The newest member of the EdgeMarc line is aimed at the smaller end of the small- and midsize-business market. The sweet spot for the 250 Series is offices with between 20 and 30 employees, said Dave Martin, VP of marketing. The new device rounds out an EdgeMarc lineup that spans the SMB gamut up to 1,000 employees and on into the enterprise.
In simple terms, a session border controller functions as a gateway device--not entirely unlike a wireless router does for Web traffic--between an office network and IP-based communications services hosted in the cloud, such as unified communications, VoIP, PBX, or video conferencing. Even simpler: The session border controller is the device that makes everything else play nicely with each other, or what Martin called "protocol mediation."
"SIP is the underlying protocol that a lot of these devices use to communicate with one another," Martin said in an interview. "It's a wonderful framework, but not a guarantee of interoperability. "
If you haven't heard of Edgewater before, that's understandable. Though it has shipped more than 100,000 units since its founding in 2002, the company is just now beginning to market itself directly; in the past, it relied on partners and service providers. Video conferencing represents the primary use case for customers that deploy an EdgeMarc device themselves without relying on a third-party provider.
"That's where we seem to see a majority of the deployments," Martin said. He gave as an example a health insurance customer that previously had to schedule video conferences four days in advance--that was the necessary lead time for its IT team to gather participant IP addresses, create firewall policies, and so forth. "It was very painful, not only for the end user but the IT folks as well."
Along with traffic management and service quality, security is a key point of the session border controller pitch. The EdgeMarc 250 device enables administrators to implement policy-based rules that govern a company's communications network. Examples include restrictions on which devices users can accept incoming calls from, VoIP-aware security that enables the controller to drop any traffic not included on a list of approved users, and features geared toward in an increase in SIP-based denial-of-service attacks. As more SMBs are drawn to the potential cost savings of IP-based communications, Martin said, they're increasingly asking for the same control they hold over their general Web traffic.
"I think the same thing is happening in this IP-based communications space," Martin said. "[SMBs] increasingly want to have an enforcement point where they can apply policy to these kinds of applications and this kind of traffic."
The EdgeMarc 250W can sit behind an existing router with 10/100 Mbps Ethernet WAN, and it includes a DSL port for direct connectivity. It can function as a 802.11b/g/n wireless access point, and includes an FXO port for failover and USB support, among other specs. Pricing for 250 Series devices runs between $375 and $652. Because words like gateway or "interoperability" are core to Edgewater's business, the vendor tests and certifies its devices for popular communications systems such as Avaya's IP Office and comparable offerings from other household names like Microsoft and Cisco.
Among current trends in IP communications, SMB customers especially are looking for hardware integration, echoing recent data that indicates a bundling preference for cloud services including hosted UC, Martin said.
"People do not want multiple boxes," Martin said. "It's just multiple points of failure, and it's costly and difficult to implement."