Microsoft and Cisco Systems Announce Support for ICE Methodology to Deliver End-to-End Media Connections Across NATs

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 9, 2005 — In a move aimed at making universal Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and integrated communications more accessible for more customers, Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. today announced their support for the emerging Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) methodology.

ICE, a standards-based methodology, allows information workers and businesses to more easily communicate in media-rich ways across network address translators (NATs), a significant barrier to VoIP and video connectivity. ICE provides a rich set of solutions for current NAT issues with media. Microsoft and Cisco are jointly supporting the ICE effort, demonstrating both companies’ strong commitment to developing standards-based communications solutions built on methodologies that can be broadly adopted and integrated.

“Finding a way for VoIP to work better across NATs and firewalls is a problem that is faced across the industry,” said Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the Office Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft. “Microsoft and Cisco are encouraging our industry partners to utilize the ICE methodology to ensure more consistent, reliable experiences for our customers, and to improve Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based VoIP interoperability across networks.”

“With service providers increasingly deploying converged voice-and-data services based on SIP, Microsoft’s and Cisco’s endorsement of ICE standards bodes well for our mutual customers,” said Don Proctor, senior vice president of the Voice Technology Group at Cisco. “Our commitment to providing ubiquitous and seamless protocol interoperability in our IP-based voice solutions helps customers experience greater value in their converged voice, video and collaboration investments.”

The Trouble With NATs

NATs are common components in IP networks of organizations today. But while they enhance security and provide other benefits, they also pose significant barriers to the broader adoption and pervasive use of VoIP and video across residential and enterprise networks. The same functionality that prevents network intrusion also often results in voice and video streams being blocked from outside the network. The ICE methodology was developed within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) — an international community of network experts concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet — to address the impact of NATs on peer-to-peer media connectivity. Many proprietary media services traverse NATs by tunneling using HTTP or Port 80, but this approach is not as security-enhanced, robust or scalable as the ICE methodology.

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