Vendor Network Architectures�Part LVII: FacetPhone
Facet Corporation (known as FacetCorp) was founded in 1979 under the name Structured Software Solutions, Inc., providing technology and software engineering services to corporate customers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas area. In the late 1980s, FacetCorp got into the software products business with FacetPC and FacetTerm, and in the 1990s became a significant networking technology provider with the introduction of FacetWin, a comprehensive network integration product for Windows and Linux/UNIX platforms. In 2003, FacetCorp announced FacetPhone, a state-of-the-art IP-PBX system, with customer deliveries beginning in 2004. FacetCorp is somewhat unusual in the telephone PBX industry in that its developers came to the IP-PBX market as experts in networking technology and with substantial experience with UNIX/Linux environments, in contrast with much of their competition, which, typically, started in the voice communications industry. Facet's products are sold throughout the United States and Canada through an authorized reseller channel; they are used today by over a million users worldwide.
FacetPhone is a completely new phone system designed for small to medium size businesses. It completely integrates the company phone system with users desktop computers. FacetPhone is built from the ground up as an IP-based telephone system, not as a communications adjunct to other existing systems. FacetPhone server software runs on the Linux/UNIX operating systems, known for their stability and scalability. This software manages the telephone gateways, which provide connections for central office trunks, high-speed T-1 lines, and telephones, and are designed to be external to the server cabinet. The gateways are connected to the server via simple network connections (RJ-45) to a network switch (not a hub). This arrangement is designed to eliminate any network latency or throughput issues.
FacetPhone's architecture eliminates any limitation of the number of cards that can be installed in the server chassis, and it allows for easier maintenance and higher system reliability, as the server does not need to be taken down when replacing or adding gateways, extensions, or telephone lines. Furthermore, FacetPhone provides a Java user interface that will run on any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. It supports digital IP telephones and softphones.
FacetCorp designed FacetPhone around a computer telephony integration (CTI) model. In CTI, the telephone system can communicate with computersin this instance, computers that are running Windows, Linux, or UNIX applications. This integration rests on three application programming interfaces:
The first is Microsofts Telephone Application Programming Interface, or TAPI, which provides a standard way for Windows-based applications to interact with a telephone system. The TAPI 3.1 architecture includes four key elements: a component object model (COM) API, a TAPI server, telephony service providers, and media stream providers, and builds upon earlier interfaces that were designed in the C programming language. This integration allows users to dial from TAPI-enabled applications, such as Act!, and also bring up customer information based upon the Caller ID data that is sent from the phone system.
The second APIis called Universal TAPI (UTAPI); it incorporates a FacetCorp-developed protocol that supports Windows, Linux, and UNIX applications. This protocol makes it possible for customers to have their applications dial the phone and retrieve the Caller ID information on inbound calls. Thus, virtually any customer application can be easily modified to interface with FacetPhone.
The third integration API is NetTAPI, another FacetCorp-developed protocol that allows customer applications to interact with FacetPhone in a more comprehensive way. NetTAPI allows applications to be automatically notified of calls, initiate and terminate call recording, and automatically retrieve complete call detail records once a call is completed. With NetTAPI, detailed information can be automatically entered into a CRM (customer relationship management) application without manual employee intervention.
Network management capabilities of the FacetPhone system are another strong point, as the product is designed to transparently integrate multiple office locationsand telecommutersinto a single system, as if everyone were located in the same office, which, potentially, reduces long-distance expenditures. The system also provides a presence management feature that displays the status of all users, as well as enterprise instant messaging (text chat) between FacetPhone users.
Further details on the FacetCorp products and architectures can be found at www.facetcorp.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.