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Definition: softswitch


(1) (Soft-Switch) Earlier software from Soft-Switch, Inc. that converted email messages from one protocol to another using X.400 as a common base. Running on IBM mainframes and Data General minicomputers, Soft-Switch, Inc. became a division of Lotus in 1995. See X.400.

(2) A programmable switch that processes the signaling for packet-based telephony protocols. Also known as a "media gateway controller," "call agent" or "call server," telephony providers use softswitches to integrate PSTN signaling (SS7) with VoIP. Using network processors at its core, softswitches can support IP, DSL, ATM and frame relay transports in the same unit. The softswitch's programmability enables it to adapt to future protocols. See IP telephony, VoIP and SIP.

It Should Be Able To...
According to the International Softswitch Consortium, a softswitch should be able to (1) control connection services for a media gateway and/or native IP endpoints, (2) select processes that can be applied to a call, (3) provide routing for a call within the network based on signaling and customer database information, (4) transfer control of the call to another network element, and (5) interface to and support management functions such as provisioning and billing.




Softswitch Infrastructure
This shows how a softswitch fits into the integrated SS7 and VoIP worlds. (Illustration assistance courtesy of GNP Computers and Pulver.com.)