Edgewater Networks announces high-end SBC for SMBs

“I feel like we’re the industry’s best kept secret,” Edgewater Networks‘ vice president of marketing, Dave Martin told Enterprise VoIPplanet in a recent interview.

Indeed, though the company has been selling its multi-service gateways (which it now characterizes as session border controllers or SBCs), its voice-aware switches, and its network monitoring and optimization software since 2002, most of its sales have been through service providers.

“We haven’t purposely done a market outreach, because from a sales perspective we’ve been able to be in front of everyone we need to,” Martin explained.

But the increasingly widespread adoption of IP communications technologies—VoIP, video, and other unified communications modes—by businesses of all sizes is changing the equation.

“Enterprise Session Border Controllers are becoming an increasingly important gateway for the delivery of unified communications services, such as VoIP and video conferencing,” said Diane Myers, Directing Analyst, VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research in a statement. “This is true even at the small to mid-sized enterprise level where the challenges of interoperability and policy management can be as vexing as they are to large enterprises.”

Today, Edgewater is announcing a solution—the EdgeMarc 250 Series enterprise SBC—designed to fill the needs of those small and mid-size businesses.

“At the highest level, what we’re doing is delivering enterprise class SBC functions in a package that’s really ideal for small business,” Martin told VoIPplanet.

Summarizing the value proposition of the 250 series, Martin said, “We connect, protect, optimize, and monitor real-time communications.”

That’s a lot of functionality to cram into one small box. Let’s sort these out, one category at a time.

Above all, the SBC provides protocol mediation or “harmonization”—between H.323 and SIP for example, as well as between different SIP implementations.

“And not just mediation; also dial plan,” Martin added. “There’s no global H.323 directory. You have to have products that are able to take the number and do prefix routing between destinations to enable the any-to-any conferencing everyone is looking for.”

The 250 Series also connects both IP and analog telephony devices (such as fax machines or key systems) to the IP network, and provides direct termination of ADSL 2/2+, Ethernet, T1, and PRI WAN links—thus providing both primary connectivity and redundancy for failover, sometimes called “survivability.”

It functions as an 8-port 10/100/1000 bps Ethernet switch, and incorporates an 802.11 b/g/n wireless access point to connect Wi-Fi-based wireless devices. The EdgeMark 250 series even provides a USB port into which a wireless EVDO or other 3G modem can be plugged, to provide yet another redundancy alternative.

The EdgeMarc 250 also provides network edge security with a stateful packet inspection firewall, NAT traversal, and IPSec VPN capability.

The unit functions as an Adaptive Session Gateway, using application layer gateway (ALG) or back-to-back user agent (B2BUA) technology (whichever is more appropriate) to optimize the handling of real-time protocols to reduce latency.

It is also a Session Control and Policy manager, and can recognize real-time communications devices and automatically configure needed quality of service (QoS) and security policies. This does away with a great deal of tedious manual configuration and speeds the process of provisioning and installing systems. “Service providers love it for this reason,” Martin commented.

Traffic management is an integral part of voice optimization and the EdgeMarc provides a comprehensive QoS system including prioritization, traffic shaping, and call admission control.

The EdgeMarc 250 Series incorporates Edgewater’s Edge View software, which is a comprehensive network monitoring, troubleshooting, and reporting tool. Edge View monitors each call for quality, issuing a MOS (mean opinion score) evaluation.

“Network administrators then use that tool diagnose source of problems when there’s a bad call,” Martin said.

“Moreover, we accept call quality reports from IP phones—Polycom and Aastra, among others, will send call quality reports,” Martin continued. “We send them to Edge View and provide a coordinated—hop-by-hop—view of the call quality.”

Edge View produces a comprehensive call metrics report for each call, and where anomalies are encountered, the interface links to a knowledge base entry that explains the variable and offers troubleshooting tips.

Finally, as its name suggests, the EdgeMarc serves as a demarcation point—the border, if you will, between the LAN and WAN that allows IT managers to isolate problems.

According to Martin, the EdgeMarc 250 series is available in models that support two, five, or ten concurrent calls or sessions, with prices ranging from $375 for the two-call version to $652 for the ten-call model.

Edgewater expects to sell a lot of EdgeMarc 250s through the service provider channel, as it has done with its established products over the years, but the unit will also be available directly to enterprises through the distributors ScanSource, and Jenne Inc.

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