Acme Packet, of Burlington, Mass., was founded in August 2000 and since that time has built an extensive product line of session border controllers that have been deployed to 210 service providers in 46 countries. As a startup, the company name, as the story goes, was carefully chosen for several key reasons: it began with a letter that was at the beginning of the alphabet, it began with a letter that came before "Cisco", and it described the mission of the company, "Enabling peak performance for interactive communications across IP network borders, so service providers can increase their revenues and profits by delivering new voice, video, and, multimedia applications."
So how do you make the connection between that corporate mission statement and Acme Packet? If you consult Webster's, you discover that acme is a noun of Greek origin, and meaning a high point, summit, or something that represents perfection. Packets, of course, are units of information sent across an Internet Protocol-based network. Perhaps this moniker is a tall order for a startup that has only been in business a few years, but based upon the breadth of their product line, it would appear that they are on their way to fulfilling that mission statement.
The Acme Packet product line is branded Net-Net, which reflects their role of interconnecting different IP networks that carry voice, video, and multimedia traffic. At the heart of their architecture are session border controllers (SBCs) that provide the key control functions that govern multimedia communication sessions between IP networks, including real time delivery of information between fixed (wireline) and wireless networks. These functions focus on five areas: security, service reach maximization, service level agreement (SLA) assurance, revenue and profit protection, and regulatory and law enforcement. Their systems support the IP multimedia system (IMS) architecture defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP, described at www.3gpp.org), and also the extensions to that work that have been undertaken by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) with their TISPAN project. TISPAN, which stands for Telecoms and Internet Converged Services and Protocols for Advanced Networks, defines a migration path from switched circuit networks to packet-based networks, with an architecture that can serve both (see http://portal.etsi.org/tispan).
Two models of SBC-centric architectures are defined. The first, designated integrated, allows subscribers access to the IMS network core, which requires that the SBC integrate the signaling and media control within a single platform. The second model is called distributed, which separates the physical signaling and medial control platforms. The Acme Packet Net-Net product line supports both of these configurations, and is comprised of the following subsystems:
- Net-Net OS: the SBC software platform that operates both the Net-Net 4000 and 9000 SBCs. The operating system provides support for SIP, H.323, MGCP, and H.248plus interworking between SIP and H.323as well as the control functions (security, SLA, etc.) mentioned above.
- Net-Net 4000 Series: a carrier-class SBC hardware platform with capacity for up to 32,000 media sessions. Supported network interfaces include Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet (10, 100 and 1000 Mbps, respectively). Depending upon the SBC model (integrated or distributed), the 4000 may be configured as a Session Director, Signaling Controller, Border Gateway, or Session Router.
- Net-Net 9000 Series: a high-capacity hardware platform with capacity for up to 128,000 media sessions, up to 16,000 transcoded calls, and a maximum of eight Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. It may also be configured in the four options noted above.
- Net-Net PAC: a system designed for scalability and redundancy, which consists of a pack of multiple Net-Net 4000 SBCs that perform as one logical SBC. The system has a capacity of 32,000-256,000 concurrent sessions, with 8-32 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.
- Net-Net EMS: an element management system that supports the configuration, fault, performance, and security aspects of a Net-Net deployment, using a browser interface. It includes interfaces for standard network management protocols, including the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
Further details on the Acme Packet architecture and products can be found at www.acmepacket.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors' architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.