On November 3 TelcoBridges and Metaswitch announced a new partnership.
“We are delighted to be certifying TelcoBridges to provide another media gateway option with proven interoperation with the Metaswitch Call Feature Server product family and integrated with the always-on diagnostic capability provided by our MetaView Service Assurance Server.”Joe Weeden, VP of Voice Core infrastructure at Metaswitch.
What do I need to know?
- The two companies will be performing extensive interop testing of the Metaswitch CFS and the TelcoBridges Tmedia TMG800, TMG3200 and TMG7800 media gateways. Both products already support H.248 which is the standard protocol for media gateway control.
- Apparently Metaswitch has a few proprietary H.248 signals it uses for announcements on its own Universal Media Gateway (UMG) which will be supported by the Tmedia products.
- The Tmedia gateways will send alarms to MetaView Explorer, so administrators can monitor a single alarm panel.
- Most importantly, the Tmedia gateways will send diagnostic information to the Metaswitch Service Assurance Server (SAS), which will be a huge boon to anyone troubleshooting a mixed network.
- Metaswitch will not be selling the Tmedia products, but will instead refer customers to TelcoBridges – and telcos can buy directly from them.
Why does this matter?
Anyone who’s familiar with Metaswitch knows that it has always been a software company at heart. It’s no coincidence that Metaswitch was one of the leading voices making the case for virtualization of the voice network.
The current ATCA UMG hardware platform was launched in 2012, and no announcements have been made about any replacement for this product. While many (myself included) see the future of the PSTN in VoIP and cloud services, the industry moves very slowly. Telecoms is a heavily regulated industry and a lot of the rules about inter-carrier compensation assume TDM infrastructure.
You might reasonably conclude therefore that:
- Metaswitch is very unlikely to launch another media gateway product. Even more so as a Microsoft company.
- Telcos who use Metaswitch will need media gateways beyond the lifespan of the ATCA UMG.
So this partnership announcement is not just another interoperability agreement. This provides a future-proof path for service providers who want to continue using Metaswitch’s call control software (CFS), application servers and session border controller, but who still need to support TDM network infrastructure.
TelcoBridges has a “no-EOL” policy, and continues to support every product since the company was founded in 2002. So they’re clearly in this for the long-haul.
What do migrations look like?
If you currently operate a Metaswitch platform, you might be wondering how exactly you would move from your current topology to include a TelcoBridges media gateway in your network.
Broadly speaking there are two different scenarios to consider.
- You start with an Integrated Softswitch, for example a VP2510 or VP3510 or a CH6010D chassis that provides all CFS and UMG functionality.
- Or, you start with a separate CFS, which could be virtualized or could be running on servers (CX7000 series or CA9024 or ATCA).
Let’s consider these scenarios in turn, with reference to the diagram below.
Phase One: Move to a Split CFS/UMG
The first phase of a migration is to move to a split CFS/UMG where the CFS is running on supported hardware. This is a standard process with tools in the Metaswitch craft menu.
- If you don’t already have it, you need a new CFS (I’ve assumed a virtual CFS in the above diagram, since we’re looking to the future).
- You can then run the process to convert your integrated system into a media gateway, and re-start the CFS functionality on the new CFS platform.
- If you already had a CFS, but it’s EOL, you can simply upgrade the hardware platform the software is running on (e.g. CA9024 to vCFS), and you should end up in the situation shown in Phase One.
Phase Two: Add the Tmedia into the network
The second phase of the migration is to add the Tmedia TMG into the network as a second media gateway, and then ultimately to retire the Metaswitch UMG.
- The CFS has always been designed to support multiple media gateways, so adding a second one is simply a case of adding a new connection in MetaView Explorer. (Not quite that simple, but close.)
- Once you have two media gateway resources available to the CFS you can allocate TDM connections between them, and migrate TDM connections between them as you see fit.
- Over time, therefore, you can move all your TDM connectivity over from the Metaswitch media gateway to the Tmedia.
- It’s not shown in this diagram, but you also need to think about how VoIP media is working in this scenario. These RTP streams could bypass the media gateways entirely (except for TDM interconnect) or you could potentially route the media through the Tmedia depending on your situation and needs.
- Ultimately, your UMG will not be used any more, and you can disable the connection and power it down.
And all the people rejoiced?
You can probably tell that I’m supportive of this announcement. Let’s look at the interested parties and what this means for everyone.
- Metaswitch is able to focus on software and Azure and all the cool cloud-y, software-y stuff that is involved in being part of the Microsoft Azure for Operators group.
- TelcoBridges has an expanded opportunity to serve more customers who might otherwise have been nervous about trying their products.
- Service providers who use Metaswitch products now have a clear path forwards – where they can continue to support TDM in their networks for as long as they desire.
- And I get to write about something other than STIR/SHAKEN. Hooray!
If you want to learn more about this situation, you can watch a webinar with Alan Percy (CMO, TelcoBridges) and Austin Spreadbury (Senior Program Manager, Microsoft). Alternatively, if you might be interested in a migration like this, please contact us and we’d be happy to review your situation and discuss your options.