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Concordia University Gives BlueNote the Green Light for Web-based Voice

By: Erik Linask (News - Alert)

Concordia University, a 34-year-old university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with two campuses about seven kilometers apart, boasts an innovative academic environment for its more than 40,000 students.

Naturally, an innovative institution strives to provide advanced technology to provide an enhanced educational ecosystem for its students and faculty. Concordia’s IITS (Instructional and Information Technology Services) group already oversees a fiber optic network connecting the downtown and west-end campuses, as well as a WLAN infrastructure that provides wireless access to nearly all parts of both campuses, which include 75 buildings.

Its extensive IP infrastructure also includes Cisco Unified Communications (News - Alert) Manager, which enables VoIP services to faculty, staff, and some students. However, IITS was keen to leverage its existing infrastructure to further enhance the communications capabilities across its facilities.

More specifically, it was looking to provide convenient, available voice capabilities to its existing IP services, while also enhancing support for its users, including improved Help Desk capabilities.

To meet these goals, IITS opted to add interactive voice services to its Web-based student portal, which would provide a simple means of communication within the community. It also decided to implement click-to-call and click-to-chat facilities to the IT Help Desk, which it hoped would improve support services. The final piece of the project was an IP softphone client that would complement existing voice, video, and data services with easy access from any location.

“In reviewing and selecting a communications services solution, we were focused on companies that understood our current needs, and that also had the vision to provide for our future growth,” said Andrew McAusland, associate vice president of IITS at Concordia.

After considering several alternatives, the university chose BlueNote Networks (News - Alert)’ SessionSuite solution to provide the enhancements to its communications system.

“BlueNote’s SessionSuite solution allows us to efficiently deploy advanced interactive communications capabilities for our faculty, staff, students, and extended user community. This is made possible by using a single, flexible software platform that leverages our current infrastructure.”

BlueNote delivered three elements of the SessionSuite family as it delivered on the initiative: the SessionSuite SOA Edition platform, the SessionSuite WebCaller thin telephony client, and the SessionSuite Desktop IP softphone client.

SessionSuite is designed to facilitate the integration of real-time communications into business processes and applications, improving productivity and convenience. One key is that its pieces can coexist with Concordia’s Cisco (News - Alert) deployment, thanks to its open, modular software architecture. Rather than replacing existing infrastructure, BlueNote is delivering a solution that will enhance it.

At the heart of the BlueNote solution is the SessionSuite SOA Edition Business Communications Platform, which delivers Web-based IP voice to the Cisco infrastructure, allowing the University to easily incorporate voice and video to its Web services and applications. While it can perform as a standalone solution, the value proposition for IITS is in SessionSuite’s ability to seamlessly interface with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager.

The SessionSuite WebCaller component is a customizable telephony client — supporting both voice and text — that is ideal for Websites, Web 2.0, and software applications, which is specifically designed to implement interactive Web-based communications. With WebCaller, IITS was able to easily add real-time voice communications to its student portal, as well as add the improved functionality it envisioned for its Help Desk, including providing the capability to participate in multiple chats at once to maximize productivity. It also adds the click-to-call and click-to-chat features IITS wanted.

Finally, SessionSuite Desktop is a Windows-based softphone application that can be loaded onto students’ laptops, with which they can place VoIP calls wherever they are, adding a mobility aspect to the productivity enhancing features enabled by SessionSuite.

According to IITS, SessionSuite desktop is easy to install and use, yet offers all the features it requires, including integration with other popular applications, including the Microsoft (News - Alert) Office suite. In particular, Concordia says it enjoys the freedom SessionSuite Desktop provides, letting users access phone services from anywhere they have a broadband connection.

“In less than a month, we were able to implement the click-to-talk feature — in plenty of time for a major roll-out at the beginning of the school year.”

Now, in addition to enjoying the benefits from its Cisco infrastructure, Concordia has delivered mobile VoIP to its entire user base of more than 44,000, as well as having significantly improved the usefulness of its IT Help Desk — a resource that likely is among the most widely used on campus.

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