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Sun 27 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Supporting ICE standards

In a bid to making voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) and integrated communications more accessible to customers, Microsoft and Cisco Systems have teamed up to support the emerging Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) methodology.

In a bid to making voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) and integrated communications more accessible to customers, Microsoft and Cisco Systems have teamed up to support the emerging Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) methodology.

ICE, which is a standards-based methodology, allows information workers and businesses to communicate in media-rich ways across network address translators (NATs), a significant barrier to VoIP and video connectivity. NATs are common components in IP networks today. However, while they enhance security and provide other benefits, they also pose significant barriers to the broader adoption and pervasive use of VoIP and video across residential and enterprise networks. The trouble with NATs is that the same functionality that prevents network intrusion also often results in voice and video streams being blocked from outside the network.

ICE provides a rich set of solutions for current NAT issues with media. Microsoft and Cisco are jointly supporting the ICE effort, demonstrating their commitment to developing standards-based communications solutions built on methodologies that can be broadly adopted and integrated. “Finding a way for VoIP to work better across NATs and firewalls is a problem that is facing the entire industry,” says Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the office real-time collaboration group at Microsoft.

“Cisco and Microsoft are encouraging our industry partners to utilise the ICE methodology to ensure consistent and reliable experiences for our customers, and to improve session initiation protocol (SIP)-based VoIP interoperability across networks.” With service providers increasingly deploying converged voice and data services based on SIP, the two company’s endorsement of ICE standards bodes well for end-users, mostly for multimedia organisations.

The move by the industry’s two technology giants is in the right direction, and they may be able to solve some of the major VoIP issues. Microsoft and Cisco have both financial and human resources to work on standard related issues. However, one question that arises out of this partnership is security. Microsoft and Cisco technologies are favourite targets for hackers. It opens a door for a wide range of attacks, making enterprises using VoIP architectures anxious. Anyone sending voice packets over the wide area network (WAN) will have to consider the associated security risks. Furthermore, service providers will also have to manage the security threat. Whatever the risks are, the move is a positive one, and it will help increase the uptake of the emerging technology.

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