Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers

21 October 2013 ID:G00248557
Analyst(s): Deborah Kish, Akshay K. Sharma, Frank Marsala

VIEW SUMMARY

The session border controller vendor landscape continues to change with new entrants and consolidation. This Magic Quadrant focuses on incumbent SBC vendors and those that have developed competing products for communications service providers.

Market Definition/Description

Session border controllers (SBCs) offer communications service providers (CSPs) a set of functions that address service delivery problems caused by the creation of Internet Protocol (IP) network islands. These problems generally relate to security (for example, denial of service, distributed denial of service [DDoS], botnets and toll fraud), quality of service (QoS) management and network interoperability. SBCs enable separate IP networks to connect securely and cost-effectively, without compromising quality. SBCs also perform session management. "Session management" is a term describing how CSPs apply policies (such as for bandwidth for video calls), control session routing, ensure interoperability across multivendor communications environments, and integrate applications with communications services.

CSPs purchase SBCs for two main purposes:

  • To incorporate them into their own infrastructure for their own use (that is, to protect their own networks via the topology hiding function).
  • To offer CSP-managed SBCs as a service to customers who are evaluating whether to buy SBCs of their own or who have decided not to buy them. Enterprise customers have been evaluating the purchase of SBCs, and while a few vendors evaluated in this Magic Quadrant offer SBCs geared toward the enterprise, Cisco, AudioCodes, RedShift Networks, Avaya and Ingate Systems have SBC solutions designed predominantly for the enterprise but are not evaluated in this Magic Quadrant. Enterprise SBCs can be utilized for topology hiding (protecting premises equipment), interworking SIP endpoints and applying policy (such as those pertaining to bring-your-own-device issues).

SBCs are typically implemented either as stand-alone network elements or integrated into existing network elements, such as routers and gateways, and they are currently being evaluated in software-defined networking (SDN) environments for network functions virtualization (NFV). This Magic Quadrant examines only vendors of stand-alone SBCs for CSPs. Although several of these vendors also offer integrated solutions and solutions geared toward enterprise customers, integrated solutions and enterprise solutions are not part of the evaluation.

The SBC market is the fastest-growing market segment in the voice switching, control and application market. Its year-over-year growth from 2011 through 2012 was 31%. The boost in growth in this market was due largely to an increase in smaller-scale deployments by CSPs for more targeted applications, as well as an increased interest in SBCs being sold to the enterprise. We anticipate the market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.3% from 2013 through 2017.

Magic Quadrant

Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers
Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers

Source: Gartner (October 2013)

Vendor Strengths and Cautions

Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent offers IP Border Controller solutions covering both the SBC access border and WebRTC gateway needs: either distributed (combining the 5450 ISC with the 7510 Media Gateway) or integrated with the 5060 IBC-4 as a stand-alone product. Both the integrated and distributed configurations support the WebRTC border controller that can co-reside with the SBC function. Capacity varies between the products: For the integrated model, the 5060 IBC-4 can support 200,000 subscribers and 32,000 concurrent sessions, while the distributed option scales up to 2 million subscribers and 64,000 concurrent sessions. Alcatel-Lucent IP Border Controllers support enhanced codecs, including high-definition (HD) voice, and separate the signaling and media plane for greater scaling of nonvoice traffic. In addition, for an SBC peering model, Alcatel-Lucent delivers on its 5060 MGC-8 combined with its 7510 Media Gateway.

Strengths
  • Alcatel-Lucent added WebRTC functionality to its SBCs in April 2013. The SBC road map includes the SBC on a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) platform in 2013 and SBC virtualization in 2014. Its timelines are in line with industry trends and CSP plans.
  • Alcatel-Lucent views voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) as the most important driver for its SBC, which resonates with market trends, providing logical transitioning of SBCs into wireless networks. The IP Border Controllers natively include VoLTE's critical enhanced single radio voice call continuity (eSRVCC) function, which simplifies the network. The distributed model includes independent scaling of signaling and bearer, which is increasingly important for economical scaling of networks that go beyond voice to include Rich Communication Suite (RCS; signaling intensive) and video (bearer intensive). It has strong ties to wireless carriers; therefore, most of its SBC sales have been for mobile environments, and it stands to gain some new SBC business through existing relationships.
  • Alcatel-Lucent's positioning statements for its SBC revolve around integration with its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) solutions, supporting existing services and security when provisioning new services, such as VoLTE, RCS or WebRTC, including extending security in the access network to devices.
  • Alcatel-Lucent's technology vision includes IMS as the center point to provide a converged platform where new application development and launching new services can be done faster. Its vision also includes SBC for the network edge toward the subscriber access network (fixed and mobile) and interconnected IP networks, including security, media handling, IP version 4 (IPv4)/IP version 6 (IPv6) interworking and policy enforcement.
Cautions
  • Alcatel-Lucent's SBC product portfolio is comparable to those of its strongest competitors; however, it will need more traction in the market to prove that it is a formidable competitor. Its SBC sales have been largely in Asia/Pacific and North America.
  • Alcatel-Lucent has undergone reorganization and must demonstrate good execution against the Shift Plan to retain credibility with customers and investors. It will have to do this in the face of a challenging macroeconomic environment, in which its CSP customers are investing cautiously. The Shift Plan will move Alcatel-Lucent's R&D investment away from legacy technologies and increase emphasis and spend on newer technologies, such as SDN and NFV.

Cirpack

Cirpack offers a wide range of SBCs, including the Small SBC, Compact SBC, Integrated SBC and Dedicated SBC. They range from fully integrated modules that help manage the increase in signaling traffic and the growing demand of media traffic, to decomposed and redundant modules for access and interconnect with external and additional media proxy and transcoding equipment. These solutions can be deployed as all-in-one solutions hosting both media and signaling controllers on a single platform, and they can be upgraded to a dedicated media controller, supervised by the Integrated SBC, which is an access and interconnect signaling controller module.

Strengths
  • Cirpack's technology vision for its SBC is based largely on fixed and mobile industry standards and hardware and software technology, compliant with 3GPP-TISPAN IMS specifications to provide either an all-in-one fully integrated SBC or a decomposed signaling and media SBC solution. Providing a virtual appliance is also part of Cirpack's software development specifications.
  • Cirpack's innovation strategy includes a full IP access, core and border interconnect network for fixed and mobile: network convergence, virtualization, and providing a high-scale, high-performance and high-interoperability solution using standard IT hardware.
  • Cirpack offers a wide variety of SBC solutions that can support as few as 250 concurrent sessions and 10,000 users and up to 64,000 concurrent sessions and 250,000 users, in addition to decomposed access SBCs and media proxy elements for load sharing and transcoding capabilities.
  • Cirpack's partnership strategy and vendor ecosystem are largely based on identification of technology partners that provide complementary solutions to Cirpack's product portfolio, such as, voice and video messaging systems, multimedia servers, lawful intercept mediation, SIP PBX, xDSL boxes, SIP phones, SIP softphones, billing and monitoring. It also plans to set up an OEM program with large telco equipment providers and large system integrators.
Cautions
  • Cirpack had been recently spun out from its former parent company, Technicolor, and may find difficulty in re-establishing itself as a stand-alone brand for products in the telecom sector. The Cirpack brand has little visibility beyond its established customer base.
  • Cirpack's road map for lawful intercept and regulatory compliance for EMEA, Latin America, North America and Asia/Pacific, as well as support for the Diameter protocol, is far behind that of its competitors, most of which support these functions today. It also lacks key QoS and service assurance capabilities, such as SLA monitoring and support for 4G/LTE specifications.

Dialogic

Dialogic offers its BorderNet family of SBCs, which addresses both the CSP and the enterprise SIP trunking markets. Its product portfolio includes SBCs integrated with a media gateway, such as the BorderNet 2020 SBC, and stand-alone SBCs (BorderNet 3000 and 4000). It recently launched the BorderNet Virtualized SBC designed for virtualized environments both at the enterprise and service provider access edge and for NFV-related applications. It started a rebranding effort in late 2012 with the concept of "Network Fuel," specifically in the areas of any-to-any networking, contact center transformation, unified communications for service providers, application enablement and network congestion.

Strengths
  • Dialogic's technology vision is focused on technology developments and trends to include cloud-based computing for session and media handling, and policy and routing centralization. Cloud computing is a major focus for Dialogic's technology vision, and it is aligning its road maps and innovations with service provider NFV initiatives, as evidenced by the BorderNet Virtualized SBC for NFV applications.
  • Dialogic has increased its global reach with its SBCs. In an effort to increase its visibility, Dialogic has added website home pages in local languages for certain geographical regions, such as Germany, China and Japan, to align more closely with the language preferences of those markets, where it will highlight local events that cover SBCs in addition to the broader corporate messaging.
  • Dialogic's release of its virtualized SBC and upcoming rollout of software-based virtualized transcoding is in line with industry trends around SBC virtualization, NFV and cloud offerings. Its road map and timelines fit well with other initiatives, including mobile and VoLTE/IMS, general transcoding (integrated and software-based), audio and video transcoding, WebRTC and RCS enhanced (RCS-e), and Diameter and policy integration (Diameter routing, policy server and charging/billing).
  • Dialogic's turnaround time from point of purchase to deployment is shorter on average by one to two months compared with most of its competitors.
Cautions
  • Dialogic's vision and product proof points around NFV are strengths for the company, but it can benefit by providing stronger statements about how its customers can leverage NFV, save on capital expenditure and operating expenditure (opex), become more agile, and monetize network assets.
  • From a feature and function perspective, while Dialogic's SBC currently supports prioritization of emergency services, it does not support at this time other regulatory functions associated with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and lawful intercept. However, these capabilities are on the product road map and align with target customer requirements.
  • While the BorderNet SBC supports IMS/VoLTE peering and interconnect applications, a feature not in the current release but on the road map is support for some specific Diameter interfaces that are used for VoLTE access applications that provide for policy-based control with real-time charging.

Genband

Genband has revised its entire product portfolio under its new Smart (Smart Core, Edge and Experience) umbrella and united its family of SBCs under the QUANTiX solution set. Within the QUANTiX family, Genband offers its SBC product as pure software (QFlex), as well as on multiple off-the-shelf platforms branded as Q10 (1 rack unit [U]), Q20 (2U) and GENiUS (Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture [ATCA] chassis). The SBC products are targeted at carrier and enterprise market segments. Genband also provides Security Gateway and Diameter Signaling Controllers under the QUANTiX product family.

Strengths
  • As part of multiple innovative changes, and in addition to its rebranding and product refocus, Genband also included added support for onboard transcoding in the Q20 SBC in early 2013. Genband successfully completed transcoding trials with Tier 1 service providers in EMEA and North America. It also developed advanced capabilities for SIP message manipulation, designed to simplify the complexities of traditional SIP header manipulation provided by SBCs.
  • Genband's road map includes support for WebRTC security and media interworking and evolution of its QUANTiX/EXPERiUS SIP Trunking solution offer. Genband announced a deployment of its WebRTC SPiDR gateway in May 2013.
  • The company has a good distribution of presence globally with its SBCs and has increased its presence in EMEA and Latin America since 2012.
  • Genband's technology vision is well in line with technology trends, and it sees IMS and network evolution, distributed SBCs, cloud-based architectures, the emergence of Web- and OTT-based communications, and associated media and interworking requirements as key focus areas.
  • Genband's go-to-market strategy aligns closely with its technology vision and overall product portfolio revision with its recent campaign "Making Networks Smarter." It includes messaging around more intelligence in the software, more flexibility in the infrastructure and integration of end-to-end solutions that deliver better services at less cost — "from the core, to the edge, to the experience."
Cautions
  • Some existing customers feel that overall support and quality assurance have declined in the last few years, primarily due to Genband's broad product mix. Based on limited survey results, Genband had a poor response time to RFPs compared with vendors focused solely on the SBC marketplace.
  • Genband's history of acquisitions that support legacy systems is not an optimal part of its business strategy. In the future, it needs to ensure acquisitions and partnerships are complementary to its vision with respect to security and virtualization for emerging markets, such as unified communications as a service (UCaaS), mobile core functions for small cells/Wi-Fi, and media-related functions. Its recent acquisition of fring is a step in that direction.
  • The company needs to demonstrate that it can execute and influence according to its new position in the market, as well as under its revised product portfolio. It needs to continue to demonstrate significant proof points through new contract announcements.

Huawei

Huawei's SessionEngine2600 SBC is comparable to competing products from a feature and functionality perspective. It supports up to 60,000 concurrent sessions and all security, QoS and service assurance functions.

Strengths
  • Huawei's technology vision around SBCs includes high performance and encryption; for example, providing TLS and SRTP to prevent eavesdropping and interception through RCS or VoLTE services. It also believes that higher throughput is important in these environments as well, due to increased volumes from RCS services, such as picture sharing, file transfer, IM and video calling, as well as increasing performance of media transcoding and emphasis on strong security.
  • Huawei is introducing a new platform, the SE2900 SBC, to support SBC as a service and evolution to the cloud.
  • Huawei's financial position continues to be strong, and it is therefore better-positioned than most of its competitors to execute on its vision. Its overall financial performance remains strong, despite lower top-line growth in 2012.
  • The company has exponentially increased its sales and support personnel in every region where it is present, thereby increasing execution power and providing higher customer touch and a more efficient value chain, as well as increased presence outside its home region.
Cautions
  • Huawei's marketing of its SBC is not particularly strong. The company relies on direct sales, and a majority of its SBC sales are generally combined with other solutions, such as those for VoLTE/RCS, IMS and next-generation networks (NGNs) versus through partners or resellers. It is increasing sales of its SBC as a stand-alone solution.
  • Based on limited survey results, some reasons why Huawei was disqualified as an SBC vendor choice include inadequate perceived value in pricing model, poor response to request for proposal or presentation of capabilities, and political reasons within the organization. The company has recently implemented more flexible pricing models that aim to adapt to different deployment scenarios.
  • Huawei faces political, trade, and intellectual property and security trust issues in some regions, particularly the U.S. Additionally, because Huawei is a private company, its financial nontransparency makes deeper analysis difficult. To succeed in those markets where it faces these issues, the vendor needs to increase the confidence of decision makers globally.

Italtel

Italtel launched its SBC NetMatch-S products in early 2012 and offers different editions, each one with a different platform, aiming to be effective on a cost-per-session basis. Its product range offers capabilities that are similar but differentiated in terms of scale and performance. Since launching NetMatch-S, Italtel has secured contracts for its SBC with Tier 1 and Tier 2 Italian service providers, as well as with an Italian utility and financial institution, Terrecablate (an Italian local operator), and a Tier 2 Spanish service provider.

Strengths
  • Italtel participates in the High Definition Video Conferencing initiative, an open group of operators and manufacturers that includes Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, NSN, Ericsson and ALU, which works on the usage of existing and emerging open standards for high-quality videoconferencing and communication.
  • Italtel's top product initiatives include SDN adoption, integration of deep packet inspection (DPI) technologies and development of DPI-based applications, as well as Long Term Evolution (LTE) advanced compliancy (including Access Transfer Control Function and Access Transfer Gateway).
  • Italtel's technology vision includes seeing evolutionary drivers — such as voice and video over LTE, HD voice and video, RCS/RCS-e services, WebRTC, and OTT applications — having strong impacts on the signaling and media planes. It also recognizes that cloud and virtualization promise significant operational cost savings and reduced time to deployment, which are key to the SBC evolution path.
  • Innovation around Italtel's NetMatch-S products includes support for virtualization and a COTS hardware base of further evolution toward NFV, HD video transcoding (with H.263/H.264 video transcoding already available) and transizing, and media termination function as optimization of media resources and allocation, with signaling uncoupling and media anchoring.
Cautions
  • Italtel has limited visibility with mobile operators.
  • The company has limited mind share outside its home region of Western Europe but will likely fare well with existing customers. It needs to increase its market share and mind share messages and focus on diversifying its customer base.
  • In a contracting environment, and being a smaller player, Italtel has to prove its execution on its new focus, although the company has developed a channel partner program to expand its reach in regions and market segments.

Metaswitch Networks

Metaswitch Networks launched its SBC, Perimeta, in 2011. It is highly competitive in terms of features and functions — its capabilities compare favorably with those of competitors. It supports all regulatory, security and service assurance requirements; interoperates with a wide variety of components (such as femtocells and application, policy and presence servers); and is available in COTS and ATCA form factors.

Strengths
  • Metaswitch has amped up its global software SBC expansion through channel partners and telecom equipment manufacturer resell relationships. To enhance its global reach and presence with Tier 1 service providers, it has been aggressive in creating these relationships, using software-based solutions. In addition, it has increased its sales and support personnel in regions in which it has not been well-known, such as the Middle East and Africa and Asia/Pacific.
  • Metaswitch was one of the first vendors with a road map and vision around bringing SBCs to the cloud. It actively contributes to the NFV process through its membership of the Internet Engineering Task Force NFV working group as an industry specification group participant. It has also moved forward to provide software transcoding support and will be extending existing IMS compliance with recently standardized eSRVCC.
  • Metaswitch's innovation includes networkwide licensing and configuration, which will allow its customers to run SBCs as a geographically distributed cluster, rather than individual devices, sharing licensed session capacity across the cluster. It also added support for SILK transcoding in software to allow audio devices to interwork with communications networks, to avoid the need to deploy digital signal processor hardware.
  • Metaswitch's Networking Business Unit continues to be a strength and driver for the success of the company. It has major SBC vendors as customers for protocol solutions within SBCs, which makes interoperability easier to achieve. This is in line with Metaswitch's telecom equipment manufacturer resell relationship strategy.
Cautions
  • Based on some customer feedback, Metaswitch was initially challenged in supporting complex implementations; however, all issues were rectified within a reasonable time frame.
  • Based on limited survey results, Metaswitch was initially disqualified by some CSPs because it was not a designated strategic partner of those CSPs.
  • Metaswitch has expanded its global reach to 29% of total SBC revenue and is striving to emerge as a known player in the SBC market. It needs to demonstrate that it can execute on its new focus and showcase major contract wins.

Oracle-Acme Packet

Oracle acquired Acme Packet, a well-known vendor in the SBC market, in June 2013. Acme Packet became part of the Oracle Communications Global Business Unit. It has often been the first and main vendor selected by CSPs. In addition to the acquired portfolio it offers a new platform, the Net-Net 6300, which promises increased capacity, performance and system throughput for current and future-generation services. It will leverage the existing architecture of software, management and high availability.

Strengths
  • Oracle has developed capabilities for over the top (OTT) player solutions that include a Web-like session core based on its Net-Net SIP Multimedia-Xpress (SMX), an enhanced firewall traversal function for embedding high-quality real-time communications inside mobile apps, and WebRTC for communicating with Web browsers.
  • Oracle offers its Palladion Management Suite, which includes SBC-integrated probes that enable SBC products to perform real-time end-to-end performance monitoring, analytics and troubleshooting and to instantly display the results in real time.
  • The company offers customers the option of purchasing "feature sets" that add capabilities to the base Net-Net Session Director product, including accounting, load balancing, QoS management and session routing.
  • As part of its technology vision and road maps, Oracle supports virtualized session delivery product technologies to support emerging NFV initiatives, including software-based SBCs. These efforts run across its SBC, session routing, Diameter signaling, and session core products for VoLTE, RCS and RCS-e, and OTT services. It introduced new custom hardware to support ultrahigh system throughput (10 and 40 Gbps) and high capacity, and to offer low-cost-per-session hardware for encryption, transcoding, QoS measurement and other media-intensive functions.
Cautions
  • Customer feedback and survey results continue to indicate that Oracle-Acme Packet's pricing model, price points and perceived total cost of ownership are less attractive compared with its competitors. The company is working on more flexible pricing models as part of its postacquisition strategy.
  • The acquisition by Oracle has raised some concerns among Acme Packet customers around pricing, support and maintenance, and product portfolio direction. Oracle should leverage the Acme Packet brand for some time, or it may risk losing mind share and recognition as an SBC vendor.
  • Some existing customers feel that overall sales support has declined since the acquisition.

Sansay

Sansay's SBC product, the VSXi Session Controller, supports multiple applications and wholesale, residential, prepaid, SIP trunking and hosted business voice services with routing, peering and security capabilities. It offers a variety of complementary products for routing, management and monitoring and local number portability. Its SBC products have a range of supporting 25,000 to 50,000 concurrent sessions, and the routing, management and monitoring products can increase the calls-per-second volume.

Strengths
  • Sansay is ready for the emergence of WebRTC and may be better-positioned with OTT players due to being "cloud ready" and providing features such as session management and security policies managed across a "network" of servers.
  • Sansay recently announced plans to launch a next-generation SBC (WebSBC) and a developer program (Real-Time App Developer [RAPID]). Its WebSBC promises to maximize the performance, profitability and growth of voice of IP (VoIP) networks and services. It is available for evaluation in both service-provider-hosted and platform-as-a service models. The RAPID program aims to minimize the time to market for creating and deploying WebRTC apps for both service provider and enterprise markets.
  • Sansay's technology vision is focused on technologies that leverage its software-based architecture; therefore, virtual machines and data plane development kit technologies are key to its product development and innovation strategies.
  • Based on feedback, customers are satisfied overall with the performance of Sansay's SBC, its pricing models and its technical support.
Cautions
  • Sansay may have limited opportunities to become a global player since the majority of its customers are OTT players like Google and Facebook; however, it does have more than 300 customers, including wholesale carriers and Internet telephony service providers.
  • The company has limited mind share; to make progress on its Ability to Execute, it should increase its marketing messages, partnerships and ecosystems, particularly in the wireless segment.
  • Its SBC does not support full IMS call session control function (CSCF) functionalities. Trends in VoLTE indicate that CSPs are choosing the IMS path, which could mean CSPs will seek alternative approaches toward larger system integrators.
  • Sansay supports main security functions, such as DDoS, topology hiding and intrusion detection; however, it is missing some security functions, such as built-in firewall and malware detection. While those functions are generally provided by separate devices, some competitors include those functions as part of their solutions.

Sonus

Sonus offers CSPs stand-alone products, the SBC 5100 and 5200, and an integrated solution with a media gateway, the SBC 9000. For enterprises and small-scale CSP environments, Sonus offers its SBC 1000 and 2000, which it acquired from its acquisition of Network Equipment Technologies (NET).

Strengths
  • Sonus offers policy and accounting as part of the DNA of its SBC addressing network complexity, especially in hosted unified communications environments, where addressing interoperability issues is a key capability.
  • Sonus launched its channel strategy in June 2012 to expand reach in both service provider and enterprise SBC opportunities, initially targeting 20 to 30 select channel partners for high-touch engagements that provide training and high levels of service support.
  • Sonus has built a partner ecosystem that aligns with end-to-end solution vendors and with its technology vision around SDN and NFV. It is focused on attaining a limited number of key technology partners to extend its market reach; they include BroadSoft, Juniper Networks and F5.
  • Sonus continues to enjoy success in the CSP space through its acquisition of NET in 2012 for smaller-scale deployments. It has also gained market traction with the 5000 series solutions and has announced customer wins such as Verizon, Hutchison 3G and Telenet. It has also expanded its geographical reach, indicating more penetration in regions outside its home base of North America.
Cautions
  • Sonus was known as a strong player in the Class 4 wireline space, and the legacy continues with a majority of wins for its SBCs for wireline applications. While the company has had some initial traction in wireless/mobile, it has not aggressively marketed its VoLTE initiatives, which it needs to do to develop a stronger story in the mobile sector.
  • Based on survey results, Sonus was disqualified by some of its competitors' customers mainly because it is not viewed as a strategic partner and the customers feel that Sonus did not demonstrate an understanding of their business needs. Despite this, its customers rated themselves as "extremely satisfied" with Sonus.
  • Sonus' entry into and success in the enterprise space may give its customers and the industry the perception that its focus has shifted away from the CSP market. It needs to be careful to balance its marketing effort to assure its customers that it is still dedicated to their market.

ZTE

ZTE offers its ZXUN B200 SBC. It supports some basic SBC features, such as multiple protocols (SIP, H.323, MGCP, NCS and H.248) to access IMS and NGN cores, security of signaling and media planes, SIP application-level gateway and address translation/network address translation (NAT) traversal capability, including IPv4/IPv6 interworking.

Strengths
  • ZTE's SBC supports access to NGNs and IMS networks, as well as evolution from an NGN to an IMS network. It also supports mobile user access to the IMS core network via the packet switched domain to provision VoLTE and RCS-e services.
  • ZTE's SBC can support network function virtualization, and it plans to integrate the WebRTC gateway function with its SBC at the end of 2013, to support WebRTC service. As part of its road map and product development, it will support OTT applications and enterprise applications, and it also plans to provide similar non-carrier-class IT applications, such as micro letters, and to strengthen marketing efforts toward the enterprise market.
  • ZTE's SBC is high-capacity, supporting a maximum of 800,000 registered users and up to 80,000 concurrent sessions, and therefore is more suited for larger organizations.
  • To address the multiple-deployment scenario and provide flexibility to its customers, ZTE offers a unified hardware platform utilizing the same hardware platform for its SBC, IMS and softswitches, so that any combination can be easily supported freely.
  • ZTE's SBC solution is competitively priced with respect to the equipment itself and maintenance and support. It secured 29 new contracts for its SBC in 2012.
Cautions
  • ZTE lacks a strong ecosystem of partnerships to promote its SBC; it relies on its participation in a variety of forums, conferences and interoperability testing organized by operators and standards bodies.
  • Customer feedback indicated that, while ZTE's product is the most cost-effective, it does not immediately meet important capability requirements and is absent or weak in functionality. ZTE must ensure it meets its road map deadlines, improves its capabilities and functionalities, and provides well-tested products.
  • Although ZTE scores reasonably well in our financial assessment model, it maintains high levels of debt, and its debt-related metrics are weaker than those of some leading vendors. For the period ending 31 December 2012, ZTE failed to comply with the requirement of its debt facility agreement with respect to one financial indicator and had to obtain an exemption from the Bank of China (Hong Kong). The exemption was granted and the short-term risk removed, but the company's financial situation warrants monitoring. In addition, ZTE's overall margins and financial position may inhibit its ability to execute.

Vendors Added and Dropped

We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants and MarketScopes as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant or MarketScope may change over time. A vendor appearing in a Magic Quadrant or MarketScope one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. This may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or a change of focus by a vendor.

Added

We added Alcatel-Lucent, Italtel and Sansay. Note that, in last year's Magic Quadrant, Cirpack was presented as Technicolor, and Oracle-Acme Packet was presented as Acme Packet.

Dropped

No vendors were dropped.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The vendors featured in this Magic Quadrant supply stand-alone SBCs for CSPs' wireline and wireless networks. (These vendors also appear in Gartner's Market Share and related reports on the voice switching, control and application infrastructure markets.)

Many vendors sell SBCs with media gateways in combined solutions, but this Magic Quadrant evaluates only the stand-alone solutions for CSPs of the featured vendors. However, we do take into consideration the broader set of solutions offered by the vendors.

Because some vendors launched their first SBCs as recently as 2011, inclusion in this Magic Quadrant did not require a minimum level of annual revenue from those products. Instead, we required revenue recognition since launching product and the identification of at least three reference customers.

Evaluation Criteria

Ability to Execute

Product or Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor that compete in and serve the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets and skills, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships. This includes development of ecosystems to support specific operator requirements, such as cloud-based services, Rich Communication Suite, WebRTC, and system integration and distribution, as well as after-sales support in different regions (where applicable).

Overall Viability (Business Unit, Financial, Strategy, Organization): Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood of the individual business unit to continue investing in the product, offering the product and advancing the state of the art of the organization's products. This also includes assessment of financial prudence and the value of acquisitions of companies delivering, for example, applications or security technology.

Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor's capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.

Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor's history of responsiveness.

Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficiency of programs designed to deliver the organization's message in order to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This mind share can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional activity, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities. Since the SBC market is diverse in terms of topology and its affiliated migration to mobility in the IMS, it is necessary to consider the different market share and mind share based on equipment deployments.

Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups and SLAs.

Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.

Table 1. Ability to Execute Evaluation Criteria

Criteria

Weighting

Product or Service

High

Overall Viability

High

Sales Execution/Pricing

Medium

Market Responsiveness/Record

High

Marketing Execution

Medium

Customer Experience

No Rating

Operations

Low

Source: Gartner (October 2013)

Completeness of Vision

Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers' wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen and understand buyers' wants and needs, and they can shape or enhance them with their added vision.

This includes:

  • Understanding operator requirements for network convergence, from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to IP, or voice over broadband and true VoIP
  • CSP security concerns and needs
  • Activities in standards bodies
  • Vendors with wireless and wireline portfolios targeting IMS

Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.

Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communications affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.

Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor's approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature set as they map to current and future requirements. This also includes:

  • Physical footprint, network security and session management features
  • IMS capabilities and migration where appropriate
  • Partnerships and ecosystems
  • Configurations to meet regional or country requirements (for example, interfaces, power consumption, heating, air conditioning, regulatory compliance and equipment measurements)
  • Support of new and emerging applications, as well as protocol support, including IMS session control and application layer and 3GPP/3GPP2 standards
  • Migration path toward cloud/virtualizing SBC or SDN-based hypervisor
  • Support for Rich Communication Suite and WebRTC

Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor's underlying business proposition.

Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.

Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes. This also includes:

  • New product development milestones and compliance to the road map of milestones
  • Migration path for support of SIP endpoints, such as SIP clients on smartphones or telephony solutions over SIP trunks
  • Support of emerging applications in conjunction with fixed-mobile convergence and IMS
  • Migration path toward cloud/virtualization
  • Enhanced network security features

Geographic Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the "home" or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.

Table 2. Completeness of Vision Evaluation Criteria

Criteria

Weighting

Market Understanding

High

Marketing Strategy

High

Sales Strategy

Medium

Offering (Product) Strategy

High

Business Model

No Rating

Vertical/Industry Strategy

No Rating

Innovation

High

Geographic Strategy

Medium

Source: Gartner (October 2013)

Quadrant Descriptions

Leaders

Leaders have scale in terms of market presence and size. They have momentum in the SBC equipment sector and significant market share, based on a solid SBC product or family of SBC products. Their large scale means that, even where they need to use partners, they remain preferred by CSPs as prime vendors. Thanks to their "weight," they appear in most large CSP trials and procurements of SBCs.

Leaders are high-viability technology providers that are well-positioned with their current product portfolio and likely to continue delivering leading products. They have a global presence and are recognized as major vendors in the SBC market.

Leaders do not necessarily offer the best solution for every customer requirement, however, and their products may not be "best of breed" in every area. Overall, though, they provide solutions that pose relatively little risk, and they can achieve and sustain deployments of high quality.

The Leaders are Genband, Oracle-Acme Packet and Sonus.

Challengers

Challengers have strong market capabilities and good solutions for specific markets, but overall their products lack the breadth and depth of Leaders'. Their solutions do not offer a clear vision of how the market is evolving, and they are less innovative or advanced than Leaders.

Huawei is the only Challenger.

Visionaries

Visionaries demonstrate a clear understanding of the market and provide key innovations that are illustrative of the market's future. However, they either lack the ability to influence a large portion of the market or have not yet fully expanded their sales and support capabilities to achieve a global reach, or do not yet have the funding and scale to execute with the same capabilities as the Leaders.

The main characteristic of Visionaries is that they are not as stable as Leaders or Niche Players. Visionaries are in various phases of transition, so some may gradually move into other quadrants, where they could end up in a more stable state. They could achieve this stability either by gaining strength and scale, market adoption, and recognition — thereby becoming Leaders — or by judiciously specializing in a smaller segment and ceasing activities in others as part of a strategic transformation — thereby becoming Niche Players.

The Visionaries are Alcatel-Lucent, Dialogic, Italtel, Metaswitch Networks and Sansay.

Niche Players

Niche Players offer products that tend to focus on a segment of the market or a subset of functionality. They are generally more specialized with regard to regional coverage and/or technology. This can be an advantage, as CSPs aligned with the focus of Niche Players can find these vendors' offerings to be a good fit. In some cases, Niche Players have made specific decisions about where to compete and where not to compete, so being a Niche Player does not preclude having a well-defined strategy. Niche Players could also prove attractive partners for some larger vendors in this market, thanks to their specialization in certain markets or technological strengths.

The Niche Players are Cirpack and ZTE.

Context

SBCs are being deployed partly for TDM interconnect to IP networks, and in some cases, to bypass TDM networks completely, which in turn reduces the need to deploy media gateways. Media gateway controllers — softswitches — may then be repurposed, particularly as service and control logic move away from switches.

Service providers continue to buy predominantly for interconnect/peering and SIP trunking. Hosted unified communications is now gaining significant traction, and as enterprises shift toward hosted deployments for their unified communications initiatives, service providers are realizing the role that the SBC provides is critical. Our reference survey results indicated that 50% of the respondents either currently offer or plan to offer UCaaS to Lync and other business applications in the next 12 months. As CSPs move toward all-IP environments, networks' vulnerability grows, and quality can be compromised. Therefore, strong security functionality is a critical reason why SBCs are deployed, along with QoS and service assurance capabilities. SBCs provide protection against distributed DoS attacks, as well as providing encryption and intrusion detection.

An important trend in the SBC space is software-based SBCs for SDN environments for NFV. Eighteen percent of the respondents indicated that they currently offer or plan to offer SBC as a service via cloud in the next 12 months.

Market Overview

The Competitive Landscape Continues to See Change

SBCs have been deployed for a decade. Early on, the SBC market underwent considerable consolidation of vendors and increased functionality. It still sees acquisitions, such as Oracle's acquisition of Acme Packet, which indicates a shift in the market and the start of yet a new round of acquisition types in this market, one aimed at SDN, with SBCs' role being that of network functions virtualization, including IMS.

Cloud computing is something that many vendors and businesses (including CSPs) are contemplating and in some cases trialing with cloud-based or virtualized networks. Vendors are working to offer SBC solutions that run on VMware or elastic computing platforms. Some vendors in this Magic Quadrant offer virtualized SBC today or have this as part of their road maps, although some have plans pushed out farther than others.

Although this Magic Quadrant focuses on SBC solutions for CSPs, it should be added that the enterprise SBC space will also become important as enterprises continue to adopt SIP trunking and unified communications and collaboration services. Today, most SBCs used by enterprises are purchased by CSPs, but enterprises are becoming more aware of the value of SBCs for security and service assurance as SIP trunk adoption, unified communications and "bring your own device" schemes become more widespread. CSPs buying SBC solutions to contribute to their services to enterprises, as well as enterprises purchasing SBCs for their own use, will likely look to vendors that have session management capabilities built into their SBCs or that offer centralized session management platforms as part of their solutions.

There are still several SBC vendors for CSPs to choose from, and they vary greatly in the scale and scope of their offerings. It is therefore vital that equipment providers have a clear and differentiated network value proposition and strategy, and that they emphasize their differentiation, functionality and feature set in order to stand out. Software quality and network stability are also expected now. Oracle-Acme Packet, Sonus and Genband are the three vendors most widely and consistently seen by their competitors in CSP environments. Seventy-one percent of the respondents in our reference survey viewed Oracle (Acme Packet) as the closest candidate for an SBC solution to their other chosen vendor, followed by Genband and Sonus. Overall, the results also indicated that 46% of the respondents use another vendor's SBC. This indicates the continued trend in multivendor environments and the need for interoperability. Forty-six percent indicated that they intend to replace the alternative vendor's SBC with the reference vendor solution. Three of the vendors received a 100% response to replace an existing solution with theirs.

Trends in the Market

SDN and NFV

SDN is a new approach to designing, building and operating networks that focuses on delivering business agility while lowering capital and operational costs. SDN is an increasingly popular emerging network architecture approach for networking within data centers, but it is emerging within the CSP domain. It separates the control plane from the data plane in networking equipment so that network intelligence and control are centralized, and the underlying network infrastructure is separated from the applications.

NFV, in the most simplistic terms, can be viewed as an a la carte approach to network functions and an application of an SDN where network functions, such as SBCs, security and unified communications, can run on hypervisors in server farms, thereby driving increased retention and opportunities for new product development. In a nutshell, NFV is a service provider initiative that aims to consolidate many network equipment types and appliances onto industry-standard servers, switches and storage to lower cost, improve efficiency and increase agility.

Still in the early stages, soft SBCs are largely being tested with little true revenue-generating deployments as they still need to be proved and cost savings and efficiency still need to be recognized. Most vendors evaluated in this Magic Quadrant have a software-based SBC either in trials or as part of their technology road maps. Some are launching initiatives related to cloud as part of their strategies; for example, Alcatel-Lucent announced Nuage Networks as part of its CloudBand initiative, Metaswitch launched Project Clearwater for increased visibility to cloud-based networks, Sonus announced its SBC SWe, and Sansay announced its WebSBC.

Virtualizing IMS

Using hypervisors, virtualization technology can be combined with IMS and service delivery platforms, allowing for the creation and management of telco-grade services leveraging off-the-shelf hardware solutions, with elasticity of services provisioned on demand. The opex benefits are evident, but the challenge has been to deploy this in a multitenant, scalable manner, with resiliency, while supporting dynamic provisioning with real-time policy and real-time charging. This combines IT and telecom aspects of CIO teams with CTO teams, with the promise of newer innovations from applications such as Rich Communication Suite, WebRTC and other converged applications, such as seamless roaming across fixed, cellular and Wi-Fi domains.

CSPs have been contemplating how to make the best use of IMS build-outs over the last decade, and with the growth in CSPs' commitments to roll out RCS, LTE and VoLTE, IMS has finally found its usefulness. It handles underlying network features, such as authenticating and charging for services, and is the framework that carriers have with policy-based control, real-time charging with "turbo" solutions for services such as HD on demand — which may become HD videoconferencing on demand — and seamless roaming to Wi-Fi with Hotspot 2.0.

It is argued and generally accepted that SBC is a feature set that complements service providers' IMS strategies. In addition to bringing flexibility, operational effectiveness, openness and standardization to the delivery of applications across fixed and mobile networks, it specifies a SIP-based control layer with open interfaces to the transport and service layers above and has a centralized end-user profile depository. Virtualizing the IMS architecture takes the flexibility to a new level by breaking the link between a logical function and hardware and running IMS applications on virtual machines in the cloud. CSPs can extend the elasticity by distributing call session control function as part of their NFV strategies.

RCS and WebRTC

Pressure on signaling networks is expected to grow exponentially with the rising interest in RCS and RCS-e. WebRTC is also gaining interest and has been labeled a "game changer" in terms of the future of communications; however, standards are still being defined, and while most browsers have participated in the initiative, there are still some that have not yet joined. RCS and WebRTC are initiatives of the GSMA and Google that aim to develop specifications for the implementation of rich communications services. These include "enhanced IM" (IM with the same level of service assurance as SMS); video calling and the ability to share documents and photos simultaneously during calls; and service discovery (knowing which of a user's contacts have RCS-capable devices). WebRTC aims to enable high-quality real-time communications applications to be developed in the browser via open APIs and HTML5. RCS services can be accessed directly from a subscriber's address book and WebRTC by any browser, including on mobile devices. RCS services are expected to be interoperable across any platform, network and device, as defined in the standard. RCS 5.0 extends new services — IP voice and IP video calling — and provides enhancements such as video, file and picture sharing during one-to-one and group chat services. The role of the SBC in this respect is to authenticate SIP requests and support the capacity needed to allow sessions to occur.

Our survey results indicated that 39% of the respondents' currently offer or plan to offer WebRTC and 36% indicated launching RCS in the next 12 months.

Factors Hindering Growth

Although SBCs are widely deployed for inter-CSP peering, growth is still underway in VoLTE and SIP trunking to enterprises. SIP trunking to enterprises has hurdles to overcome, ranging from perceptions of bad quality and fears of lack of resiliency, to legacy CSPs' reluctance to cannibalize their existing ISDN T1 business. However, the technical issues are solvable, ironically, by SBCs, and the opex savings are substantial with SIP trunking, while supporting newer IP-based applications, such as UCaaS.

While overall interest and adoption of SBCs have been steady, we anticipate that delays in launching VoLTE may hinder growth, as could technology changes being in the evaluation stages. We had expected VoLTE launches to occur, particularly in the U.S.; however, the large CSPs have announced that they have postponed launch plans until 2014, although MetroPCS launched VoLTE service but only in select U.S. markets.

SDN and NFV are technology changes that are early in the evaluation stages; therefore, CSPs may wait before committing to buying multiyear hardware-based systems. That said, it is important for vendors to have solutions that provide flexibility to support CSP needs and solve problems. Our survey results indicated that 7% of the respondents have already implemented SDN or NFV and 7% are currently implementing SDN or NFV. Twenty-nine percent have indicated that they plan to implement SDN or NFV in the next 12 to 36 months.

With the exception of a few, most vendors in this Magic Quadrant have struggled to show increased revenue in overall sales, largely due to newer solution growth not outpacing the decline in legacy sales (such as sales of media gateways) and ongoing maintenance. Others are simply newer to the market and are working to improve mind share, market share and profitability. We anticipate that, once SDN and NFV take root, the profitability issue will resolve itself because the business model will change from large contract values to an annuity model with consistent streams of revenue that occur continually as CSPs and perhaps enterprise customers adopt the pay-as-you-grow or pay-for-what-you-need model.

Security Still Important

Perhaps the most important function provided by SBCs, and the one that tops CSPs' lists of evaluation criteria, is security: The ability to identify and manage the "border of trust" between networks is essential if the promise of converged IP networks is to be fulfilled.

SBCs typically provide security functionality with NAT/firewall traversal, DoS prevention and other forms of attack countermeasures.

Firewalls and NAT have proved extremely useful in building large-scale data networks. However, they present two problems when it comes to interconnecting IP networks to provide end-to-end, real-time services: Firewalls make it difficult for incoming calls to connect, and NAT distorts the information needed to route calls through the IP network.

IP networks are notoriously unsecure unless proper strategies are used to secure them. With interconnected IP networks, the critical dangers are service attacks and fraud, which SBCs can mitigate through topology hiding. SBCs minimize the exposure of call control and processing elements (such as softswitches and application servers) and prevent attackers from accessing the network. In addition, most SIP traffic today on the Internet and between devices is unencrypted and can easily be intercepted or even injected. "Man in the middle" attacks, where the intruder can act as a proxy and even interrupt a connection (or call), are also problematic.

As we see further interest in SDN and NFV, the networks will become even more vulnerable to security risks; therefore, the SBC may need to take a more critical role in ensuring network security.

Fourteen percent of the references surveyed indicated that they deployed SBC for security.

Relationships, Issues of Interoperability and Vendor Investment Affect CSPs' Choices

In many cases, CSPs that have an existing relationship with a vendor for softswitches and media gateways stick with that vendor to help ensure interoperability, since, although no interoperability problems should arise when introducing a "foreign" SBC into a network, such problems sometimes do arise. Thirty-two percent of our references surveyed indicated that interoperability was the reason for deploying an SBC.

CSPs need to know that their vendor will maintain an adequate road map and enable them to sustain a high-performance network in a competitive environment. They should therefore look for evidence of resources, expertise and capital to investment in SBC technology in the long term. CSPs considering hiring a vendor outside its traditional or home market should also look for evidence that the provider has an effective strategy to direct resources to meet the specific needs of its intended market.

Overall, our limited survey indicated that the average time to deploy is five months. Some vendors fell slightly below this average, whereas others exceeded this and exhibited faster time to deploy.

In terms of overall satisfaction with vendor support, an average of 43% indicated they are "extremely satisfied," while 42% on the average satisfaction scale were closer to the midrange. Few vendors received an extremely low score.

In terms of vendor selection criteria, 61% of the respondents ranked "functional capabilities" and "performance and/or scale" highest ("extremely important") with respect to important factors when choosing a vendor from the shortlist of SBC providers. Forty-six percent ranked the vendor's ability to understand their business needs and its industry experience as next highest. Finally, 39% said they selected their vendor based on whether they felt the vendor was viewed as a strategic partner, as well as because of the vendor's pricing model and total cost of ownership.

To determine how well vendors meet these requirements, Gartner scored them on a set of criteria designed to gauge their ability to address CSPs' wants and needs for SBCs. These criteria are headed Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision, as noted earlier.

Evidence

We collected data from the vendors via a questionnaire, and we also interviewed them. In addition, we conducted an extensive online survey with vendors' reference customers in each region to check the validity of the vendors' claims and get an overall view of the vendors in terms of products, support, satisfaction and reasons why the specific vendor was chosen.

We also used information obtained by Gartner from vendors in semiannual surveys conducted for our market size and forecast research. Gartner's voice switching, control and application market forecasts support our observation of growth in CSPs' investments in SBCs and of a clear change in the competitive landscape.

We also used secondary research services to gather additional data.

Evaluation Criteria Definitions

Ability to Execute

Product/Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor for the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so on, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships as defined in the market definition and detailed in the subcriteria.

Overall Viability: Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the product, will continue offering the product and will advance the state of the art within the organization's portfolio of products.

Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor's capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.

Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor's history of responsiveness.

Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver the organization's message to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This "mind share" can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional initiatives, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities.

Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.

Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.

Completeness of Vision

Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers' wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen to and understand buyers' wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those with their added vision.

Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.

Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communication affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.

Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor's approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature sets as they map to current and future requirements.

Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor's underlying business proposition.

Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.

Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes.

Geographic Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the "home" or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.