MetaSwitch, with offices in Alameda, Calif., Reston, Va, and London, is a division of Data Connection, a 25-year old company that has specialized in supplying core communications technologies. These products include protocol stacks and applications that are used by some of the industry's leading vendors, including Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Cisco Systems, and Siemens; plus carriers, including British Telecom, France Telecom, Verizon, SBC, and others. The ownership of Data Connection is somewhat unusual, in that it is a privately owned company, and entirely self-funded. The firm is held by an employee benefit trust, so that profits are distributed to the employees. Data Connections revenues were approximately $68 million during 2005, with MetaSwitch contributing approximately 40 percent of that total amount.
MetaSwitch has positioned its business as a supplier to the carrier market, and claims 230 deployments for its products, and an installed capacity for more than three million subscribers, with some of its key customers having in excess of one million subscribers. MetaSwitch also operates a broad partnership and interoperability program, with more than 250 devices having passed through their interoperability lab in Alameda, California. Some of the company's strategic partners are household names in the networking and multimedia business, including AcmePacket, ADTRAN, Cisco Systems, Micromuse, Polycom, Verilink, and Wave7 Optics.
The MetaSwitch architecture is based upon the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), and is named the Multimedia-Enhanced Telephony Architecture, or META. The architecture is designed to allow carriers to migrate seamlessly from legacy Class 4/5 networks to packet-based services, while still maintaining full support for legacy features, protocols and interfaces. Their objective is to effectively replace the legacy network in a like-for-like manner, while adding new services and capabilities from the PC desktop. The META components include:
- CA9020 Call Agent: a central software element that can be located either on dual redundant servers or integrated within the Softswitch, and which implements the service intelligence, call routing logic, media/signaling gateway control, and billing for networks of up to 500,000 subscribers. The Call Agent supports all major next generation control protocols including SIP, MGCP, H.248 and SIGTRAN.
- MG3510 Media Gateway: enables interoperability with a number of network types, with support for T1, T3, OC3c and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. The media gateway provides Time Division Multiplexing- (TDM-) to-packet media conversion, and integrated media server functionality for echo cancellation, transcoding, and announcements, under the control of an H.248-compliant media gateway controller such as the CA9020 Call Agent.
- SG3510/2510 Signaling Gateway: implements Signaling System 7 (SS7) to Internet Protocol (IP) conversion, with support for up to 3,072 signaling links per gateway.
- VP3510/2510 Integrated Softswitch: combines the functions of the MG3510 and SG3510/2510 in a single chassis, along with the Call Agent software that would normally run on the CA9020, for a rapidly deployed one-box softswitch solution.
- UC9000 Unified Communications System: leverages the IMS Application Server architecture to implement a range of enhanced services including Web Self-Care, Voicemail/Unified Messaging, Auto Attendant, Privacy Defender, and Desktop Assistant (which integrates live call control, contact management, message waiting indication, and presence/instant messaging on the desktop with subscribers' regular phone service).
- MetaSwitch Element Management System (EMS): provides network management for all MetaSwitch networks, including the gateways and softswitch. The EMS consists of a server and a Windows or Unix-based client that provides a detailed hierarchical view of the network that reveals the logical relationships of the components. This network view that is complemented by configurable "tasks" that provide for frequent provisioning and configuration operations. The EMS is compatible with the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which furthers its interoperability with other network management systems.
Further details on the MetaSwitch architecture and products can be found at www.metaswitch.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.