing everything at it we could and really could not create any additional load, while the Superdome server environment running the CommuniGate SIP Farm still had plenty of headroom available. The systems weren't even running at 20 percent utilization much of the time."

CommuniGate plans future tests with even higher capacity. "Around the world, there are approximately 50 different traditional telcos that have at least 10 million subscribers or above, and many of those have quite a few more," O'Connor explained. "In the United States I believe the largest is now AT&T, at over 50 million traditional telephony subscribers, and I know that in Sweden and throughout much of Europe now Tele2 has approximately 30 million traditional telephony subscribers," he said.

By contrast, Vonage, generally held to be the largest VoIP provider in the world claim to be serving only about 1.4 million accounts. So, what's the point of testing deployments of an order of magnitude larger?

"Where we're really trying to take this is to demonstrate an environment that is actually capable of moving traditional telephony subscribers—consumer subscribers—over to VoIP," O'Connor explained. "We expect it to be somewhat of a long-term process, but that ultimately everybody will be moved over to one of these type of systems—even with connections to the PSTN."

O'Connor cited the example of Tele2, a current CommuniGate customer on the e-mail side. (CommuniGate was launched as an e-mail platform, with SIP-based voice and other communications functionality being implemented over time.) "They're beginning to roll out VoIP on their existing CommuniGate Pro cluster," he said. "That's the type of entry process that's occurring at a lot of these large providers. They'll continue to offer the traditional telephony while offering the VoIP. They won't be forcing their customer bases off traditional telephony."

Beyond the cost-effective scalability of the CommuniGate Pro platform—the focus of this test—O'Connor sees other advantages for the company's technology in the emerging communications market.

"CommuniGate Pro is not only a single package," he explained, "it's actually a single process on each box. One process handles all of your IMAP, POP, Webmail, SIP functions, PBX, NAT traversal—all the functions we provide."

The advantage, according to O'Connor, comes in large part at what he calls communications "touch points"—such as where calendaring and scheduling touch voice, or messaging. "For example, you want to set up a conference call, have the server send out the conference invites and keep track of the responses. And then, once conference time comes around, if somebody hasn't called in time, have the server actually call them on their cell phone to conference them in. We can do all that today on CommuniGate Pro."

SIP looms large in CommuniGate's vision for the future of communications. O'Connor see a world in which SIP lets people call, IM, video conference, and otherwise communicate directly, without intermediation from a Skype, an AT&T, or a Vonage, all based on SIP addressing and SIP peering.

"You don't have to know what type of e-mail system your buddy uses in order to send him an e-mail. It's all standardized. You just send an e-mail and it gets there. SIP is the same way. It hasn't been deployed in that way yet, but I think it will be, and that's what we're betting on," O'Connor concluded.

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