This week, Burlington, Mass.-based Acme Packet announced the successful deployment by the Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) of its Net-Net 4250 session border controllers (SBCs) in two data centers that now provide a unified and redundant voice and voicemail system serving all the various arms of Delaware’s state government.
The foundation of this program is a consolidated SIP trunking plan—using Verizon’s BEST (Burstable Enterprise Shared Trunking) service—which replaces separate trunk lines to individual offices and agencies with a central, SIP-based trunking capacity that serves the entire state government.
“The state of Delaware certainly was a trailblazer when it comes to leveraging SIP trunking,” Acme Packet director of enterprise solutions marketing, Michael Leo, told Enterprise VoIPplanet. “They clearly saw—when SIP trunking was in its infancy and not nearly so well known as it has become of late—they really saw the advantage of consolidating all of the trunking that was traditionally going into each of the individual agencies and leveraging their own private network that they have in place in order to do trunking consolidation.”
The most obvious advantage of this consolidation is the elimination of excessive trunk capacity. With individual trunks going into each state agency or office, over-trunking is almost inevitable. With the BEST service, the DTI determined the total communications bandwidth needs for the entire government and provisioned accordingly, delivering tremendous cost savings.
Another significant advantage is centralizing applications. As mentioned, the DTI is running SIP trunking into two data centers, which provide fail-over in case of trouble, and allow communications to go on, no matter what. And, with the new architecture, the department has been able to eliminate the numerous, individual voicemail systems with a single voicemail and unified messaging server platform, serving the entire state.
“You can clearly see the cost savings and the advantages of this approach,” Leo commented,”—not only on the hardware side, but in support and services and administration. You don’t need to administer all those different voicemail systems out there; you just need to administer the ones that are running in your data centers.”
However, the individual offices and agencies are keeping their existing IP PBXs in place. And while Delaware has a more uniform technology underpinning than many large governmental or commercial agencies—it standardized on just two IP PBX vendors, Avaya and Cisco—those vendors’ equipment supports two different protocols: H.323 in the case of Avaya and SIP in that of Cisco. Which brings us to one of the peculiar advantages of employing Acme Packet SBCs.
“You can see the advantage of an SBC playing within this architecture, because SBCs allow for interoperability between different protocols,” Leo said. “Having deployed SBCs since 2002, Acme Packet has a huge amount of experience working with all of the various flavors of SIP and H.323, and we are certified for interoperability on all the major IP PBXs out there. We can allow the offices to talk to each other and not have to replace the systems because of different protocols.”
Leo sees move to this centralized SIP trunking model as a trend that’s gathering strength in both government and the enterprise. “There’s efficiency that comes with centralizing your trunking, your technology, your IP PBXs, your applications. Instead of the need to do administration across many, many sites, as long as you have the wide area connectivity in place to connect all those sites, it’s actually easier to do it this way.”
Moreover, with this architecture now in place, Delaware has laid the foundation for future unified communications applications to come, Leo pointed out. “They are looking to see how they can take advantage of desktop video conferencing, presence capability, and other things along those lines. It’s a harbinger of things to come for other state governments—with the cost savings and efficiencies, laying the groundwork for moving forward in IP communications.”
In the future, the Net-Net SBCs could easily enable connectivity to PBXs in neighboring states such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and facilitate communication in case of a disaster.
“Delaware is also in the forefront in this respect,” Leo remarked. “This type of architecture lends itself to deploying a disaster recovery plan for communications.”