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This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

The creation and fostering of vendor-sponsored communities has been an incredibly hot trend over the past couple of years. There’s no greater example of the bilateral value a community can provide to the vendor and the customer base than what F5 has created with its DevCentral community. Over the past year or so we’ve seen Riverbed, Aruba, Infoblox and others unveil their versions of a community, and this week Acme Packet joined the growing list of technology vendors that are trying to capitalize on the power of a community.

The concept of the Acme community is not dissimilar to other ones that have been created recently, as it’s meant to enable better collaboration between Acme’s partners, customers and employees. If executed correctly, the Acme site could become the de facto information source for anyone interested in markets related to Acme products, which is quite diverse. Topic areas include SIP Trunking, operational issues, IMS, VoLTE, unified communications, and interoperability. The best source right now for market-level information is nojitter.com, but there isn’t really a site that addresses practical implementation issues and problems developers and administrators will face. It’s similar to the role Network World plays, providing market-level information, and then F5’s DevCentral delves a level deeper into support and operational issues.

Executing on this is critical for Acme Packet’s long-term market dominance. The company shot out of the gates and rode the SIP Trunking wave better than any other vendor and now holds a dominant position in the Session Border Controller (SBC) market. That market though, has slowed down over the past year or so. Telcos are in the midst of network consolidation and building out their services, and the next big market opportunity, VoLTE, for SBCs appears to be at least a year on the horizon. In conjunction with this market lull we’re in (and it is just a lull) other companies have seen the opportunity to get into the SBC market, and we’ve seen companies like Sonus, ALU and others jump into the market. Additionally, Avaya, Siemens, Adtran and others have enterprise-focused products to compete with Acme.

While I still think Acme has a more than healthy lead when it comes to product features, nothing is ever a lock. The cultivation and fostering of the community creates loyalty that products alone never could. Not to beat the F5 horse to death, but they’re an excellent example of a company that not only managed to hold its share in the market, but also used DevCentral as a way of expanding the TAM for their products into areas that no other vendor had considered. Where did they get many of the ideas to move into these markets? DevCentral.

So kudos to Acme Packet and the list of other vendors that have through their hat in the community ring for understanding the value it can bring. This should help Acme solidify its place in the industry as the de facto standard for issues related to session management, SBCs and other issues related to IP-based communications.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.

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