The acceptance of a new platform can be gauged in a number of ways. Some signs are overt, such as huge sales numbers, while others are more subtle. The recent run of stories and news concerning VoIP peering is a subtle but real signal that the new telephone platform has arrived.
Peering is the process by which carriers trade traffic, and it's a tremendously important and complex topic. The business issues surrounding peering are discussed in this VoIP News story; some of the technical subjects are tackled in this VoIP Planet piece.
On the "bits and bytes" technology level, VoIP carriers must worry about completing calls that originate or are headed to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) or to carriers that use different VoIP signaling protocols. It can be as a big a headache as it sounds.
The business side of peering also is tricky. Companies must find each other and agree on terms concerning payment for traffic that flows between them. This can be a sticky topic, since in many cases more traffic flows in one direction than in the other. There also are several types of contract structures. In some cases, the story says, companies must work hard simply to overcome the fact that they are competitors.
We have no doubt that these problems will be surmounted. For one thing, the emergence of so many groups dedicated to working through the issues certainly shows both a desire on the part of carriers and a clear enough profit motive for those arranging the confederations.
On the technical level, things seem equally well in hand. Neither the VoIP Planet or VoIP News pieces suggest that there are any intractable problems. Indeed, VoIP News says that peering all-IP traffic is easily accomplished with a few tweaks to the session border controllers.
IT managers should educate themselves on these issues. For instance, a key topic is how security will be handled. IT managers and CSOs should sit up and take notice. They have a rooting interest, of course, and it's reasonable that they should be in the loop on how their traffic will be protected on an end-to-end basis, not just when the packets are on the network of the carrier with whom they have a direct contractual relationship.
The fact that VoIP peering is in the news clearly is a sign that the category is continuing its gradual evolution. From the corporate standpoint, this is, of course, a good thing -- and one to which attention should be paid.