In the enterprise world, implementing IP communications and a unified messaging (UM) presence isn’t a matter of “if” but “when,” according to one industry observer. Forrester analyst Brownlee Thomas made the statement at a Cisco Unified Communications seminar in Toronto last month.
Making the transition to UM is now a matter of competitive advantage. “This is not hype...it’s really happening,” Thomas said, adding that IP communication is moving toward the mainstream. “Within three years, IP laggards risk falling behind.”
Organizations need to understand the value of IP communications — it’s about leveraging the technology to achieve business transformation, Thomas noted. The technology is more than just the voice system, said Thomas, and includes unified conferencing, unified messaging and unified presence.
The current pain points are twofold, Thomas says. First off, many organizations have separate groups that respectively manage the voice and data networks. The second concern is around the overall ROI.
For Cisco customer Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC), building an IP communications infrastructure began back in 2002. FMC has offices in five Canadian cities and New York. Dave Komaromi, manager, technical services for the Toronto-based law firm, said its IPT infrastructure is a critical component for the firm’s productivity. Komaromi said FMC is using Cisco technology to support virtual LAN along with video conferencing, unified messaging and softphones for mobile staff.
According to Rod Scotland, product sales specialist, Cisco Systems, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the unifying protocol for messaging. Simply put, SIP is an easier way to extend UM across an organization without needing to switch out extensive infrastructures that connect enterprises to public switched telephone networks. SIP as a platform, Scotland noted, will be the standard of choice to enable traditional or mobile phones to work together more readily with applications such as e-mail and instant messaging.
From a routing perspective, switching over to an IPT environment could be as simple as voice-enabling the routers, Scotland said. For example, Cisco’s Unified CallManager 5.0 introduces native SIP support, which allows the platform to interact with other SIP-based client and server presence applications, such as Microsoft Office Communicator, as well as Cisco’s own Unified Presence Server and client software.
Cisco also released Unified CallManager Express 3.4 — software which runs in a blade inside Cisco routers, providing local call control and telephony features beyond SRST’s emergency failover support. An upgrade to Version 3.4 is needed to integrate CallManager Express nodes with an upgraded CallManager 5.0 at a central site, Cisco says.
In a data centre, administrators will be able to cluster Unified CallManager 5.0 similar to past CallManager servers, but with some caveats. To support large-scale CallManager networks with tens of thousands of phones, Cisco uses proprietary clustering software to tie together separate CallManagers as one large system.