Converging on the Enterprise

Recent announcements have placed two companies, CommuniGate Systems and Pingtel, squarely in the large enterprise VoIP market. Coming from opposite ends of the marketplace—a VoIP company adding new features, and an e-mail company adding VoIP functionality—the two have met in the middle, converging on an increasingly competitive sector.

Last month, CommuniGate Systems announced the release of CommuniGate Pro version 5.0, a single solution for messaging, collaboration, and VoIP. With a number of voice applications built into the new release, the company is targeting carriers and large enterprises in particular with its high-scalability CommuniGate Pro Dynamic Cluster.
The cluster delivers what the company calls a uniquely scalable “SIP Farm,” with the capability of hosting thousands of domains and millions of subscribers.

Thom O’Connor, CommuniGate’s director of product architecture, says version 5.0 is largely about bringing voice applications into the company’s established SIP infrastructure. “The server will act as a voicemail and auto-attendant server, it will act as a conference server—and it will do self-service, call queuing, and other applications that you would expect out of an IP PBX,” he says.

Integrated applications
Thanks to the company’s background in e-mail, O’Connor says, CommuniGate is able to approach VoIP as just another form of Internet communication. “We’re seeing this as something you can open up at the gateway so your same e-mail address is acceptable via any Internet endpoint for voice, for video, for direct connectivity,” he says.

As a result, O’Connor says, the user is able to manage all forms of communication from one view. “With CommuniGate Pro, you’re getting it all in one place—voicemail, e-mail, calendar, and the ability to create conferences and send out calendar invites and so on—all consolidated within one mailbox at the user’s fingertips,” he says.

O’Connor says the next release, version 5.1, will increase the integration between services—taking, for example, the Caller ID from an incoming voicemail and referencing a user’s address book to attach an e-mail with relevant contact information. “Then you can listen to the voicemail, make notes in the e-mail, delete the voicemail, and retain that e-mail in your inbox with your notes about that call,” he says.

The idea, O’Connor says, is to increase the number of touchpoints where e-mail, calendaring, and voice all integrate on the server. “There are some unique and interesting opportunities for these touchpoints, and that’s where we’re looking to move forward with this,” he says. “It’s even tough to get our own minds around all of the different possibilities that exist here now that we’ve got this built.”

Adding ‘real-time’ functionality
Pingtel’s product line is based on open-source code from the non-profit organization, SIPfoundry. Its newest solution is called the SIPxchange Enterprise Communications Server (ECS), which is based on version 3.0 of the company’s SIPxchange PBX. The ECS product incorporates a number of new features, including an integrated presence server, automatic call distribution services based on presence, and support for additional SIP phones.

Al Brisard, the company’s Vice President of Marketing, says the new release represents a shift in focus for Pingtel from traditional PBX features to more real-time communications functionality. “As we continue to build on this real-time architecture, we’ll start to take into account other types of communication—not just voice, but, potentially, instant messaging, video, and other pure SIP applications,” he says.

These days, Brisard says, Pingtel is finally seeing enterprises beginning to request softphone solutions rather than traditional hard phones. “We’re seeing a lot of transitioning to the desktop from a client perspective,” he says. “Enterprises are trying to offer secure instant messaging, but they’re also deploying softphones and integrating the applications, so Outlook, e-mail, instant messaging, and CRM are all on their desktops.”

The ECS solution also greatly increases the product’s scalability. While, previously, Pingtel focused on companies with 250 or fewer users, Brisard says the solution can now be targeted to large enterprises with many thousands of users. “You could actually run independent components on different servers and have them run in a high availability mode—that architecture is in place,” he says.

With a wide range of providers approaching this kind of application convergence for large enterprises in different ways, Brisard says increasing competition will be inevitable over the coming year. “We’re all coming at it from different directions,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to either meet in the middle or cooperate—so we don’t all reinvent the wheel.”

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