SIP Forum, IPv6 Forum Collaborate to Promote Interoperable Standards

Keeping these protocols non-proprietary is seen as vital to the future of VoIP and the Internet in general.

By Adam Stone | Posted Mar 22, 2010
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At the intersection of SIP and IPv6, two organizing bodies are joining forces to ensure interoperability stays front and center among developers and vendors.

The SIP Forum and the IPv6 Forum recently announced they will work together to drive the smooth deployment of session initiation protocol (SIP) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) among related technologies and services. They will work especially on educational efforts to promote interoperability between the technologies.

If SIP and IPv6 are allowed to evolve willy-nilly, with vendors tweaking standards at will, there is a real possibility of chaos in the marketplace, said Marc Robins, president and managing director of the SIP Forum. "As soon as you want to extend those deviations beyond that ecosystem into some other vendor’s ecosystem, that’s where you get into trouble," he said.

Education will be needed not just to disseminate the standards, but also to ensure that vendors and developers understand the risks inherent in taking the proprietary route. Without a push toward interoperability, everyone is going to say, ‘my version is the better version and I want to push it around the world,’ " said Latif Ladid, president of the IPv6 Forum.

That kind of environment could create unhealthy market conditions. Ladid singled out Microsoft as the type of super-scale vendor with the muscle to push out its version of the technology globally. He said the Forum would rather see a continued level playing field based on universal standards.

Even if vendors do comply with standards, that still might not be enough. They will also have to build with compatibility in mind. "There are multiple standards, so if one vendor uses standard A and another uses B, they have trouble with interoperability," Robin said. "They are correct in terms of the standard, but they are a nightmare in terms of commercial deployment."

The sheer intricacy of these emerging technologies requires that bodies such as the SIP Forum and IPv6 Forum advocate on behalf of interoperability, Robins said.

"The SIP standard is made up of over 150 RFCs and there are probably another 150 proposed RFCs that people are gunning for. So there is a lot of complexity in the SIP Standard, there are multiple options for doing the same thing in terms of signaling issues," he said. Under these conditions it would be easy for vendors and developers to head down divergent paths, in the absence of some advocacy for a common agenda.

While there may be some inherent challenges in getting the two technologies to play nicely together, developers at least can console themselves with the notion that they will not have to cross every technology hurdle tomorrow. While the new IP standard may set the benchmark, IPv4 still will remain the de facto tool for many users for some time into the future.

"Both are going to need to be supported for years to come. It’s going to be a gradual migration," Robins said. "We are in the very early days of this and there is a long slope to climb."

The two associations are basing their partnership on the premise that IPv6 and SIP are naturally complementary technologies and should be deployed with their inherent potential for interoperability in mind.

IPv6 is a next-generation Internet protocol designed to replace and improve upon IPv4. As the Internet’s basic transportation layer, IPv6 has been engineered with real-time communications in mind. As such, IPv6 syncs seamlessly with SIP in the application layer, making for optimal management of VoIP over IP networks.

Ladid pointed out that the migration to IPv6 is rapidly becoming a necessity, as IPv4 runs out of available IP addresses. Without the new protocol, "the internet’s growth will come to a halt," he said. This would have special impact on developing nations, where the demand for new IP addresses is likely to grow fastest in the coming years.

The associations are in the planning stages for their joint effort. Robins said the SIP Forum’s twice-yearly SIPit events likely will be a starting point for educational outreach. At these events, a live network affords a diverse array of vendors and developers the chance to test-drive technologies in real time.

As vendors look to deploy IPv6 handsets, gateways, and other types of equipment, "SIPit is a perfect venue for that," Robins said.

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