This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Virtualization, while it has evolved significantly, has come full circle. It started decades ago where dumb terminals all connected to a centralized mainframe. The industry then moved away from the server farm when the technology became more affordable and shifted to personal computers that offered a faster, more robust user experience.
Now, technology advancements are pushing us back to the future with the capability to virtualize essentially anything (data, e-mail, databases) at the server level, and at the desktop, centrally. The updated technology and accompanying faster, more reliable network bandwidth mitigates the barriers of risk and speed and offers the flexibility that finally makes desktop virtualization achievable.
Without virtualization, for example, a typical 300-agent seat contact center uses eleven servers and requires dedicated power and human resources to provide call control of agent phones; facilitate the communication of multimedia coming into the call center; route and log call activity; configure the contact center via an administrative workstation; and manage call queues and enable interactive voice response or self-service applications.
While the number of components needed to maintain a call center remains the same, preconfigured architecture in a virtualized server environment consolidates not only these devices, but the storage, support, power and network gear associated – proving real business value.
Companies also have options. Looking specifically at Cisco (News - Alert), there are two virtualized server environments: a blade server series accompanied by an external storage area network or a rack server series with internal storage. The blade system accommodates more data capacity, but both have similar business benefits.
Utilizing a blade server system, like the one offered via Cisco’s Unified Computing System Blade Series, a traditional server rack is replaced by a blade server chassis that occupies one-sixth of the original physical footprint (think fewer air conditioners, less power).
The chassis accommodates eight individual servers with the capacity to map four of the necessary contact center software components to one blade, reducing the virtual capacity by 4:1.
For a 300-agent seat call center, this means all data requirements live in a single chassis occupying less than half of the server capacity; lower cost of ownership in terms of power and maintenance; cost savings by purchasing support for one physical box that houses numerous components; and enough server resources remain to also host the majority of the 300 agent desktops.
That’s all behind the scenes; for contact center operations, the action is at the desktop where the agent needs a phone and collaboration applications to make communication possible. Through virtualization of both of these mission-critical units, the desktop can be transformed without affecting the agent experience. The virtualized phone, equipped with a backpack to act as the PC, and desktop client, powered via Ethernet, plug directly into the data center. For the contact center, this results in:
Faster, fewer upgrades: Every instance of the agent desktop is standardized and can be installed or upgraded simultaneously and promptly.
Flexible infrastructure management: Additional capacity is easily obtained by adding resources to the virtual server enabling existing infrastructure to scale to meet the needs of the entire organization.
More security: Sensitive customer data lives in a secure, central location and access to that data can be managed by disabling both the phone and desktop client at a specified time.
Access from anywhere: Regardless of supervisor or agent location, desktop controls can be accessed from any device via a VDI client.
Through contact center virtualization at both the data and desktop level, companies will realize an elevated value of their IT infrastructure with technology that is agile enough to grow and change as quickly their business does.
Shyam Koneru is the director of infrastructure at Spanlink (News - Alert) Communications (www.spanlink.com), a Cisco reseller and integration partner focused on designing, implementing and supporting contact center and customer collaboration solutions.
Edited by Braden Becker