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RingCentral unified communications
reference architecture

Table of contents

1. Introduction

This document provides a reference architecture for the Unified Communication Services provided by RingCentral. This architecture can be used to get a high-level understanding of options for network connectivity, components and redundancy, site implementations, and endpoint types. These options can be selected based on the desired set of unified communication services, business continuity, and already implemented and target communication network infrastructures.

This document can be used with the MVP network requirements and RingCentral bandwidth and network capacity assessment documents.

2. Reference architecture specification

The Unified Communications Reference Architecture for RingCentral is illustrated in the diagram below.
 
This architecture provides a conceptualization of the possible functionality deployed to support and realize messaging, video, and voice (MVP) unified communication services. It does not illustrate possible multiplicities of functionality at enterprise sites or in terms of connectivity to the RingCentral cloud used in particular enterprise deployments. Wide-area and local-area network components are indicated for the delivery of those services to endpoints, including desk phones and soft clients.
 
The “RingCentral Global Office UCaaS Cloud” in the diagram below illustrates Internet telephony service provider (ITSP) and PSTN carrier interfaces, a communication session controller, a media server, and the cloud Application Programming Interface (API). Each of these functions corresponds to globally distributed and connected components or service access points.
 
The ITSP and PSTN interfaces support voice calls with parties outside the RingCentral cloud domain. The media server facilitates voice and video encoding and connecting call legs for point-to-point and conference calls. The communication session controller handles endpoint registration and orchestrates messaging, video, and voice sessions. The API provides the ability to extract call and quality history reports and billing information from the RingCentral cloud and to externally control communication sessions.
 
The RingCentral reference architecture operates based on a hub-and-spoke topology; all signaling and media traffic from an endpoint traverses the RingCentral cloud, even for communication between adjacent call participants at a single enterprise site.
 
Along the path between an endpoint and the RingCentral cloud, traffic must be managed in terms of end-to-end path Quality of Service. This implies that sufficient bandwidth must be available on every link, traffic needs to be properly prioritized if possible, and intermediate and endpoint devices must have sufficient performance. All traffic between endpoints and the RingCentral cloud is encrypted including signaling, messaging, video, and phone media streams, configuration updates, presence status notifications, and API sessions.
RingCentral Unified Communications Reference Architecture
The functionality illustrated in the Reference Architecture is labeled as follows (the mentioned network types are covered in the following section):
  • RingCentral cloud-based functionality and any devices and soft-client endpoints provided to enterprises are illustrated in orange or indicated with the RingCentral application logo, which should generally be interpreted as any type of RingCentral endpoint software.
  • Enterprise-provided functionality is generally indicated in blue.
  • Internet and private connectivity are labeled with the type of connection they use (Public Internet, Private Network, and Mobile/WiFi Network).
RingCentral cloud services may be accessed via one or more of the following types of components:
  • Firewall - Supports inbound and outbound packet filtering based on IP addresses and port numbers and network interfaces that can be of Ethernet, WiFi, cable modem, or a different type.
  • Router - Performs IP routing and packet forwarding and may support other functions such as bandwidth management.
  • Ethernet Switch - Supports frame switching and may incorporate additional functionality such as VLANs, layer 2 port control and frame filtering, and Power over Ethernet (PoE).
  • WiFi/Mobile Network Access Point - Allows endpoints to connect to an enterprise, home office, or public WiFi/mobile network.
  • Endpoint  - An end-user communication device including computer running a software communication client, desktop phone, conference phone, cordless phone, paging device (ceiling or wall speaker), intercom device, and analog terminal adapter.
Enterprise network implementations and deployed endpoints are, in general, site-dependent and may include the following variabilities:
 
  • Sites may be connecting to the RingCentral cloud via the Internet or private network connections.
  • To increase the availability of cloud services, redundancy may be implemented via additional Internet or private network connections. Failover and failback actions between network connections may be executed in an order that maximizes communication service quality and business continuity.
  • A private network connection between an enterprise site and the RingCentral cloud may be realized using a variety of technologies, including point-to-point Ethernet, Ethernet Private LAN, MPLS, intra-data center cross-connects, an SDN, or a hand-off from an SD-WAN network.
  • Depending on the enterprise site's business purpose, type of organization, security considerations, and the number of users, several levels of firewalls, IP routers, and Ethernet switches may be present. For example, a hierarchy of switches may be deployed to facilitate access and distribution network connectivity.
  • Network devices may be implemented as dedicated physical devices or combined into a single physical device. In advanced large enterprise deployments, these functions are usually implemented as individual devices. In SMB and home environments, such functions are frequently combined into fewer devices to reduce costs. An example of the latter is an all-in-one modem or cable modem.
  • Multiple enterprise sites may be connected into a hub-and-spoke WAN architecture so that all traffic traverses a central enterprise location, which may be a large corporate site or a data center. The central hub may provide public or private connectivity to the RingCentral cloud.
  • All private and Internet enterprise sites need access to a public DNS server to resolve RingCentral cloud domain names to public IP addresses used by endpoints to reach cloud services.
  • Depending on enterprise and user needs, sites may deploy a variety of endpoints, including desk phones, conference phones, desktop applications, web browser integrations, mobile device applications, and RingCentral Rooms devices. Certified overhead pagers and intercom systems may also be used as endpoints.
  • Endpoints may be connected to a wired LAN infrastructure (often an Ethernet switch), a WiFi network, or a mobile network. Mobile network access may be used by users in public spaces, within the enterprise environment, and from home.
  • WiFi and mobile endpoints include phones, tablets, laptops, and hand-held devices (used, for example, in stores, factories, or at construction sites). These devices may be owned or leased by the enterprise or could be personal devices.
  • WiFi or mobile endpoints may roam between enterprise and public networks while maintaining end-to-end communication sessions.
  • To support WiFi communication, one or multiple Access Points may be deployed. 
  • Enterprises may reuse legacy VoIP desk and conference phones with RingCentral as long as they meet compatibility requirements.
  • HDTV televisions and cameras used for RingCentral Rooms may be provided by RingCentral or be purchased by the enterprise.
  • PSTN Gateways or PBXs (both not illustrated) may connect to RingCentral cloud-based session border controllers. For gateways, this may be required to accommodate local telephony regulations (e.g. in China and India). For PBXs, this could be required when some sites are not yet ready to be converted to a RingCentral-optimized solution.

3. Network types

The next sections provide an overview of the possible network types that may be leveraged as part of a realization of the unified communications reference architecture. These networks may be deployed within the enterprise to connect an enterprise to the RingCentral cloud via a wide-area network service provider or within a data center, in-home offices, or in public network spaces. Only the most used types of networks are described. Ownership of most of these networks and their component configuration is out of RingCentral’s purview. The use of these networks must follow the MVP network requirements.

3.1 Wide-area and local area networks

Wide-Area Networks (WANs) span a large geographical area and may be public or private. Local Area Networks (LANs) may be deployed within the enterprise, at home, or in public spaces. The WAN/LAN designation indicates the geographical extent of the network and does not specify the network implementation technology.
 
The public Internet is a WAN that is used by the majority of enterprises to connect to RingCentral unified communication services. Alternatively, enterprises can leverage private Wide-Area Networks to connect an enterprise site or a data center to the RingCentral cloud via CloudConnect (Section 3.4).
 
Many technologies exist to implement WANs, including Internet, Ethernet Virtual Private Line, MPLS, 4G/5G mobile networks, SDN, and SD-WAN (see next sections for an elaboration of some of these technologies). In principle, each technology can be used to connect to the RingCentral cloud.
 
Local Area Networks have largely standardized on Ethernet and WiFi network technologies.

Each type of network technology has its own way of supporting quality of service. To ensure that the Quality of Service Guidelines is met, it is required that:
  • Every traversed WAN network segment must have sufficient bandwidth and quality.
  • Proper mapping of traffic prioritization tags is performed between networks of different types.

3.2 Software-defined networks

Software-Defined Networks (SDNs) provide the ability to establish private connections between enterprise sites and cloud services across the Internet in a very short time span compared to typical carrier connections. They are usually WAN connections but may also be intra-data center connections. SDNs facilitate web-controlled virtual connection management and centralized control of security and sometimes also include QoS level controls. 
 
SDNs typically leverage Ethernet VLAN technology to support the establishment of virtual connections across a wide-area network. The virtual connections are used to interconnect data centers and to provide connectivity between enterprise sites and cloud service providers.
 
SDNs can be used in conjunction with RingCentral CloudConnect.

3.3 Software-defined WAN

In contrast to SDN, Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) is an overlay network technology built on top of an already existing network infrastructure (typically the Internet). It has similar characteristics as SDN by leveraging centralized control of virtual network connections. In addition, an SD-WAN allows dynamic traffic steering to select the highest quality connection.

RingCentral has a select group of SD-WAN Connectivity partners. SD-WAN can be used in conjunction with RingCentral CloudConnect.

3.4 WiFi networks 

WiFi networks are LocalArea Networks that are pervasively used since they provide users a much higher degree of mobility compared to connectivity to cabled communication networks. WiFi networks may be used within an enterprise, at home, or in a public space.
 
The achievable network performance of a WiFi network depends on many factors. Chief among them are:
  • The capabilities, settings, and physical location of WiFi Access Points (APs).
  • The location of users relative to APs.
  • The number of users connecting to an AP.
  • Environmental conditions such as location, addition, and migration of objects and furniture.
These factors may contribute to lower connection quality compared to wired network implementations.
 
Soft-endpoints such as desktop softphones, mobile phone applications, and video applications can be used on WiFi networks provided that:
  • The wired network meets the MVP network requirements.
  • The wired network plus the WiFi leg attached to the wired network also meets the end-to-end path requirements for QoS.
  • The 5GHz band is used instead of the 2.4 Hz band since the former offers higher bandwidth and less interference from other equipment due to non-overlapping channels.

3.5 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks

Mobile networks are Wide-Area Networks that can be used with the RingCentral MVP mobile app installed on phones. End-point performance is affected similarly to WiFi networks, but additionally by atmospheric conditions. Poor weather conditions and distance from mobile towers have an adverse effect on network conditions.
 
Mobile technology has evolved from voice only to voice and data services. Data services have improved over time, known as 3G, 4G and 5G. The main difference between these generations is network performance improvements over the previous technology.
 
3G network performance can be unsuitable, 4G satisfactory and 5G most suited. As long as the mobile signal reliably meets the MVP network requirements either of the technologies used in the mobile network can be utilized.

3.6 Satellite networks

Satellite Networks are Wide-Area Networks. Traditionally, Satellite Networks should be used as a last resort. Legacy Satellite Internet Service Providers could not provide the high bandwidth and low latency to support VoIP. They had very long roundtrip delays and poor connection speeds making them an unsuitable alternative to other networks. 

The new generation of low orbit satellite constellations can provide satellite internet access in rural hard to reach areas or regions with slow traditional connections like ADSL. Due to the low orbiting distance from base stations, it can meet the delay and latency requirement for RingCentral MVP. The biggest hurdle is to eliminate the brief periods of no connectivity which can be between a few seconds to a few minutes (over the course of 24 hours). Over time, outages will diminish as the number of satellites increase.

3.7 SMB/SoHo networks

Small-Medium Businesses and Small Office - Home Office (SMB/SoHo) networks can be considered Local Area Networks. They are typically connected to a cable provider or Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) ISP network. These local networks may have lower quality equipment (such as all-in-one modems) compared to enterprise networks. Frequently, the users on such networks also use WiFi. The combination of these factors makes it more challenging to manage the end-to-end path impairments between endpoints and cloud communications services. However, to maximize the communication quality experienced by users, it is recommended to deploy high-quality network devices and reliable ISP connectivity. A business-grade quality ISP connection is preferred.
 
If an ISP-provided modem is used with a separate router, the modem should be configured in bridge (also called passthru) mode, and the router is ideally configured according to the MVP network requirements.

3.8 Ethernet VLANs

Ethernet technology is used in LAN and WAN networks. Modern networks support Ethernet virtual LANs (VLANs) to support the administrative creation of multiple virtual networks on one physical LAN/WAN network.
 
Depending on the endpoint types, VLANs can be used as follows in enterprise networks:
  • Desk Phones and IP Speaker Phones - If VLANs are supported by network switches, it is recommended to define a VLAN specifically for desk phones and IP speakerphones. This will keep VoIP traffic of these types of endpoints logically separated from data traffic and it reduces the size of broadcast domains. Management of these endpoints is simplified because their IP addresses are VLAN-specific.
  • Soft-Clients - Computers running soft-clients will usually run other applications as well. For this reason, the computer is normally connected to the default VLAN, meaning  VoIP and video traffic for soft clients does not reside on a dedicated VLAN.
  • Video Conference Rooms - RingCentral Video Rooms require display and controller to be on the same network.
The following recommendations should be followed for enterprise network VLAN implementations:
  • The VoIP hard phone solution must be put on a different VLAN and subnet than an already deployed legacy VoIP solution. Otherwise, the network routing of the existing VoIP solution may inhibit VoIP phones from reaching out to cloud-based services.
  • Guidelines to operate Polycom/Poly phones on VLANs.
Ethernet VLAN technology is also used in WAN SDN networks.

4. Network connection methods

The next sections describe network connection methods that may be leveraged as part of a realization of the unified communications reference architecture.

4.1 CloudConnect

RingCentral CloudConnect provides connection points in global data centers for enterprises to establish private network connectivity between one or more enterprise sites and the RingCentral Unified Communication Cloud. The network interface between the WAN and the RingCentral CloudConnect peering point must meet RingCentral’s physical and peering protocol requirements. Depending on the CloudConnect option, an enterprise/carrier Wide-Area Network can be extended into one or more RingCentral data centers within a cloud region. RingCentral has a select group of CloudConnect partners.
Table 1 - CloudConnect Options

CloudConnect Option

Architecture

Simplex + OTT

A single circuit from the carrier/enterprise WAN or an enterprise site to a RingCentral data center, with OTT backup

Georedundant + OTT

More than one circuit from the carrier/enterprise WAN or an enterprise site to one or multiple RingCentral data centers, with optional OTT backup

4.2 Internet exchange points

The RingCentral cloud is globally connected to multiple Internet Exchange Points (IXP). IXPs are nodes where Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprises can connect their networks and exchange IP traffic. 
 
Direct peering can be established between the RingCentral cloud via an IXP and a customer’s ISP provider or directly to the customer's network to optimize traffic routing and Quality of Service.
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