SIP and Web-Based Applications

The CTO of Ubiquity Software discusses the SIP platform and what role it will play in the IP-based applications landscape.
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Since its founding in 1993, Ubiquity Software has pretty much lived up to its moniker of developing applications and services that are available anywhere and everywhere.

In 1999, the company revamped its strategy to produce software based on the Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP. The technology was originally designed to be a framework for the development of converged voice, video and data services over IP networks, and has since become a key element in telecom-class communications services today.

The market for such services, based on SIP, is expected to reach $4.7 billion by 2009, according to market researcher Yankee Group, as a range of new applications and products is deployed that make use of enhanced IP services. These also include VoIP, Web conferencing, instant messaging and gaming applications.

In January, the UK-based Ubiquity agreed to be acquired by Avaya, a move that gave this company an edge over Nortel, Cisco and other competitors. And just this month, Avaya agreed to an $8.2 billion acquisition deal put on the table by private-equity firms Silver Lake and TPG Capital, which effectively makes it a private corporation.

Ubiquity has emerged as a key element in Avaya's plans to expand its IP-based telephony footprint and spearhead the development of converged voice and data applications and services -- especially those offered by the wireless carriers.

Recently, internetnews.com talked with Doug Tucker, CTO of Ubiquity's Americas operations, about its evolving SIP platform and how the technology will play a key role in the IP-based applications landscape.

Q: Why is SIP important to current and future Web-based applications?

You can think of SIP as a generic interconnect mechanism for communications sessions. It's not limited to voice or IP telephony. In fact, IP telephony is an application kind of superimposed on top of the SIP interconnects. It is a way to establish sessions between communications participants and then negotiating different ways communications sessions run on top of it.

Q: Are sessions of this type possible without a SIP protocol or architecture?

There are other protocols you could use, like H.323, which has been the predominate protocol that enterprises have used in the past for voice and video conferencing and collaboration. Actually H.323 and T.120 have been the predominant ones.

These are now migrating to a SIP infrastructure. There are still H.323 products in use today, but clearly the future is moving towards SIP.

Q: What is the problem with H.323 as compared to SIP?

H.323 is a very constrained infrastructure. It was designed for very specific deployment architecture and specific uses, while SIP is a much more open protocol that allows the applications to define the usage and the topology that SIP is applied to.

Q: So would the problem with H.323 and others be that they were essentially developed before the development and growth of mobile devices and advanced Internet applications?

I was actually on the committee that created H.323 10 or 12 years ago. It was really targeted as an IP-modeling of the PSDM (perceptual speech distortion metric) infrastructure, and was strictly designed for point-to-point multi-point video and voice communications.

It wasn't viewed as a general applications infrastructure, where SIP was really built around the Internet protocols and a very distributed deployment model and also a very open usage model. It's much better suited to today's view of where applications are going, which are rapidly breaking down the notion of vertical applications and approaching more of a horizontal services capability that are more dynamically grouped into point applications for the enterprise.

Q: Are there various types and iterations of SIP, much like there are different types of Unix, Java and other platforms?

There is one SIP set of standards that people adhere to, but it's a very flexible base. On top of that you layer in what I call your "service topology," and that's how you make use of SIP to make the connection session and to define what the sessions are. And those service definitions are what changes from deployment to deployment.


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