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VoIP comes to market in numbers

Network vendors will release a flurry of voice over IP (VoIP) security products in 2002, sparking IP telephony adoption by easing fears of malicious intrusions or denial of service (DoS) attacks, according to a study by The Yankee Group research firm.

Specifically, innovation can be expected in the form of voice intrusion-detection products, DoS solutions to ward against floods of session initiation requests, and high-speed Network Address Translation (NAT) services to securely establish and manage multiple caller sessions, said Matthew Kovar, an analyst at The Yankee Group.

Other solutions that could stimulate the industry include firewalls robust enough to provide constant network availability and devices that can securely manage unencrypted and uncompressed VoIP data without affecting network performance, Kovar said.

Networking companies such as Nortel Networks, Aravox Technologies, and Aspect Communications are each pushing the added security capabilities of VoIP.

Aravox Technologies, which makes a high-speed device that can automatically open and close network ports when authorised calls are recognised, is planning to release a new solution that enhances firewall, NAT processing, and call setup speeds and can also handle more concurrent calls, said Aravox co-founder Craig Warren.

Meanwhile, Canadian giant Nortel Networks last week announced that its new Interactive Multimedia Server had gone into trials with telco Bell Canada. The device helps lock down security by sending voice, video, and data communication signals down the same set of channels.

"You don't have as many windows to watch," explained Jim Thomas, Nortel's senior marketing manager for marketing and multimedia services.

Meanwhile, Aspect Communications in late December announced Version 2.0 of its WinSet VoIP software, designed to let remote workers connect securely to enterprise contact centers using IP telephony. The software establishes VPN links with its remote staff, creating virtual contact centres.

Overall, The Yankee Group expects sales of VoIP equipment to rise by 25% in 2002 over last year. Improved security measures should prove especially useful in convincing carriers to adopt the technology. Carriers have long been wary of the nascent technology because of the high volume of calls they must handle and the large number of customers they serve, according to Kovar.

But any gains are likely to be hard-won. Because of the high performance and availability requirements of a telephony system, most observers feel that VoIP services present far greater security challenges than regular data services. IP telephony applications must be accessible at all times and present no more than 20 milliseconds of latency, Kovar noted, which renders many conventional VPN technologies inadequate.

"It's a fairly robust solution that's required," he said. "All the inherent problems with data networks are migrated over to the voice world, but at the same time you also need more reliability and robustness than pure data."

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