F/MC Watch: A Comprehensive Approach

By Ted Stevenson | Jul 17, 2007 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/FMC-Watch-A-Comprehensive-Approach-3689636.htm

If you haven't heard of Varaha Sytems, don't worry, it's not you. The Dallas-based company is just emerging from the shadows of pre-launch product development, a state it's been in since 2003.

Today, the company announced the availability of its uMobility line of software products that meld the cost and functionality benefits of enterprise IP communications and cellular communications.

Varaha's solution, which is aimed primarily at the SME market, targets SIP-based dual-mode smartphone devices, but also brings benefits to cellular-only users.

Like other fixed/mobile convergence systems we've written about, Varaha's uMobililty solution allows instant handoff of phone calls between cellular and Wi-Fi-based VoIP networks, but, unlike many of those others, it is designed to support data applications on an equal footing with voice. The company's marketing slogan, Mobile Desk with Global Reach, sums it up well.

Moreover, unlike most of the F/MC solutions we're familiar with, uMobility is an enterprise-centric, not a carrier-centric solution. It takes the form of a software suite designed to run on a variety of hardware (as opposed to a proprietary appliance) on enterprise networks, not a carrier network.

We recently spoke with Prasad Govindarajan, Varaha's CTO, who explained, "We've taken the pure enterprise approach to allow the mobile worker the freedom to choose what apps they have access to, which carriers they want to use, what devices they want to use, even down to what network they want to use. And be able to do that for voice and data, all with an underlying security mechanism."

The core client product, which Govindarajan dubbed DeskPhone, provides a uniform interface to the end user, whether s/he is on-campus, connected via Wi-Fi, or off-campus, connected via cellular. It is the user's connection to the corporate PBX, and provides access to five-digit dialing, call logs, and other internal communications functionality. It gives users one-number reachability.

"When I step off a plane and power up my phone, not only do I know I have cell voicemail, but whether I have enterprise voicemail, so I don't have to keep dialing back in," Govindarajan illustrated.

When a user leaves the corporate campus, Varaha's GlobalTalk functionality kicks in with a real-time, "service quality-aware" handoff from the local Wi-Fi network to the cellular network—assuming s/he has a dual mode phone. "Even with a cellular-only device, I can still do all my things, like five-digit dialing, message-waiting indicator—all of those things as if I were sitting at my desk," Govindarajan told VoIPplanet.com.

According to the company, in testing with multiple cellular carriers, Varaha's handoff speed is on a par with cell-tower-to-cell-tower handoffs for straight cell calls. The company claims this is accomplished without resorting to a conference bridge, which is how other F/MC providers we've talk to handle the task.

The security mechanism mentioned above is an enterprise-grade mobile secure VPN client that works in concert with the main uMobility client and interoperates with nearly 20 of the most common security systems in use today. The VPN client is optimized to support VoIP and leave some bandwidth headroom for data lookups, or other applications.

Speaking about the market, Govindarajan observed that "Enterprises are interested in two things. Fundamentally, they want to extend their enterprise applications, and to be able to do that in a secure manner. The second thing is How can I cost-justify some of these things? Using the dual mode devices, we've seen about a 60 percent saving—hard savings," he said.

As to mobile workers, "What they really care about is the single number, the single voicemail, the fact I've got one device on which I can get voicemail, e-mail, enterprise access, and five-digit dialing—and, by the way, it's automatic handoff as well, so as a user, I don't have to worry about it."

So, welcome to the first provider (that we're aware of) of an enterprise-centric fixed/mobile convergence solution with emphasis on voice and data, and VPN security.