Much has been written about media servers and their benefits.  In this two-part blog, I’d like to talk about this cool infographic we developed to discuss the roles of media servers for both operator and enterprise applications.  All sources cited in this blog are noted on the infographic.


For more on media servers, check out a great article titled “Media Servers Will Play an Increasingly Important Role for Telco Apps” recently published in Internet Telephony magazine by colleague Jim Machi.  The article discusses the critical role of media servers today.  Additionally, there are numerous posts in the Dialogic blog about media servers.

Media servers power modern real-time communications – plain and simple.  They are the foundation for applications built on video, WebRTC, interactive voice response, prompts/playback recording conferencing and speech recognition.  All of us interact with these technologies every day, whether through our mobile devices or land line phones.  The purpose of this infographic is to show how critical media servers are across the communications spectrum.

Let’s take each of the sections one by one.

Mobile 4G Networks with VoLTE and VoWiFi
Mobile operators use media servers to deliver critical and profitable applications to subscribers.  Operators are moving to Voice over LTE and Voice over WiFi to deploy enhanced applications to drive increased revenue and contain costs.  Today there are more than 50 million subscribers running on VoLTE and that number is expected to grow to over 1.2 billion subscribers in the next five years.

Operators are looking to offer differentiated servers based on VoLTE and VoWiFi.  Each of those ways to deliver voice and video services is based on 3GPP’s IP multimedia subsystems (IMS) architecture.  It’s in that specification that the media server is defined as an MRF (media resource function) to deliver voice and video.

MRFs provide HD audio interworking, automated announcements and prompts, touchtone (DTMF), recording and playback for voicemail, and advanced video features.

Mobile and Web Apps with WebRTC
WebRTC is the new web and internet standard that is defining a new age of app-based communications for web and native mobile environments.  See my earlier blog on a WebRTC conference in May.

We all know it’s all about mobile.  But did you know that there are expected to be over 6 billion mobile devices that will support WebRTC by 2019? Today, there are more than 600 companies using WebRTC for a wide range of services including customer service, support, education and finance.  Additionally, there are more than 4,000 open source contributors to WebRTC making this a widely adopted and solid platform to deliver advanced real time communication services.

Media servers provide multi-party conferencing for audio and video; recording with real-time playback; and interworking with existing telephone networks.

Enterprise Unified Communications
Today’s enterprise workers are increasingly mobile, and so are their communications systems. And these communications systems are increasingly cloud-based. More than 63% of large enterprises have at least one unified communication application in the cloud.  This drives the growth of a $12 billion hosted VoIP and UC market by 2019.

Media servers provide voice mail servers, speech processing, multi-party conferencing and audio and video, recording and real-time playback, interactive voice response services, and WebRTC interworking with existing networks.

Video Conferencing
The value of the global video conferencing market is expected to grow from $3.3 billion today over $6.4 billion in 2020.  Underlying this growth is the deployment of WebRTC type applications and new cloud-based infrastructure.

Over 30% of large enterprises will use cloud-based video conferencing by 2015.  It’s more accessible, expected and customizable to specific uses cases.  Additionally, over 28% will use WebRTC for desktop video within the next year.

Media servers provide transcoding and transizing between different video formats and provide for multi-party conferencing and recording.

Contact Center
As customers are moving to web and mobile, contact centers are moving toward seamless omni-channel interactions to improve customer experience.  Over 69% of contact center communications are still handled by phone.  More than 30% of contact centers offer a mobile application.  Solutions must be based on mobile users, seamless interactions and great customer experience.

For contact centers media servers provide speech processing, voicemail services, multi-party conferencing, recording and real-time playback, IVR and WebRTC interworking.

Next Generation 911 and Emergency Services
Governments around the world today are expanding their emergency service systems to be compatible with text and multimedia messaging. In 2014, the US FCC directed wireless carriers and other text messaging provides to support text-to-911.   The FCC has also mandated that video relay services for the deaf must also deliver emergency calls.  That mandate is based on the fact that 10% of the population in US and Canada are deaf or hearing impaired making 911 calls very difficult.

Media servers support NG 911 services by providing multi-party conferencing, video, interworking and recording.

Keep an eye out for a new whitepaper from Dialogic on the role of the media server in NG 911 environments.

That wraps up some commentary on the media server infographic.  Think media servers are important? What do you think?


Dialogic #479 Blog Image

The NFV World Congress in San Jose was all about disrupting the current state of telecommunications. So I actually wasn’t too surprised when I heard, in my opinion, a very controversial comment that went contrary to one of the core architectural principles in telecommunications networks. It basically questioned telecom’s obsession with the concept of carrier grade and five 9s. The question raised was, “Why is the telecommunications industry so intent on delivering five 9s when no one is really willing to pay for it? Spending billions of dollars on this capability does not really make sense when no one is willing to pay a premium.”

It’s true that “five 9s” has become a cornerstone to telecom availability, and the term is thrown around quite liberally by vendors and service providers alike. However, with the worlds of IT and telecom colliding, I believe there are markedly different perceptions and opinions to the requirement for five 9s availability. Are the perceptions that far apart, though?

One of the motivating factors for five 9s for me was the 1988 Hinsdale Central Office fire, the largest telecommunications disaster in US history to that time, in which a good portion of the special circuits and central office equipment supporting not only local services but also banking, airline ticket reservations, ATMs, etc., were affected due to a catastrophic fire. The fact was that the Hinsdale office represented a single geographical point of failure, and the outages of some major systems went on for weeks. Enough history, though. The point is that the terms “availability” and “reliability” seemed to take center stage as well as the concern over single points of network failure.

With Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), the concept of High Availability (HA) for virtualized network functions (VNFs) changes. It shifts from that of an active-standby or active-active deployment of the application or platform in a physical sense to a virtualized application using the inherent services and capabilities of the underlying NFV infrastructure (NFVI) layer. So now, when there is a failure, catastrophic or otherwise with the underlying hardware or the application, the impacted traffic will be re-directed to a new instance or a load shared instance of that application either in the same data center or across data centers. So even though the NFVI layer takes responsibility for providing HA, you still need the available virtual resources to accommodate this capability.

Admittedly, some public cloud providers don’t promise five 9s availability (which amounts to a little over 5 minutes down time a year) nor do they count scheduled downtime or maintenance in calculating their SLA. This seems to be in direct conflict with the telco mantra of five 9s, but an N+X approach (where X is the number of failed components that can be tolerated) can provide a pretty solid foundation to meet customer expectations of availability. There are challenges, though, as discussions in the ETSI NFV ISG point out. For example, the VNF has to dynamically and rapidly scale out in response to a failure or burst in traffic load. Also, some VNFs perform stateful processing of flows and that state needs to be duplicated across instances otherwise there could be a service disruption when an instance fails.

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and cloud-based applications truly represent a technology turn that will have a profound effect on:

  • How underlying infrastructure is deployed for end-to-end service delivery
  • How services and new network functions are rolled out
  • The way network functions are architected, chained together and instantiated to create a service, and
  • The capability set of virtualized network functions that can now leverage the elasticity and resiliency benefits of the cloud – for example N+X

Dialogic has taken a comprehensive approach when it comes to NFV and VNF implementation and has focused on software modularity and decomposition of applications to better take advantage of the elasticity and scalability features of the NFVI.

What do you think? Is the concept of five 9s a thing of the past or do we have new tools to implement the next generation of high reliability in a cloud environment? Let us know what you think by tweeting us @Dialogic.


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