Avaya launches modular messaging

Since managing disparate voice mail systems can be an issue for network managers, Avaya Inc. announced in February its Modular Messaging solution that allows for easier administration of voice mail systems in multi-protocol environments.

Supporting up to 50,000 users and between four and 144 ports, the Modular Messaging solution is IP-based and consists of both hardware and software. The Avaya Modular Messaging software is paired with two Avaya 3400 Message Servers. Both Intel-based, the servers run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows platform on the front end and Linux on the back end.

The front end interfaces with the voice systems, while the back end simply stores the voice mail messages. Modular Messaging supports Simple Message Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME), Internet Message Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4), Voice-Profile for Internet Mail (VPIM), Q Signal (Q.SIG), and Light Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

When someone leaves a voice mail, it is saved to the Modular Messaging Linux server so users can check voice mail remotely, be notified of voice mail on their cellular phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs), and forward voice mail to others in e-mail form.

Boulder, Colo.-based Broadway Suites has been beta testing Modular Messaging since December 2002. The company provides executive suites for small businesses and individual professionals that include all the amenities one would find in a corporate environment, such as e-mail, voice mail, Internet service and fax.

While Avaya also offers a Unified Messaging solution that saves voice mail directly to a Microsoft Exchange or an IBM Corp. Lotus Domino server, Dwight Reifsnyder said this converged voice mail and e-mail approach was not well suited to his company.

He said about 90 per cent of Broadway’s tenants use the voice-mail system, but they all use different e-mail clients. Broadway is deploying Modular Messaging in a 200-user environment on an opt-in basis.

“For that reason, the full integration into Microsoft Exchange presented problems for us in terms of our voice-mail server,” he said. “Since we have a very high penetration for our voice-mail services, we want to make sure we were presenting something that was going to be compatible with whatever [clients] had.”

He said Modular Messaging integrates very well into disparate e-mail clients because of its IP base and support for industry standards such as IMAP4, so users can set up their e-mail so they are notified on their e-mail accounts of new voice mail.

Reifsnyder said Broadway’s tenants are especially pleased with the Office Assistant feature that allows them to save voice mails as e-mails. In addition, he has received positive feedback regarding a feature that allows users to set up multiple schedules with phone numbers corresponding to their location. For instance, a user could indicate that between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. she would be reachable via her cellular phone. So when she received a voice mail at the office, the caller would have the option to search for the user, and would be redirected automatically to the cell phone.

Reifsnyder said the biggest complaint received regarding Modular Messaging has to do with the series of prompts when checking messages. For example, now instead of pressing “1” to check messages, users have to press “2.”

Robert Mahowald, research manager, collaborative computing at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said modular messaging is a good first step for companies that want more functionality with voice mail but are not yet ready to integrate voice mail with e-mail.

Lawrence Byrd, convergence strategist for Avaya in Mountain View, Calif., said Modular Messaging is more secure and reliable than Unified Messaging and is easier to deploy.

Modular Messaging is available now. Avaya said it would cost between US$100 to US$150 per mailbox. For more information, see the vendor’s Web site, www.avaya.com.