|Avaya IP Voice
Mail Goes Mod(ular)
Several years ago, before VoIP and IP
telephony became “real,” we were asked about how an enterprise should go
about migrating to unified messaging (UM) and unified communications (UC).
Our suggestion then was to replace legacy voice mail systems with newer
“UC/UM-enabled” voice mail systems, because older voice mail systems were
too difficult to “integrate” with e-mail. Unfortunately, however, TDM-based
“UM” systems were also functionally limited, too hardware intensive, and too
expensive to cost-justify in the recent economic downturn of the industry.
This made the market migration of voice mail to unified-messaging far from a
Why are voice mail systems so critical to the enterprise?
It’s not just because of mailbox-to-mailbox messaging, because public (text)
e-mail, and now Instant Messaging (IM), offer other and sometimes more
appropriate mailbox messaging alternatives. It is really still the old
“telephone answering” real-time functionality that originally propelled
voice mail in the eighties that is still most critical in today’s business
Voice mail systems improved upon the old answering machine
capabilities by providing the ability to selectively play recorded
information to callers (like an IVR), route calls to other phone numbers,
forward caller voice messages to other mailboxes and for recipients to reply
with a voice message (to other subscribers) or initiate a call return to the
caller. History has shown us that voice messaging may also be preferred over
text messaging when urgency, tone or privacy is considered. With new,
SIP-based intelligence, enhanced software-based voice mail servers will
continue to play an important tactical role in the spectrum of mobile,
multi-modal communications applications for enterprise end users.
In the meantime, VoIP networking and IP telephony servers
have matured enough to cost-efficiently support converged communication
applications, including traditional voice mail servers. Now, with the
migration of PBXs and key systems to IP-based platforms, and the rapid
growth of handheld mobile communications that demand converged unified
communications (UC) within the enterprise, it is becoming practical to
consider that first migration step once more.
This time, however, there are greater benefits in store from
IP-based infrastructure, not only for users, but also for technology
support, and the enterprise as a whole. The key, of course, is providing
flexible “graceful migration” choices for any enterprise situation, and
Avaya, as a leading telecommunications provider with the largest installed
base of telephone system customers, came up with their next-generation,
IP-based voice mail system, they call Modular Messaging.
THE PAYOFFS OF IP-BASED VOICE MAIL
Before describing the flexibility of Modular Messaging implementations, it
is appropriate to note why the migration to IP-based voice mail is a
practical consideration for every enterprise
It enables cost-efficient implementation of unified messaging
(UM) and unified communication (UC) functionality.
It reduces hardware costs by eliminating the need to support
dedicated TDM facilities, and instead leverage the customer’s existing data
IP networking enables networked centralization for support and
maintenance of remote locations and maximum service continuity.
IP-based servers enable great scalability, providing
consistent functionality enterprise-wide, regardless of the size
requirements of the local site.
With IP-access, gateways, legacy voice mail and telephony
servers can interoperate cost-efficiently with newer “communication
The bottom-line is that “it
is not a matter of if, but when” every enterprise will have to start their
migration to IP communication infrastructures; the telecommunications
industry is not going to support TDM-based technologies forever. The cost of
staying with old technology will start increasing. So, the trick to
practical migration is to find the most flexible offering that fits with
both your current investments and various user needs and start your planning
SO, WHAT'S "MODULAR?"
In December 2003, Avaya announced the latest version of its Modular
Messaging product. Avaya stresses that Modular Messaging is about the
flexibility of choice -- customers can design it to fit their individual
technology environments, migration priorities, and “communication
application“ needs and preferences, all with a minimum of risk or capital
investment. At the same time, from a practical provider perspective, Avaya
is also migrating its diverse TDM-based voice mail products from the past (Octel,
Audix) into a common developmental software base, which should expedite the
merger of Avaya’s Unified Messenger product with Modular Messaging. The
price for Modular Messaging is 10-15 percent lower than for the Unified
Messenger product and the seat price is comparable.
Avaya offers a basic Message Application
Server (MAS) front-end with a choice of voice message storage back ends.
Modular Messaging customers can choose between Avaya’s own Message Storage
Server (MSS) or use one of two e-mail server storage (IBM Lotus Notes,
Microsoft Exchange) back ends. There are three flavors of Modular Messaging
-- voice mail only, unified and unified -- software only, where the customer
provides the MAS or back-end platforms. With e-mail server storage back
ends, the Modular Messaging offer will be either the software-only option or
included as part of Avaya’s front-end server -- the Message Application
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