WebRTC Expert Feature

June 19, 2014

It's a Wild, Wild, WebRTC World

I have been reviewing my moderator sessions for WebRTC World.  For those who are not familiar with my style, I am a cross between Spaulding Gray and Jeff Black.  The Spaulding Gray comes in when I find a tangent to follow, scaring the audience as I pause, furrow my brow and ponder.

The tangent that I am currently stuck on is the continuing role of the Session Boarder Controller. If Google meant to eliminate session controllers from WebRTC implementations they should receive an “F” because as far as I can see their position is not only secure, but the sessions now include the Web. Thus, the bottom line is that SBCs that once merely had to manage NATs and other edge signaling issues are now part of the solution for the codec and browser mediation.

Perhaps, though, the discussion should not be about the core, but about why the edge is so fragmented.

Thinking about the Web, the browser is a universal interface.  By its very name, in fact, any website says that a browser can deliver the information, with the small problems of formatting and style sheet issues usually falling within acceptable boundaries of deviation (i.e., text centering and some bleed).  When it comes to WebRTC, however, the lingua franca of the browser has been violated. So ironically, in effect, SBCs have become the hero of end-to-end.  Rather than being focused on the security breach mindset of keeping unwelcome traffic out, we have the SBCs extending the traffic not only to unfriendly browsers but to legacy systems as well.

Now comes the glitch.  Is it the job of the SBC to assure delivery and to enable features as well? If so, then they move from merely being a hero to being a superhero, because as the data channel expands the functionality of the service, the SBC is going to go from transcoding to transitioning media. Think Text to Speech, Voice to SMS, Presence to Video, and more.   So that in effect, the more media functionality we want to create the more necessary the SBC becomes.

Naturally, all of this begs the question: Does the SBC’s expanding role mean that the PSTN may have a transition opportunity in WebRTC?

The goal of turning off the PSTN is set for 2018, though to be candid, the discussion of what comes next is even more nebulous than the Net Neutrality debate. It seems, however, that like digital television, we are going to have a converter function, one which will lend itself to even more SBCs.

While I have long believed that the SBC’s were a necessary legacy interface, I am now coming to understand that they are actually a Pony Express that will deliver apps, calls, text, videos, etc., regardless of where you are in the Wild West of implementations.

One thing that is certain is that as I walk through the WebRTC World halls, I will be paying close attention to the superhero in the room.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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