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Softswitch Architecture or It s the Architecture, Stupid!
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Figure 3-1 Softswitch architecture components
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Proprietary, Closed Environment
Figure 3-2 Mainframe versus softswitch clientserver architecture. Note the fluidity of the softswitch architecture.
Legacy CircuitSwitched Solution Application & Services
Softswitched Solution Application & Services
Open, Standard Interfaces
Call Control & Switching
Call Control & Switching
Transport Hardware
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small and grow with the demand, as opposed to a large upfront investment in a Class 4 switch. In the fall of 1997, Computer Telephony printed a white paper entitled Rise of the Stupid Network authored by David Isenberg, a scientist at Bell Labs. In the paper, Isenberg points out that the Internet is the inverse of the PSTN in that the intelligence of the Internet resides at the periphery of the network, instead of residing at the core of the network as it does in the PSTN. Thus, Softswitch architecture reflects a stupid network. Softswitch
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Softswitch Architecture or It s the Architecture, Stupid!
3
is a sum of its parts distributed across an Internet Protocol (IP) network, as opposed to the PSTN where a few large, highly centralized Class 4 and 5 switches operate. This chapter outlines the components and ideology of a stupid network.2 Softswitch can be considered a stupid solution as it utilizes distributed architecture (intelligence at the periphery), which is different than the smart or centralized architecture of the Class 4 and 5 switches.
Access
Softswitch architecture, like the PSTN, can be described as having three elements: (1) access, that is, how a subscriber gains access to the network; (2) switching, how a call is controlled across the network; and (3) transport, or how a call is transported across the network. In the case of accessing a Voice over IP (VoIP) network, access can be gained either from an IP source (PC or IP phone) or from a legacy, analog handset via a media gateway.
PC to PC and PC to Phone
The first VoIP applications used PCs equipped with speakers and microphones as terminals for access to a VoIP network. Initially, the quality of service (QoS) left much to be desired and, as a result, this form of access did not immediately catch on in the market. This service is often referred to as PC to PC. It is also possible to complete phone calls PC to Phone. PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone applications are now used most widely by consumers for long-distance bypasses (see Figure 3-3). The market driver for this form of access has been saving money on long distance, specifically on international long distance. Although often touted as an enterprise telephony solution, the use of PC as a telephony terminal has not seized any significant market share. Even where the QoS was acceptable for the task, anthropological issues remained. PCs do not resemble telephones in appearance, feel, or function. This presents a psychological barrier to the user for using a PC as readily as a telephone handset.
2 Isenberg, David. Rise of the Stupid Network. Computer Telephony, August 1997. pg. 16 26. (Also see www.isen.com.)
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Softswitch Architecture or It s the Architecture, Stupid!
Softswitch Architecture or "It's the Architecture, Stupid!"
Figure 3-3 PC to PC and PC to phone
IP Network
VOIP Gateway
Telephone Class 4 Switch
IP Phones (IP Handsets) Phone-to-Phone VoIP
It didn t take the industry long to realize the benefits of a PC in a handset for use in VoIP, thus was born the IP phone. Early pioneers of this technology included e-tel and PingTel. The IP handset incorporates all the computer hardware necessary to make an IP phone call possible. Another strong advantage of the IP handset is that it removes anthropological objections to VoIP calls. The IP handset looks and functions like a telephone as opposed to a PC. IP handsets are stand-alone devices and present an IPdesktop-to-desktop solution. IP handsets offer further benefits in that they do not require a gateway and its incumbent investment and management responsibilities. The chief advantage of an IP phone to an enterprise is that the phone requires a minimum of network configuration and management. Each employee equipped with an IP phone can take his or her phone anywhere on a network with no reconfiguration of the phone or the network. IP phone-equipped employees are potentially more productive because the graphic user interface (GUI) on the IP phone makes using features much easier than with a 12-button conventional telephone handset and its list of star codes.
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Softswitch Architecture or It s the Architecture, Stupid!
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