AudioCodes, Microsoft partner to bring UC to wider audience

Microsoft’s approach to getting into the unified communications market was to build a framework that comprised the core UC functionality, and partner with other developers to fill in the feature gaps.

One such partnership—between Microsoft and Israel-based AudioCodes—has recently born fruit—on two fronts.

First, AudioCodes announced this week the release of its Microsoft Lync-certified SmartTAP call recording and logging system, which is, to our knowledge, the first such feature available for Lync.

“This opens up a whole new domain for Microsoft Lync that previously has been a stone wall,” AudioCodes’ director of market development, Alan Percy, told EnterpriseVoIPplanet in a briefing.

“Not every business needs it, but there are some verticals that desperately need it, including the financial industry and healthcare,” Percy said. “The contact center space is a great place for call recording. They use it for training and quality control.”

In other words, last week the universe of possible Microsoft Lync customers did not really include companies for which call recording today is a requirement; today, it does.

The other announcement from AudioCodes is that it has expanded its line of Mediant VoIP gateways that are certified for the Lync environment—to scale both up and down from the Mediant 1000 and 2000 platforms, which have previously been certified.

The Mediant 1000 and 2000 have been used pretty extensively for the past couple of years in pilot deployments of Lync. Now, many of those pilots are complete, and companies are gearing up to go into full-scale production. Feedback from pilot customers alerted to AudioCodes to two additional requirements: “One was ‘we need bigger’; the other was ‘we need smaller,’ ” Percy explained.

“The ‘bigger’ comes from moving from pilot to full production,” he continued. “Now they want to go corporate-wide, and that calls for much larger gateways—along the lines of our Mediant 3000 with its 2,000 sessions. “So, we got the Mediant 3000 certified with Microsoft, to handle those larger projects.”

“At the other end of the spectrum, are the retail businesses, like insurance and banking, who said, ‘we want the survivable branch appliance , like the Mediant 1000, but we’ve only got 12 people at the office; this is overkill.’ So the Mediant 800 MSBG [multi-service business gateway] was a really good platform to adapt to what we call the Mediant 800 SBA.”

The Mediant 800 SBA (survivable branch appliance) is a one-box solution that handles local unified communications for a small office. “It has media gateway functions; it’s got SBC (session border control) features; it has a server module that can run the Lync software in the same box. It also has a LAN switch, so you can plug SIP phones directly into it, and it has a WAN interface, including router and firewall,” Percy enumerated.

“So, envision a small retail business. They can put this one little box in the back closet, plug it into a T1, a data circuit; plug the IP phones into the LAN ports, add a couple of analog lines for analog phones that are out on the floor—and a fax machine. Flip this device on and you’ve got everything you need to run that retail outlet—including the survivability.”

‘Survivability’ is the some provision that allows an organization to continue to place and receive calls in the case of an IP link or WAN failure. The Mediant 800 SBA accomplishes this in two ways:

First, it handles all local communications locally—on the location premises. If the corporate IP WAN goes down, local communications are not affected. Second, if the IP link to the branch office goes down, the analog trunks take over the job of handling inbound and outbound calls until the IP network is back up.

“So the bigger story is UC for everyone,” Percy said, summing up. Indeed, as feature gaps are plugged, and scalability made more flexible, Microsoft Lync will likely appear to a wider and wider audience. AudioCodes is happy to be part of that broadening market.

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