Thoughts on The SIP School’s 2015 survey

I was pleased to see the publication this week of The SIP School’s 2015 Survey into trends and challenges in SIP trunk deployment by its many students and customer organisations.

Now in its fifth year, the SIP Survey has proven to be even more popular with over 1000 international network professionals responding, sustaining a year on year increase that underpins the validity of the results.

Also worthy of note is that the majority of results are not from Service Providers but primarily from companies that are users of SIP trunking services. This provides a welcome focus on the customer experience since it is ultimately they who will decide if a service is successful.

With a particular interest in the practicalities and perceived responsibilities of SIP deployment in the partner-oriented model that prevails in the comms market today I’d like to offer my own take on some of the survey results.

Although not comprehensive, I hope this provides some insight to the results, the issues and potential solutions, with the commentary aligned to the key questions that I am interested in as follows;

Q9 – “If you’ve had problems where have the issues been?”

Commentary: The shift in the balance of perceived ownership of such problems by the survey respondents is very interesting. As the testing and certification lab partner of choice for the majority of leading IP-PBX vendors tekVizion has seen that most Service Providers accept the need to invest, enrol and participate in multiple vendor-branded interoperability programs. Some very few major Service Providers have tried to turn the tables on this situation and dictate that vendors should sign up to their programs and pay for the privilege of being in them. This change in perceived responsibility might also be based on the relative ‘newness’ of SIP as a connectivity option. The IP-PBX is possibly seen as a more continuous and less disruptive technology compared to the SIP trunk and therefore any problems are likely to be laid at the door of the provider. Whatever the reasons, we have seen an encouraging number of providers assume greater responsibility for interoperability as evidenced by their engagement with tekVizion’s independent testing and certification labs.

Q10 – “If you’ve had problems that were found to be on the SIP Trunk provider side, what were they?”

Commentary: Problems such as One way audio, Trunks Dropping, Poor Quality and Codec Mismatch can and should be easily solved by performing proper testing. Without this, the providers are activating the trunks and hoping the “Good Luck” quoted in a survey response will make it work. tekVizion works with many global and national carriers to perform a thorough end-to-end test of their SIP Trunks and develop configuration guides to help deployment and activation. Every business adopting SIP should ask their provider if the trunk has been independently verified for their particular IP-PBX and UC environment.

Q11 – “If your problems were with your SBC / Edge devices, what were they?”

Commentary: As with Q10, there is no excuse for these problems, regardless of the SBC vendor, product type or procurement model provided proper testing is conducted. What is needed is a holistic approach that looks at the whole SIP ecosystem from an end-to-end perspective. Many providers are finding themselves taking a tactical and costly piece-by-piece approach to interop testing, retrospectively testing and certifying individual solutions that have already been sold rather than developing a continuous testing model against a defined matrix of solution components, including the SBC

Q12 – “If the problems were found to be with your SIP/ VoIP based PBX what were they?”

Commentary: It sounds simple enough to avoid ‘Manual Configuration Errors’, the outright leading cause of problems with the IP-PBX, but there are a number of compounding factors. Lack of proper testing and documentation, thinly stretched technical resources, the sheer number of options and variations even within a single vendors’ product offerings, plus the rate at which vendors introduce new features, all serve to undermine the capability of vendors, providers and their channel partners and integrators to deliver effective Day 1 deployments.

A properly managed program of interop testing, delivering independently validated and/or certified solutions backed by comprehensive documentation is the most effective way to eliminate such issues.

Q14 – “When things go wrong with the SIP Trunks (operationally) and you talk to support staff, how do you rate their ability to fix problems?

Commentary: The range of available responses to this question indicates the variety of potential sources of fixes (and problems in obtaining them). The probability is that the entire supply chain from IP-PBX and SBC vendors through service provider to reseller are each working from a unique combination of different resources, documentation, knowledgebases and experience. A single, independently verified configuration guide made available through a formally recognized interop program enables assured support and shared understanding, leading to a significant reduction in deployment issues generally, and rapid resolution should they occur.

Q15 – “If you could ask one question of your SIP Trunk provider what would it be?

Commentary: “This comes as no surprise at all. However the answer should not be for the provider to offer a generic “profile” to match the SBC/PBX configuration. Most providers may do some level of testing and can provide a basic configuration, but the business user has no verifiable means to assess how extensive and effective the testing is other than deploying it and seeing what happens. Rather the question should be “Are your SIP Trunks independently verified by a third party?”

Q22 – “Do you think WebRTC will be ‘allowed’ to flourish as a Peer to Peer technology or do you think it will follow the same path as SIP and require multiple intermediary devices such as Session Border Controllers to work?”

Commentary: We are clearly at the beginning of a very long journey towards new platforms and modes of business communication that will co-exist and integrate with eachother for a long while to come. WebRTC may have been created with ‘the web in mind’ rather than telecoms or UC but to imagine that it won’t be adapted and folded in to the latter components is short-sighted and dogmatic. On the inevitable occasions when the two worlds are forced together there will be a greater need for interoperability.

Q23 – “What do you see are the biggest challenges with using WebRTC?”

Commentary: Those respondents who understand webRTC identify ‘interoperability’ as the biggest issue. We agree its definitely a major challenge, especially as solutions are still evolving. A related challenge is the difficulty of solution testing. It is prohibitively expensive to maintain a full range of products for a test bed, so performing limited integration testing will not guarantee a working solution. Just as with SIP, there is a need for an independent lab to partner with webRTC vendors to provide a solution test platform.

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