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VoIP Contact Center Featured Article

June 13, 2008

VoIPeering - What is a Contact Center Utility Grid?

By Hunter Newby, CEO

(This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Internet Telephony magazine.)
 
Many utility grids exist today so this one should come as no surprise. The electrical power grid itself is probably the best example of a man-made distribution system, but there are others such as the U.S. Interstate and Highway system, waterways, The Henry Hub (natural gas pipeline system in LA and TX – Google (News - Alert) it, very cool), Cushing Mid-continent (oil distribution system in OK) and others. In the computer processing realm, one of the best examples is the SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). This project searches the cosmos for radio waves from intelligent life forms and uses the processing power of dormant or under-utilized PCs to process the data their satellites collect.
 
SETI is actually a very interesting project for many reasons (although it is odd to look for life more intelligent than our own that still uses radio waves when we ourselves are already using light as a more efficient and effective means, but that’s another story) one of which is how the administrators working on a tight budget were able to figure out how to get access to computer processors without having to pay for it. It was a brilliant move indeed and one of the largest homegrown, grassroots technology efforts ever to be undertaken. The circumstances are a bit different in that SETI uses a lot of home computers and contact center agents working at the center in this situation could be viewed as processors in large data centers verses having call agents at home which would look more like SETI.
 
The implementation of a contact center grid is specific to the centers themselves and requires IP network connectivity (IP over Ethernet, not the Internet) in order for them to be securely connected at Layer 2. This is not to say that dynamically pooling resources of at-home agents is without merit. It just does not address the greater needs, concerns and potential benefits of connecting the centers themselves.
 
This topic raises another question, what is utility computing versus grid computing? Utility in this context can be associated with the processors and the grid is akin to the network itself. This is important to mention because SETI is not actually a network, but rather an application running over a network (the Internet) utilizing processors out on the network whereas the Henry Hub, Highways, etc., are the networks and not actually the applications riding above them. A Contact Center Utility Grid is a combination of both things in one.
 
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Hunter Newby is Chief Strategy Officer / Director at Special Purpose Acquisition Corp.




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