Whaleback's New Software Release Aims at Mid-Size Market

By Ted Stevenson | Sep 17, 2007 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/Whalebacks-New-Software-Release-Aims-at-Mid-Size-Market-3700031.htm

Portsmouth, NH-based Whaleback Systems, which has been offering its CrystalBlue Voice Service for a little over 18 months, today announced Diamond Shoals, the third iteration of its VoIP technology/service.

(Before we get to the details, Whaleback director of marketing Dave Zwicker explained to VoIPplanet.com that, in honor of its New England maritime heritage, the company names its product releases after the locations of famous lighthouses, hence "Diamond Shoals," and—the release that preceded it—"Cuttyhunk.)

Diamond Shoals encompasses some major architectural innovations as well as some relatively minor service enhancements, but all, the company maintains, are moving CrystalBlue Voice Service up-scale, into the small enterprise, 50-to-1500-seat market.

CrystalBlue is unique in the VoIP service arena, in that it is both premise-based and centrally managed. That is, each customer receives—but does not own or manage—an on-premise software PBX, which, in turn is managed from the company's central network operations center. Whaleback provides all needed telephony equipment, and implements and maintains the total system for a fixed, $49.95-per-user-per-month fee (with scaled volume discounts).

Of the major architectural innovations in Diamond Shoals, the first to see the light of day was RAIL or Redundant Array of Inexpensive Links (a play on "RAID," according to Dave Zwicker). With RAIL, a Whaleback customer can have multiple broadband voice links, using a variety of technologies—DSL, cable, or fiber—from single or multiple service providers, which Whaleback's new software melds into a single high-availability network.

RAIL automatically optimizes and load-balances traffic across these multiple links, re-routing traffic to alternate links in case of a service disruption on any given connection.

Working hand in hand with RAIL is the OrcaVision Voice Quality Management System, announced today. This new technology provides a centralized view into the functioning of the entire Whaleback system—including the customers' network—allowing NOC personnel to track and analyze call volume, traffic bottlenecks, usage patterns, and call histories.

OrcaVision also performs periodic health checks on each customer PBX, detecting faults within a matter of minutes and issuing alarms and notifications when quality thresholds are violated. Generally, Zwicker said, Whaleback staff can investigate and resolve such problems before customers experience any service degradation.

The combination of RAIL and OrcaVision provides expandable bandwidth, with redundancy and failover, pretty much guaranteeing the high-reliability mid-size companies demand in a phone system.

On the service-details side of today's announcement, Whaleback now offers several new Polycom handsets. (CrystalBlue uses Polycom handsets exclusively.) Of these, the SoundPoint 550 is the most intriguing—a four-line phone that, among other things, introduces Polycom's HD Voice technology, which the Whaleback network now supports. (HD, or "high-definition" uses improved acoustical components in the phone, and the G.722 wideband codec in the network, to create the level of voice/sound quality we get with Skype and a good headset.)

Two service bundle additions round out this phase of the Diamond Shoals announcement (there's more to come later in the year): Courtesy Stations and a Premium Service Bundle.

Courtesy Stations are full-service phones located in public areas, such as lobbies, or company kitchens, which will, presumably, be used only occasionally, by visitors or staff members. The subscription cost of Courtesy Stations is $9.95 per month.

On the high-end of the package scale, the Premium bundle provides—in addition to normal unlimited outbound calling and faxing—a home office extension, and mobile telephony via laptop-based softphone (Whaleback provides CounterPath's eyeBeam), that can be used from any broadband connection. The Premium bundle commands a $10-per-month premium over the standard $49.95/user subscription fee.