Fax and VoIP

Decommissioning your PSTN? Take Your Fax Machine Along

The Fax machine dilemma when migrating to VoIP

Fax and VoIP

WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, email… We have all of these, so who needs a Fax?

This might be a common first reaction to the inclusion of a Fax in the title of this post but many enterprises and small to medium business still rely on Faxes today for many operations and they are not willing to give them up when they move to VoIP.

“I need to keep my fax machine”-  makes some service providers cringe when they hear these words coming from their business customers, and as it turns out, they hear these words a lot.

As businesses transition to VoIP and unified communications, mainly around the carriers PSTN migration to All IP initiatives, they demand a reliable and efficient fax solution be part of these initiatives. The business customer may prefer to receive faxes electronically via E-mail with a fax server or a fax service, but for hardcopy documents that need to be delivered, the fax machine is the easiest and preferred method. With vertical markets such as healthcare, legal, finance, government and education relying heavily on the fax, it’s critical for businesses to implement a solution for their fax machines that will continue to render them reliable and secure as they move to VoIP.

When service providers are faced with the need to deploy fax machines in a VoIP environment, they typically turn to one of the following options, and quickly find each has their own challenges.

  • Implement an ATA that supports T.38 or G.711. These standard ATAs work great for voice calls when connected to a phone, but T.38 and G.711 have been known to have issues with transmitting faxes over the Internet. Whether the problem is packet loss, jitter or latency, any of these reasons can cause a fax to fail. Not only is the reliability compromised, but the security of the fax is as well.
  • Leave a POTS line connected to each fax machine. Sure the fax machine will continue to be reliable and secure, but the VoIP provider is no longer offering a VoIP solution with this option. In many cases, the customer now receives a separate phone bill from the incumbent phone provider. Not only does the VoIP provider lose business to their competitors, but the customer loses money by paying higher prices for POTS lines.

In addition to the above, with the latest PSTN sunset winds blowing, this option is becoming less and less relevant ….

The HTTPS Fax ATA Solution

The AudioCodes HTTPS Fax ATA gives VoIP service providers a reliable and secure solution for their customers’ fax machines as they move to VoIP.  With more than 100,000 Fax ATAs in production today, the stack of success stories is constantly growing as businesses move to VoIP and take their fax machines with them.

Here are some of the highlights of this solution:

Fax ATA

  • Reliability: Using real-time HTTPS to transmit the fax over the Internet rather than T.38 or G.711, the issues of latency, packet loss and jitter are non-existent. This reliability has allowed customers to implement the Fax ATA in even the most diverse Internet environments such as satellite, cellular and Wi-Fi.
  • Security: The patented technology behind the HTTPS(S) Fax ATA solution gives providers the ability to encrypt the fax via SSL. This is a key benefit for industries that need to meet compliancy standards such as HIPAA and SOX.
  • Compatibility: The Fax ATA Connector software integrates with any fax server or fax service via API or T.37. Customers have deployed the Fax ATA solution with fax servers from FaxBack, OpenText, Sagemcom, etc.

More information about the AudioCodes HTTPS Fax ATA solution can be found at: www.faxata.com

Privacy Security

What Do You Know about OTT Voice Usage in Your Enterprise?

Encryption doesn’t always equal privacy

IT departments have all the means necessary to manage voice communication over the enterprise network and know the ins and outs of those communications. Some enterprises have compliance requirements to which they must adhere, some have security considerations and others have reasons to “know what’s happening in their network”.

With traditional VoIP systems, achieving the above is relatively a simple task.

However, OTT VoIP traffic is a different story. And in the case of OTT, most enterprises settle with one of the following options:

  • Block it
  • Live with the reality

The question is, are these the only two options available and what do enterprises really want to do about OTT VoIP?

Border TURN server

Some enterprises are adding a new entity to the border of their network, a border TURN server that forces all VoIP media traffic to go through it. This includes enterprise managed VoIP as well as OTT. VoIP media that doesn’t go through the border TURN server is blocked.

Adding this entity and blocking all VoIP media that doesn’t go through the border TURN server creates a problem for WebRTC communication because only one TURN server address can be provided for the peer connection establishment procedure. Since many services require media to go through an application TURN server, the border TURN server is left out of the flow and media that doesn’t go through, is blocked.

In a post I published last week together with Dan Burnett (co-editor of WebRTC standards) on WebRTCStandards.info (where we publish updates about what takes place at IETF and W3C with regards to WebRTC), we talked about RETURN. In a nutshell, RETURN encapsulates two TURN servers into one by adding the border TURN server as a configuration option to browsers. Details and illustrations can be found in the original post.

Since WebRTC media is always encrypted, what is the point in requiring it to pass through the border TURN server?

What can be extracted from encrypted communication?

Privacy SecuritySince all media flows through the border TURN server, there are some basic things it can “know” – such as the source, destination and length of a call.

With this knowledge, the server can block calls from black listed addresses, limit/monitor call duration and collect this information.

These capabilities are pretty basic and I wanted to know if there was more a border TURN server can detect in an encrypted media stream. To better understand, I turned to Yossi Zadah (who is already well known on this blog) and to Ilan Shallom. Ilan is a Professor at Ben-Gurion University and founder of a speech recognition company that today is part of AudioCodes. His technology is the brain behind our VocaNOM solution.

Some might be surprised to learn that there is a significant amount of information that can be extracted from an encrypted media stream. There are studies that show it is possible to identify the language of the conversation. Other studies show it is possible to unveil the identity of the speakers on such a call and even create approximate transcripts of encrypted VoIP calls by identifying words in the stream.

There is also a thesis specifically relating to Skype using Silk (from back in 2011) that details information that can be learned from such conversations.

Key Takeaways

  • Border TURN servers are being deployed at enterprises. Though they impose problems on WebRTC communication, RETURN is planned by the IETF as a solution.
  • Given the limitations border TURN servers impose on OTT traffic, my personal view is that they would be counterproductive in most cases as they limit Bring Your Own OTT (BYOO) in the enterprise
  • If you thought that your WebRTC call is private…think again.
The Service Provider Opportunity

The Era of Hosted Services

AudioCodes-White-Paper-Hosted-Voice-UC-Services

GET THE WHITE PAPER

A casual observer looking at recent research regarding market trends may reach the conclusion that the era of hosted services is already here. Whether or not this new age is upon us or we still have some way to go before we get there, the trends clearly show that this is where the market is headed.  It is safe to assume that many (perhaps most?) Telcos and Service Providers are currently evaluating deploying hosted services. Many are already offering them.

While the shift to hosted services brings clearly recognized advantages there are challenges as well. Deploying hosted services for business customers is not an easy task. The move from legacy connectivity services to fully hosted options requires a change in sales, provisioning and support models. A recent AudioCodes white paper entitled Maximize Your Hosted Voice and UC Servicestook a close look at this issue, covering a set of best practices that are based on experiences of Service Providers who have already successfully deployed hosted services and were able to adapt to take advantage of the growing opportunity. 

What are business customers looking for?

The key to a successful deployment is to understand the needs of the business customers. In many cases business customers do not understand technology and products. But they do recognize the need for advanced solutions and services that provide value added far beyond just basic connectivity. Business customers want to reduce costs, especially small to medium businesses whose limited resources force them to outsource maintenance and upgrades to third party experts.  They have concerns about security issues such as the security of the data being stored in the Service Provider cloud and the internal security of the business network. They have concerns about productivity and are always looking to provide the right tools and communications environment to their employees in order to get the job done. And finally, businesses must communicate effectively with their customers and suppliers. When a customer calls a business, they expect an instant response. An unreachable business, even for just a few minutes, will reduce customer satisfaction and eventually cost the business money.

The Service Provider Opportunity

The Service Provider Opportunity

All of these concerns can be handled well by the Service Provider hosted services model.  Hosted Voice and Unified Communications services provide an excellent opportunity for the Service Provider to address their business customers that are shifting away from legacy telephony and offer them a new and attractive value proposition. Not only can Service Providers retain their business customers, they can also benefit from new revenue opportunities as the market shifts from on-premises PBX to a hosted model which is far more attractive in terms of pricing and features. New value added services that are offered as part of the hosted model can include much more than standard PBX features, providing the Service Provider increased services revenues through licensing models. Service Providers can also optimize network costs. A simple and easy to manage hosted services solution will result in lower complexity and reduction of CAPEX. This can be achieved by using high interoperability devices, auto management and quality assurance systems.

Learning Best Practices from Successful Deployments – Read More

The business communication market has been shifting for some time from legacy telephony services to hosted services models and by 2018 it is expected that 75% of new business lines deployment will be hosted lines.  So the opportunity is there. To learn more about Service Provider’s best practices when deploying hosted service, see the AudioCodes White Paper: Maximize Your Hosted Voice and UC Services”.

TheVia Group

Enterprise Connect – Partner Day

Day 2 of Enterprise Connect was a day for partner meetings – getting to know the various systems integrators and reseller partners that are supporting Microsoft and AudioCodes.

First stop was a visit with Chris Riggenbach, UC Team Lead at NACR.   Chris is responsible for the strategy and technical lead for UC solutions that include Microsoft and a number of other software vendors.   As a large national partner, NACR has a unique capability to support large geographically diverse businesses and offer complex solutions to improve collaboration and communications efficiencies with services and solutions.

Bob IT hero visiting NACR

Another stop along my day was visiting with The Via Group, a full-service partner based in Houston.   As an early adopter of AudioCodes One Box 365, they’ve crafted a complete bundled solution for business that includes services, devices and connectivity, bought using a OPEX model that makes buying easy.   The Via Group is also working with One Source Networks solution, a cloud based data and voice communications solution that can deliver services globally.

Bob IT hero visiting The Via Group

My final stop for the day was looking into contact center solutions for my Lync deployment with a visit to Acqueon, who have AiQ a Lync-integrated multi-channel contact center offering that supports quality management along with both inbound and outbound traffic.

Bob IT hero visiting Acqueon

Looking forward to Wednesday and the keynotes from Microsoft and Google. Be sure to check back again tomorrow!

Super Bob visiting Enterprise Connect

Enterprise Connect Kicks Off with Big News

Day 1 of Enterprise Connect is now done, with plenty to share.

Super Bob visiting Enterprise Connect

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Enterprise Connect (previously operating as VoiceCon), which was the theme for many of social and networking events during the show. A real testament to the need for fresh information on communications solutions (which have changed dramatically over the last 25 years).

Skype for BusinessMicrosoft formally unveiled their Skype for Business brand and client offering, showing a number of work environments and end-point devices in their booth. Front and center was the AudioCodes 440Hd IP Phone, showing its presence display and one-button calling.

Big news from Interactive Intelligence as they used the event to launch their PureCloud offering, a complete integrated collaboration solution based on WebRTC and hosted in the cloud. Most notable was a ground-breaking offer that included PureCloud Collaborate for FREE.

Had a great visit with Scott Francis from King County – a peer of mine and end-customer of AudioCodes that has deployed Microsoft infrastructure, offering UC services to improve the efficiency of county government. He’s a Superhero in his own IT responsibilities!

Visiting the show floor, I started my rounds of checking in with some of the partners that offer Lync and Skype for Business solutions. I started with a visit the folks from Ronco Communications, who were showing their Verapresence solution, an enhancement to Microsoft Lync that adds a number of important call management features including announcement, attendant, and call alerting features.

Looking forward to Tuesday, expecting more detailed discussions with partners, keynotes and time in some of the individual sessions. Be sure to check back again tomorrow!

Super Bob

Enterprise Connect – Through the Eyes of Bob

I’m really excited to be attending my first-ever Enterprise Connect in Orlando this next week.   From looking at the vendor list and sessions, it should be one of the biggest showcases of Unified Communications solutions this year and a great place to see the latest new solutions for my growing business.

Super BobRumor has it that Microsoft (booth # 1221) is going BIG with their launch of the new Skype for Business client and server software, taking Lync to the next level. Their booth and sessions are a “must see” on my list.  Zig Serafin, Corporate Vice President, Skype Business Services at Microsoft is the keynote speaker on Wednesday, March 18th from 10-10:30.  I’ll be there watching and listening intently.

After Microsoft (and it looks like right across the aisle), I’m really looking forward to visit AudioCodes to see their solution pavilion and demonstrations.  With offerings for my desktop users, the server room, my NOC and branch offices, the complete One Voice portfolio has served me well.  My understanding is they will be showing their One Box 365 complete solution including managed IP Phones.   I also hear from a reliable source that they’ll be showing a WebRTC to Lync integration, allowing users to share a URL to initiate a WebRTC call to Lync from their browser, avoiding the painful Lync browser plug-ins.

A number of great Microsoft and AudioCodes partners will be there as well, including NACR (booth #1805), SPS (booth #1531), The Via Group (booth #2012), and others.   The challenge is making the rounds and remembering everything in the few days I’ll be at the show.

The folks at AudioCodes have really flattered me with an invitation for a personal appearance in their booth and some cool tee shirts and other goodies with my likeness on them.  Stop in to their booth, snap a picture with me and you’ll go home with some cool swag.   If you are more interested in winning a new Surface 3 Pro, be sure to enter their Passport to Skype for Business drawing.

But I won’t keep all the great stuff to myself, I’ll be blogging and tweeting during the event, showing the best new solutions and snapping some pictures.  Keep an eye on #AUDCHERO on Twitter and be sure to check back to this blog every morning during the entire Enterprise Connect event.

After the event is over, you can always check in weekly as my accomplishments are regularly posted on my landing page at:  http://online.audiocodes.com/super-bob

Super Bob

An Introduction to an IT Superhero

One of the great parts of my job is seeing first hand many of the incredible things our end-customers and partners do to bring the power of UC and contact centers to businesses.   Full Lync voice deployments, remote employees, integrated voice mail, SIP trunking and more…virtually all of the projects improve end-user productivity and reduce operating costs.  We feature many of these incredible projects in written and video case studies, but not all of our customers can get past their own or corporate “stage fright” and don’t want to see their name put in the spotlight.  In other cases, the solution is a small effort with much larger implications – the kind of accomplishment that just doesn’t fit the typical case study.

At the same time, it has become clear to us that most of the decision makers in our customer base are bombarded by marketing messages – a drumbeat of whitepapers, webinars and case studies to the point where they all start to look alike.  How can we get our customers accomplishments to stand out amongst all the other noise?

During our annual market summit, held in our headquarters office in Tel Aviv, we did some brainstorming on the issue – trying to find a way to put a spotlight on our partners and end-customers.   And from this, an idea was hatched to create a character that is an amalgam of all the great things that our partners and end-customers have been able to accomplish.  In a creative and graphic way that jumps out from the typical case study, it was decided we needed an IT super-hero.

And with that, we here at AudioCodes are proud to introduce you to Robert Sipman (you can call him Bob if you like) and his comic strip “The Adventures of Super Bob”.  Bob is a regular IT guy that using the tools at his disposal can do some pretty superhero-like things (well, for an IT guy).   For the next few months, we’ll be releasing weekly episodes showing one of the feats that Super Bob has accomplished while on the job.

Super Bob

The real twist come from the source of his adventures – many of his acts are based on real-world situations and stories that our customers have shared with us.  Some will be attributed, while others prefer to remain hidden behind the mask of anonymity. Be sure to follow along – who knows, you may recognize yourself in one of the episodes.

And if you are lucky enough to be headed to Enterprise Connect during March 16-18th, you’ll get a chance to meet Bob at the AudioCodes booth #1129.  Bob can be a little shy, but he’s generous and will be handing out “I met Bob” tee shirts and other goodies during the event – be sure to stop in and snap a selfie with Bob.

OTT-Island

Media, Signalling and Breaking the OTT Islands

My post summarizing some of the Telco presentations at WebRTC 2014 received a comment from Josh, one of our blog’s loyal readers,who pointed out the market need for breaking the OTT islands.

On the topic of transcoding in your piece. Can you tell me how hard it is to transcode or not and can being a strong transcoder bring a high barrier to entry OTT VoIP network to market? I believe Audiocodes is one of the few players that can transcode brilliantly. For example: I believe you can allow for Whatsapp users to talk to Viber or Line to communicate with Skype. Now that is a service that would knock the socks off the market. Can you give me some color on this thought process?”

My reply to Josh was:

“Great comment that deserves a post as an answer rather than just a reply in the comments section”

So here it comes…

I would like to break down the comment into 3 topics:

  • OTT Islands
  • Media
  • Signaling

OTT Islands

This boils down to the following: do these service providers/OTTs want their services to interconnect?

Imagine you couldn’t call your friends’ home or mobile phones just because you are using service provider A and he is using service provider B. That’s not something we can accept.

In the Telco world, interoperability is king.

One of the reasons excuses Telcos use to justify their slow progress on RCS and VoLTE is the need for specifications to stop changing. They invest endless efforts and money to assure interoperability, that you can call anyone and that you can take your mobile to any country with a compatible network and just use it as a roaming user.

Using the same thinking process, some wait with WebRTC as even WebRTC1.0 is not really finalized and now we have ORTC and WebRTC 1.1 in the plans.

In the OTT world, interoperability contradicts the basic DNA of the company. They build islands and protect them. They typically don’t want you to be able to call someone who is not on their network unless you do it using some “out” service based on PSTN and are charged accordingly.

OTT-Island

There are rare cases where OTT players open up for others to interconnect between them. I was fortunate enough to be involved in such an initiative in my previous life. We provided a server that connected between two very big OTT players. Initiative came from them as they were battling an even larger OTT service provider and concluded they would be better off teaming up on this.

This interconnect was requested by them, hosted by them and available only for them. To the best of my knowledge, this interconnect wasn’t that successful. The reason might be that the interconnect was only for a limited set of capabilities. Doing full interconnect – user management, presence, voice, video, chat and advanced communication features – is hard and not always desired by the OTT as it eliminates the reason for a user to join their network, as he can access it from his current one, so why bother installing another app.

WebRTC is an interesting beast in this context. On one hand it is being adopted by traditional telecom vendors and service providers but on the other hand it was built for the web and has some OTT symptoms.

WebRTC deployments have strong client server coupling and connectivity to other networks is done through a GW, similar to the way it will be done in the case of OTT.

Assuming an OTT does want to open his service for interconnection, there are two big items he will need to make sure are open. Signalling and media.

Signalling

Signalling in this context includes all communication between the client and the server that is not media (media preferably goes directly between the clients).

Finding users, adding them as contacts, publishing presence information and receiving such information, initiating sessions (chat, voice, video) and activating advanced features. All of these functions require signalling.

OTTs don’t wait for standards to be ratified. On the contrary, signalling is the area where they differentiate, where they add their unique competitive edge. While some base their signalling on standard protocols such as SIP, there are always layers on top that make it different from the standard.

Hacking OTT signalling is sometimes possible, the problem is that OTT service providers may change parts of their signalling or add capabilities as they add more features. Moreover, if they don’t want you to GW them to other networks, they can block you.

Media

Media is a completely different animal. While some OTT service providers view voice quality as one of their strong points (Viber played on HD voice high quality in their early days), generally speaking, voice and video codecs used by these service providers are industry common codecs.  Skype, for example, developed the Silk codec for their internal use but later on opened it for everyone to use and today Silk is a popular codec. Opus, the mandatory codec for WebRTC, incorporates both Silk and CELT.

Viber does claim to use some internal codec but since most of these OTT players (Viber among them) provide PSTN connectivity, they have the capability to transcode the media used in their island to G.711, thus, to any codec.

Relating to the comment Josh made: While there are many transcoding solutions available, especially when voice traffic goes over the open internet, as in the OTT case, quality issues may arise. Given over 20 years of experience and technology developed at AudioCodes our products include quality enhancement capabilities that compensate impairments and network behaviour differences such as jitter and delay.

Why this is important?

While people see value in interconnection between OTT players or even having multi-OTT applications, OTT service providers typically view this in contradiction with their interest. They want users to use their service so they can monetize them.

WebRTC in the eyes of Technology and Marketing in Telecom

What Telcos Had to Say at WebRTC 2014

At the very end of 2014, I was at the WebRTC 2014 conference in Europe. I already provided a summary of the important things discussed at the conference and talked about the challenges of running WebRTC on mobile devices which was one of the topics I presented at the event.

In this post, I want to provide a few highlights of what Telcos presented with regards to their activities in WebRTC on the first day of the conference.

How do Telcos grasp WebRTC?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Sebastian from Slovak Telecom presented this topic nicely by showing how technology and marketing people view it in the telephony context –  connecting from IMS and billed as telephony.

WebRTC in the eyes of Technology and Marketing in Telecom

Dr. Joachim Stegmann from Deutsche Telekom presented the different views inside his company in one slide which nicely demonstrated the fact that WebRTC, as a technology, can serve multiple needs. It can extend existing networks and services on the one hand while creating new opportunities in the Web and Telco OTT fronts on the other. One hand doesn’t contradict the other and each will typically be handled by different groups inside the Telco organization.

WebRTC Business Opportunities in 4 segments

Taking a closer look at the 4 key areas Joachim presented:

Connecting Telcos and the Web – This is pretty much the IMS integration view that allows Telcos to launch new services that utilize both IMS and WebRTC. I can see the value but I view it more as a GW type of approach and would put the focus on the services that can be launched on the WebRTC side and less on how they connect to IMS.

Enterprise communication – This is a B2B type of service, and based on what Joachim discussed, it reduces the complexity we experience many times in enterprise video conferencing and collaboration. I agree that WebRTC can make these services better, easier to launch and easier to use. But there are many WebRTC-based collaboration services available today, many of them not too successful as they just took what was possible before with a plug-in and did it with WebRTC. The successful services (not all WebRTC based) provide a more comprehensive offering. I refer to Microsoft Lync that provides an enterprise telephony and collaboration solution or Slack that integrates nicely with many Web services in order to provide a compelling solution.

Service providers need to more than just adopt WebRTC in order to win here.

WebRTC will change customer service – This is B2C communication, in the form of some sort of Contact Center 2.0. Amazon has raised the bar on customer service but that has nothing to do with WebRTC, rather it has to do with state of mind. Integrating a video chat client into a tablet can be done without WebRTC, the hard part is providing the service not the technology. Given Contact Center overload, and in many cases, desire to move B2C to other channels such as chat and forums, the video service is relevant only to specific target audiences in specific segments (hint: $ value of the user being served).

Cloud-based MVNO and Telco OTT – This topic is broader than just WebRTC; it relates to the challenges Telcos are facing in their competition with OTT players. The solution is not technical as the same technology is available to all. The challenge is in agility and capacity to innovate in the service and business model. In these type of services there is a need for asymmetric business models rather than the traditional per-minute/subscription models.

Congestion issues

Staphane Tuffin from Orange Labs, presented congestion issues and why best effort service is not enough. He talked about managed VoIP and why it doesn’t apply for Web Communication service providers. Stephane proposed a solution for WebRTC network admission, identifying WebRTC traffic and ensuring QoS.

Telecom API

As part of the telecom API trend and launch of WebRTC API platforms by service providers, Maurizio De Paola from Telecom Italia presented the company’s EasyAPI, giving Web developers access to the Telecom Italia network. Maurizio showed a few examples of how services can combine users from Telecom Italia’s IMS network with non-Telecom Italia subscribers.

EasyAPI WebRTC Integration with Telecom Italia Network

 

This is nicely aligned with what AT&T announced in their developer summit a short while before CES. A Developer API platform adds the ability to extend user’s mobile identity to the browser.

WebRTC client side

Telecom OTT is a hot topic, John Neystadt from Telefonica presented TU Go, the Telefonica OTT service that runs on different devices and browsers. John presented the reasons for launching TU Go, primarily to allow Telefonica’s 26 operators to offer their subscribers a way to extend the usage of their phone number to other devices.

There were many technical points to consider such as authentication, signalling and transport (decided on a JSON-based proprietary protocol over WebSockets) and how to GW TU Go into their network (they built their own GW for that purpose). Transcoding was, of course, a big topic as Opus is CPU intensive.

Conclusion

While last year, service providers were talking mainly about trials and architectures that combine WebRTC with IMS, this year the main discussion was about real services and issues service providers encounter. That in itself is another milestone in the maturity of WebRTC.

Multi-Tenant-SBC-Use-Cases

Angelina and The Multi-Tenants

When Angelina Jolie plays in a feature, it’s reasonable to assume that she would be playing a close role to the meaningful relationship in the movie. In “Gone in Sixty Seconds”, Sara (Angelina Jolie) is the main star’s (“Memphis” Raines played by Nicolas Cage) girlfriend, however, Memphis’ closest relationship and most meaningful dialogs are not with Sara, but rather with Eleanor,  a customized 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof. In the dramatic reunion between “Memphis” and “Eleanor”, he speaks to the car and touches it tenderly in the most romantic of moments.

Multi-tenancy is all about relationships, or more precisely, the lack of relationships between tenants. Multi-tenancy refers to an architecture where an application running on a server or designated hardware, serves multiple clients (tenants). Multi-tenant systems emerged hand-in-hand with the cloud rush. As more services move to the cloud and are offered as a hosted SaaS, multi-tenancy becomes more and more relevant.

Users are wary of a multi-tenant architecture due to one main reason – the fear that a single system serving a large number of organizations may present a viable security breach. That’s why multi-tenant applications are described by marketers with the following adverbs; separated, partitioned, segregated, non-bleeding, etc., implying that a user from one tenant can’t penetrate another tenant’s space served by the same application.

As the visualization trend grows, multi-instance architecture is being suggested as the ultimate remedy to the all multi-tenant architecture weaknesses. Multi-instance architecture is simple, adding a new instance of the application for each tenant/customer, eliminating the potential for any security breach. However, in life there are no free lunches and multi- instance modularity and elasticity come with a cost, some aspects of which can be listed here:

  • Waste of  Compute & Storage
  • Multiple applications to manage
  • High availability complexity
  • Upgrades “One by One” instead of “One and Done”
  • And more…

Tenant size in a multi-tenant architecture can vary and therefore the instance CPU, memory and interface allocations, should be optimized so as to not waste resources for small-sized tenants on the one hand and not to allocate too many instances for a single tenant/customer on the other. Multi-instance is like shopping in a mall with a bunch of $100 bills with no option to get back change. So when you buy a soda, you may lose $98. Similarly, it would be a great waste to allocate an instance with a capacity of 1,000 concurrent sessions to a small tenant for which 10 concurrent sessions are more than enough.

So how complicated is it to convert a single tenant system to a multi-tenant system? The “screwdriver fixer SW architect” intuitive reaction will be “piece of cake”. Let’s associate a “tenant ID” to all our internal and external tables and, hocus pocus, we have a multi-tenant system. This might work for some tenants who are not totally vertically separated. Tenants may have shared interfaces, for example, a multi-tenant SBC may have a number of tenants sharing a single interface or several interfaces of a SIP Trunk. The figure below shows a few of the possible use cases relevant for an SBC.

Multi-Tenant-SBC-Use-Cases

A multi-tenant system should be a fully scalable, “non-bleeding” partition per tenant running on a single shared physical entity. In should support per tenant configuration, monitoring, reporting, analytics, alarms and interfacing.

A real time system (e.g. SBC) should provide each tenant with optimal real time performance, as each session received by the system is classified and processed only through the tenant’s “orbit”.

Full flexibility should exist to move a tenant with its entire configuration between physical servers and physical locations, assuming extra server capacity is available on the site.

Summary

Multi-tenant options are many and should be chosen following a prudent analysis, otherwise, you may choose the most beautiful single instance and end up with bunch of tenants to foster.