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[November 12, 2003]


By Blair Pleasant and David Zimmer

Interacting With Interactive Intelligence Inc. (Part 2)

Back | (Part 2)

This leads us into the future of SIP-based presence/availability/modality management, which can support Instant Messaging (chat) contact options as well as phone calls and asynchronous messaging. In particular, we expect this next phase to be particularly important for multi-modal or cross-modal communication mobility using smart phones or PDA phones. As noted later in this column, Interactive Intelligence is developing a very strong position in the exploitation of SIP capabilities.

So, overall, Communité is a very enticing product. Communité supports the virtual office very nicely. With its rules-based call routing, the user can be anywhere and still conduct business. And they can tailor the routing of those calls so that the calls only route the way the user wants them to route.

We are slated to get a test service account for Communité, which will integrate with our own Lotus Notes/Domino system (in January 2003, Communité support for Notes in version 2.2.1 was released). What that means is that the call routing is handled close to a thousand miles from our Domino servers. Interactive Intelligence said they could handle a distributed architecture so we will be testing that. We will be the ultimate "virtual office" as we travel to other office locations or are simply mobile and running errands. We will see if it really works and report back to you.

One of the most interesting issues discussed was Interactive Intelligence's use of Intel's Host Media Processing software (HMP 1.1). According to Intel's Web site, "This software performs media processing tasks on general-purpose servers based on the Intel architecture without the use of specialized hardware. When installed on a system, the software looks like an Intel Dialogic board with DM3 architecture to the customer application, but all media processing takes place on the host processor." The software technology used to perform the media processing tasks resides on standard high-volume servers without needing specialized DSP hardware. Intel's HMP 1.1 takes the DSPs off of the communication boards and onto the server itself, eliminating the need for boards, thus reducing costs. HMP provides low-level media services such as playing audio, detecting DTMF, and recording audio.

Interactive Intelligence recently announced the availability of an HMP version of its IP-PBX product, EIC, its contact center product, Customer Interaction Center (CIC), and Communité. By moving from a board-based solution to a software-based solution, Interactive Intelligence will be able to greatly reduce the cost and complexity of its systems. While acknowledging that other companies will soon follow suit and migrate to a software technology, Interactive Intelligence is the first company of its type to do so, giving it a significant jump on its competitors.

Interactive Intelligence has traditionally been strong in the contact center space, based on its CIC software - a bundled communications application suite. Customer representatives from five companies discussed their use of the CIC for inbound and/or outbound contact centers. Several of the panelists use CIC's integrated IVR, screen pop, skills-based routing, and recording capabilities. As an "all-in-one" contact center solution, customers can take advantage of all of these capabilities without having to integrate third-party vendors' products (which can also be done, if desired). While all these customers take advantage of CIC's basic contact center functionality, only one, Ceridian, uses CIC for integrated Web chat, Web callback and e-mail queuing and routing.

The customers that are not using these capabilities noted that it is not because of technical issues, but rather that staffing and personnel skill issues are holding them back. However, since such functionality has been available for several years, we really expected to see more practical use of e-mail and Web interactions from the customer panel.

As far as future plans, all of the CIC customers noted that they are looking to implement Interactive Intelligence's SIP capabilities, and will be able to replace multiple servers by using SIP instead. Interactive Intelligence has a very strong SIP story, and its representative customers are eager to migrate to SIP. With the company's SIP-based standards approach to IP telephony, customers can move to IP whenever they are ready and most of the customers on the panel stated that moving to SIP is next on their roadmaps.

Interactive Intelligence's Founder, President and CEO, Dr. Don Brown, gave us a glimpse into the company's future: The next major release of the company's core technology platform, Interaction Center Platform 3.0. The new platform will combine the current EIC and CIC architectures, with the Communité architecture by using an LDAP directory for the back-end data store. It will combine the scalability of Communité with the functionality of EIC/CIC, to create a large-scale IP telephony solution for hosted or on-premise deployment.

Hosted services will include IP Centrex, contact center automation, unified communications, and virtual office capabilities. Interaction Center Platform 3.0 will add a Session Manager, and will be able to run SIP media servers, and use third-party SIP gateways. Components such as Queue Manager and Administration Manager can be added and multiple components can be used to provide redundancy. Communité will move to the new ICP 3.0 platform, so that its rules-based capabilities and other UC functions will be available on the EIC and CIC products, as well.

Interactive Intelligence is not as well known as the major enterprise switch vendors such as Avaya and Nortel, but it has a very compelling story to tell, particularly for departmental solutions. It is doing all the right kinds of things for a converged, IP-based communications environment for the enterprise. While there are some missing pieces in the evolving solutions, Interactive Intelligence has a strong (and HAPPY) installed base, and seems to be ahead of the game in terms of its plans for exploiting SIP. How well it will continue to compete against larger and better-known telecommunication providers remains to be seen. We expect to hear some important announcements in the near future that may shake up the migrating unified communications market, so stay tuned.

What Do You Think?
Interactive Intelligence has built some very interesting converged products with new features that enterprise users need. Will their approach fit into your converged communications migration plans within a distributed, virtual enterprise? Will their technology be most practical for a "Greenfield" situation? What factors impress you the most compared with their larger competitors?

Let us know your thoughts by sending your comments to comments@unified-view.com. You can also participate in our forums.

The Unified-View has started a comprehensive survey initiative to track the migration of enterprise organizations towards converged communications management. The ongoing survey is accessible through CommWeb and is open to enterprise technology managers responsible for current telephone or messaging communications and their migration to a converged network infrastructure and multi-modal communication devices.

Participants in this study will be rewarded with up-to-date perspective reports of how enterprise organizations are selectively migrating from their current communication technologies to support various user needs for enterprise-wide mobility and multi-modal communications.

To participate in this survey now, go to: http://cmp.inquisiteasp.com/surveys/e42wy8 and be sure to type in “TMC” as your Group Identification Code on the first page.

New White Paper
Don’t forget to pull down your free copy of our latest white paper, “Migrating to Enterprise-wide Communications: The Branch Office Dilemma,” on enterprise-wide communication applications in a distributed enterprise. Simply go to our Web site – www.unified-view.com, fill out the form, and download the paper.

Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer are veterans of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. They focus on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as consumers and as members of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.

Considered to be objective industry thought leaders, Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer have been publishing their highly-acclaimed syndicated column on unified messaging and unified communications for over four years to a worldwide audience of consultancies, technology providers, service providers, and enterprise technology managers. Both principals are popular speakers at leading technology conferences and organized the first programs in the industry focused on the subject of unified messaging/communications. The Unified-View's website (www.unified-view.com) is also considered to be a leading source for information on the evolution of unified communications.

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