Friday, January 9, 2009

poor man's tektronix

All SS7 switches, prepaid or IN platforms come with some sort of signaling tracing capabilities. Now, for performing SS7 tests or debugging low, non production traffic they are usually OK - some text file gets written decoded signaling messages. The file can be then opened with notepad and Ctrl+F does the trick. What if we are dubbuging and tracing a problem on a production system with heavy traffic - obviously notepad will not be easy. Well, we can always spend a little (or a lot) on a Tektronix K15 ..but what if we don't want or don't have the budget for Tektronix ? It seems we have some other options and the keyword is Wireshark.
The first, easier option is if we have Sigtran somewhere in the picture. If the SS7 traffic is transported over IP - things are relatively easy. What we do is we setup port mirroring no the switch carrying the Sigtran traffic to replicate that port and connect the replicated port to a PC on which we run Wireshark. That's it. Traffic can be analyzed locally or via remote desktop / vnc.
The second case is if we don't have Sigtran - and this is trickier. I haven't actually tested this one but I think it should be doable. Here we have to tap into the SS7 traffic on an E1. To tap into the E1 we should be able to use Sangoma's PN 633 Tap Connection Adapter. We then connect Tx Net and Tx Cpe ports to a Sangoma card - for example A102. We then configure the ports on the card and dump a pcap log file with wanpipemon. In the end we open the file with Wireshark. Like I said, I haven't yet tried this but I'm quite sure it would work and save us a little money on a K15.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

VoIP.. dead.. what ?

Alec Saunder made a post in his blog recently entitled 2008: The Year that VoIP died. His blog is very popular in the VoIP/Tech community so the post just had to trigger a lot of responses and a dabate on whether VoIP is or isn't dead. I'm listing below some of the posts that I find interresting.

Jeff Pulver responds with VoIP is NOT Dead!.

Andy Abramson with Putting VoIP In It's Place.

Alec Saunder again with VoIP: "If you hadn’t nailed its feet to the perch, it’d be pushin’ up the daisies!".

Luca Filigheddu and his post VoIP ? What is It ?

Jeff Pulver continues with VoIP Still Isn’t Dead - Part II.

Saunder again and All we’re talking about is arbitrage.

And then Dan York makes his post Define "VoIP" - and then we can debate whether it is dead!.

While I agree with Jeff Pulver, Andy Abramson and Luca Filigheddu, I think Dan York precisely hits the spot and puts the end to the discussion. VoIP is understood differently by different people, depending on the context and part of the industry they are associated with. For myself 'VoIP' without any context is just a technology, a group of concepts, protocols, codecs - it's the pipelines. VoIP is not a service, it'a a technology that allows to create services.

The first and most popular services created with VoIP were the 'cheap Internet telephone calls' - but theses like PSTN are bound to die - and true 2008 might have been the year the 'cheap Internet telephone calls' died. Or rather - making business from 'cheap Internet telephone calls' died. Why ? Because there are thousands of ITSP's, and they push the margins to absolute minimum. Because mobile calls are now cheap and its just much faster and more convenient to call from your mobile than the PC or hassle of buying installing configuring that VoIP gateway.

As for for the VoIP as technology - c'mon ! it's doing better than ever. It is the underlying voice technology, it's mainstream, it's ITU, 3GPP and Open Source.