SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is used on the Internet for making phone calls. In technical terms, it is a signaling protocol.
I was involved very early in the development of SIP. It was my introduction to the world of open Internet standards, something I believe very strongly in. Let me explain.
In the early days of computers, everything was proprietary, which in thus situation means that it was unique and different for every brand and type of computer. As hard as it is to imagine today, there wasn’t even a common standard for representing characters – a simple text document would have to be converted in order to display correctly (some examples, for those of you interested were EBCIDIC, Baudot, and ASCII – which became the standard?). The same was true for networking – each manufacturer had their own protocols and interfaces – it was virtually impossible (by design) to connect them together.
Fortunately we have come a long way since then, and the Internet, with its open standards helped a lot. I’ve enjoyed working on open standards with the Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF for quite a few years now.
SIPconnect is a great example developed by a not-for-profit that I am proud to be involved with, the international SIP Forum. SIPconnect is a standard that helps connect a telephone network with a business phone system, known as a PBX in the business, when the connection is made over the Internet instead of old fashioned wires and leased lines. It isn’t very exciting but it solves an important problem for both service providers and businesses. In short, it does what a standard does best, and works behind the scenes to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Here is good article by Russell Bennet entitled “Finally, a SIP Trunking Standard that Makes Sense” which gives some good background on PSTN Trunking and SIP Trunking with SIPconnect.
Unfortunately, there are lots of examples today where standards are not being followed, and single-company, proprietary systems are in use. Some of the most prominent examples relate to some of the most popular hand held and personal electronic devices used by many people (including myself!)
But standards are always evolving, and business models change – today’s successful proprietary lock in is replaced by next year’s standard. Technology is both fast moving and fast changing.
For today, I’m happy to celebrate the publication of this SIP document and remember all my friends and colleagues who have worked so hard on it over the years!
As we jokingly say as we raise our glasses, “SIP, SIP!”