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January 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 1
Feature Story

UC Solutions Providers Address Interoperability, Management

By: Paula Bernier

Interoperability and management are not particularly sexy, but they are very important to make unified communications more integrated into the processes of an organization, ubiquitous, easy to use and compliant with enterprise and regulatory requirements.

Laurent Philonenko, vice president and general manager of the unified communications business unit at Cisco (News - Alert), says one barrier to ubiquitous unified communications is that when users collaborate with those outside their organizations they lose some of their capabilities. To address that, Cisco late in 2009 introduced a gateway, called the Cisco Intercompany Media Engine, which sits at the edge of enterprise networks to establish peer-to-peer relationships with similar gateways at other enterprises.

Cisco also recently unveiled the Intercompany Cisco Telepresence (News - Alert) Directory, a Cisco-hosted directory of endpoints, organizations and people with access to Cisco TelePresence endpoints. The directory features a virtual assistant to help schedule meetings across the more than 1,200 rooms at more than 80 customers using intercompany Cisco TelePresence.

In yet another move to allow for interoperability, Cisco introduced Session Management Edition of Cisco Unified Communications (News - Alert) Manager, which provides SIP session management at the call control level so PBXs from different suppliers can work together, share the same features, operate under a single management umbrella and enjoy the benefits of SIP trunking.

Adobe also recently expanded the PBX (News - Alert) integration capabilities of its Acrobat Connect Pro Web conferencing solution.

Peter Ryce, technical evangelist for Acrobat Connect Pro, says the Web conferencing solution has had telephony integration with solutions from such companies as Avaya, Cisco and Premiere Global Services, but that Adobe has expanded on that by also doing “tight integration” with InterCall (News - Alert). This integration outfits meeting participants with such capabilities as the ability to dial out to individuals, see who’s talking, mute people and put them on hold – all through a visual user interface using XML Web services on the back end talking to InterCall (or other telephony integration partner) servers, Ryce explains.

Additionally, Adobe now offers a new feature called Universal Voice that allows the Connect meeting to dial a 1-800 number to bring conferencing service providers into the mix. Adobe added media gateway functionality to its server, which acts as a bridge for transport protocols, using SIP and RTP to make the outbound communication with the conferencing service provider. That service provider then returns something like G.711 audio, and the Adobe server converts that to Flash audio, and broadcasts it within the meeting room.

“We recognize there are hundreds of audio-conferencing service providers, so there’s no way we could have that integration and relationship with all of them,” says Ryce. “And yet for many customers, they are more wedded to their audio conferencing than they are to any particular Web conferencing. So for those customers we have a new thing that’s called Universal Voice.”

Alan Baratz, senior vice president and president of global communications solutions at Avaya (News - Alert), says what businesses need are solutions that take the control aspect of email and infuse it into the real-time world of communications. That means solutions that easily allow people to set up meetings and easily store, index, retrieve, thread and, within the application, share documents.

“That gluing together of different communications mechanisms to get things done we think is very powerful,” he says.

“It’s not about everything, it’s about the right set with the right control,” he adds.

Baratz says Avaya is doing that through the real-time Avaya Aura infrastructure product it introduced in the spring. It’s a SIP-based platform that is completely based on sessions. It allows for a quick ROI, third party and sequenced applications, and more. MorganStanley is among the customers currently using this solution. Late in 2009 Avaya delivered the second release of aura, adding more ROI-related features as well as user registration so devices automatically register, and so the users’ profiles follow them despite what devices they are using.

Steve Hardy, director of global product marketing for unified communications solutions at Avaya, adds that enabling businesses to manage multiple PBXs and UC applications from a single system can also significantly lower their communications costs.

“For large enterprises there’s a lot of savings potential,” he says, adding Avaya’s Aura platform also can enable a company to use a single feature server to support multiple locations.

Another important aspect of making unified communications more widespread is as seemingly simple as doing codec mapping.

Given the wide range of codecs in use and the cornucopia of endpoints and user applications now available, there’s a need for normalization so end users don’t need to concern themselves with such issues, says Matthew Krueger, vice president of marketing and business development at Network Equipment Technologies (News - Alert).

“The codec should be the least of anyone’s concern,” says Krueger, adding that NET is focused on delivering solutions that allow everything to work together in the network so customers can continue buying best-of-breed products. IT

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