SIP Trunking, Cloud Computing: Growing together.

As unified communications gains traction in the enterprise—especially as a hosted service—SIP trunks are the elements that tie all the services together.

By Adam Stone | Posted Dec 3, 2009
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SIP trunking (direct, SIP-based connection from the local IP communications network to the VoIP service provider) came on the scene primarily as a financial play, but things may be taking a turn. With the rise of unified communications, end users will increasingly turn to SIP trunking as the connectivity mechanism of choice.

So says research group In-Stat in its recent report "Global Unified Communications Emerges From the Cloud."

"SIP trunking initially was viewed as a cost saving measure, but the real value is the way it is able integrate capabilities, rather than limit capabilities based on contact with the PSTN," said In-Stat analyst Dave Lemelin.

Many UC functionalities today exist on islands, serving helpful functions but without the sense of an overall structure. SIP trunking can help pull the pieces together. "It allows solutions from a single provider to integrate conferences, integrate presence, integrate a lot of the UC capabilities into a single solution, one that delivers all the benefits of unified communications on both ends of a collaborative session."

While unified communications may represent the tools that enhance productivity, SIP trunking is the tool belt that brings those capabilities to the job. "Let’s say you are in a voice conversation," Lemelin said. "SIP trunking gives you the ability to check presence, the ability to turn that voice call into a video call, the ability to bring people into a web conferencing situation. All that is enabled by SIP trunking."

By the same token, SIP trunking will increasingly enable that other fast-growing phenomenon, alongside UC. That is, the rise of cloud computing.

"A lot of that is really being driven by the end user," Lemelin said. "Things are getting more complex for small business, there is a lot of capability that takes a lot of integration. Trying to do that with equipment is possible, but there are a couple of significant issues with equipment-based solutions. You have to maintain them, you have to manage them, you have to have that expertise internally. In a lot of cases you also need capital, you need to make a big investment."

Faced with these and other limitations, businesses are increasingly opting for internet-based, or cloud, services. It’s possible to tap such services with a private line connection or some other high speed data network. Yet just as with UC, Lemelin said, SIP trunking is increasing proving the preferred means to connectivity. With the potential to integrate cloud services into UC tools and functions, "it creates a seamless opportunity."

Even as companies look to the cloud, their main focus will be on UC. As the VoIP world looks to chart this trend and make sense of its financial implications and opportunities, Lemelin said, UC fueled by SIP trunking will prove fertile ground for a range of entities.

"The thing about unified communications is that there is no single player who stands out right now. It really is something that brings together a lot of different players, whether it is a service provider integrating with Microsoft or some other UC player, they can benefit because they still own the customer relationship and yet they are able to bring these solutions to play," he said.

"By the same token the end user is gaining by saving on costs, and by doing a lot of things they couldn’t do before. Then you have the individual UC players themselves who can benefit from their partnerships and associations, either white label or in a branded sense."

Looking ahead Lemelin predicts a continued upward trajectory for UC—once we’re over the hump.

"The only thing that’s really limiting the growth is the traffic needs for businesses," he said. "A lot of businesses have fewer employees right now, so there is some organic growth that is slow right now, just because the organic growth of businesses themselves has been truncated by the economy."

Let the economy pick up a little, he suggested, and UC will build momentum fast.

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