Issue Summer 12
As we communicate with people in our daily lives through telephone calls or emails, we often don’t consider the complex factors that are involved in bringing two people together. At Acme Packet, such communications are the very focus of the business.
The Bedford, Mass.-based company specializes in the delivery of voice, data and unified communications and services across IP networks. Founded in 2000, Acme Packet’s products fulfill the security, service assurance and regulatory requirements of service provider, enterprise and contact center networks.
Vice President of Manufacturing Operations John Shields says Acme Packet’s clients include AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile and British Telecom. “[These are] the largest service providers in the world,” he states, adding that 88 of the top 100 service providers are Acme Packet customers.
“We’ve had great success [serving] large service provider customers,” Shields states. “We have been able to out-innovate and out-execute the competition.”
Acme Packet created the session border controller (SBC) product category and has been able to grow from a single product company focused on session border control to a multi-product company addressing the architectural challenges of the session delivery networks being implemented by many of the world’s top service providers.
“To meet the high standards of service provider customers, Acme Packet has built a culture of developing and manufacturing its products in the USA. This philosophy has enabled us to bring products to market quicker, with higher quality and shorter lead times than our competitors,” Shields says.
Shields joined Acme Packet in 2002. At the time, he oversaw the manufacturing and logistics for its Net-Net 4250 session border controller (SBC) product, which catered to service providers making the transition from TDM-based networks to IP-based networks.
“There was no good way of controlling or securing [voice or video communications] between two parties,” he recalls. However, the SBC product could provide those functions for interactive communications across IP network borders.
Acme Packet’s SBC, the Net-Net Session Director, delivers critical controls that allow service providers to deliver trusted, first-class interactive communications across IP network borders. The product enables a wide range of basic and next-generation services, from voice and video conferencing to cloud services and Wi-Fi-enabled fixed-mobile convergence over any type of IP network.
Its functions assure service reach maximization, service level agreement assurance, regulatory compliance, and cost and revenue management. As the first point of defense on the network, the SBC also secures service provider access and interconnect borders against malicious denial-of-service attacks as well as network overloads and other occurrences that would otherwise compromise service confidentiality, integrity or availability.
SBCs also have recently caught on with enterprises, which now face many of the same challenges that service providers faced as they transitioned to IP communications. “With enterprises now embracing IP communications and SIP trunking, SBCs are enabling a whole host of new business processes and other ways to optimize value within the organization,” he states.
“[There are] any number of ways that enterprises can now utilize IP to collaborate and create efficiencies, and our SBCs stand to play a significant role in that new communications paradigm,” he adds.
Acme Packet’s strong partnerships have allowed it to maintain high manufacturing quality. “When we have [an idea for] a new product, there is a lot of collaboration [between] manufacturing and engineering [workers] and our suppliers,” Shields says, noting that its hardware and embedded team also will join in on the concept stage.
“We’ll go through some pretty exhaustive analyses,” he says, noting this will continue on through the prototype and final production stages. “Typically, by the time we’re ready to release the product to our end-customers, it will really meet our customers’ needs.
“We continue to have a very high quality [level],” he adds. “That has been something that all of our customers have noted and remarked on. It’s very, very important, as our goal is to deliver products with high initial quality and long-term reliability.”
As the company has gotten older, Acme Packet’s quality level has only improved. “We see anywhere from a seven to a 10 times [level of] improvement in our actual reliability in the field over our predicted reliability models, which is as good as anybody has in the industry,” Shields declares.
Acme Packet’s reliability is the result of cross-functional component selection, design for manufacturing, and robust test methods. The company’s manufacturing and quality engineers are regularly collecting and analyzing data from its suppliers, internal processes and customers, as well as continuously identifying and implementing changes from these reviews.
At the Top
Shields predicts more growth for Acme Packet. “The marketplace we have been growing in continues to evolve,” he says. “Our challenge is to continue to evolve with the market.”
So far, the company has met this challenge, Shields says. “Today, we have  percent of the market share on the service provider side,” he states. “We continue to be the leader.”