Microsoft, Cisco support ICE for VoIP

Microsoft and Cisco are teaming up to support a proposed industry standard for allowing VOIP calls to transverse NATs.

Microsoft and Cisco Systems have teamed up to support a protocol for communicating across network address translators (NATs) that they believe will hasten the adoption of VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) for enterprises.

The two technology giants said Thursday that they will work together to add Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) methodology to Microsoft software. ICE is a proposed industry standard for a framework that would allow VoIP traffic to be exchanged between devices on NATs-enabled networks and devices outside those networks.

NATs protect networks by allowing only connections that originate inside a network to be completed on internal network servers, so outside clients cannot gain access to networks. While this protects a network from unwanted intrusions, it also blocks VoIP calls coming from outside the network from connecting to devices inside the network.

NATs, then, are a major stumbling block to allowing enterprises to utilize VoIP for their network users, Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the Office Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft, said in a press statement. The Redmond, Washington, software company and Cisco are encouraging partners to use ICE so that devices making VoIP calls are interoperable across networks protected by NATs, he said.

ICE combines a variety of network access protocols -- including Simple Traversal of UDP through NAT, Traversal Using Relay NAT and Realm Specific IP -- to determine how devices on the network are connecting so that a VoIP call can find its way through NATs, according to information on ICE on the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF's) Web site. The IETF, which oversees some Internet standards, created ICE.

The IETF is holding a meeting this week in Vancouver, where its Multiparty Multimedia Session Control working group, which oversees the ICE standard, is expected to meet to discuss and possibly finalize the ICE protocol, according to the group's Web site.

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