Toronto-based Objectworld Communications Corp. was founded 12 years ago with a focus on unified messaging for SOHO clients. In 2004, the company was purchased by current CEO David Levy and CTO David Schenkel—for one key reason. “They felt that, ultimately, telecoms was going to be subsumed into the IT data center,” says Steve Grassie, Objectworld’s vice president of marketing and business development.
Toward that end, Grassie says, Objectworld focused on Microsoft integration. “The company began taking the application and the unified communications platform and developing Microsoft plug-ins, Active Directory integration and a full SIP PBX, so that it not only could sit as an adjunct to a legacy PBX in its original form, called CallAttendant Office—but we pushed a new product onto the market in May of last year called Unified Communications Server,” he says.
The aim, as Grassie puts it, is to transform IP telephony into IT telephony. With IT administrators now making the buying decisions regarding these systems, he says, “We make it very simple for them to take over the administration and management of the phone system, because we actually sit inside of Active Directory as a tab. There isn’t anybody on the planet that does that, including Microsoft. So it’s very, very simple for them to administer the phone system exactly the way they administer every application in their Microsoft domain.”
Still, as Grassie is quick to note, that doesn’t mean the system is exclusive to Active Directory. “We do have our own client, and we can also interface to Lotus Domino, Lotus Notes, or any IMAP4 mail system,” he says.
Because the solution is a pure software play, Grassie says, it’s fully hardware-agnostic for everything from servers to telephones. Through the company’s Connect Interoperability Program, SIP phones from a variety of manufacturers are automatically discovered and configured as soon as they’re connected to the network.
Grassie says that while the solution can scale comfortably to any number of users, Objectworld focuses on companies with 20 to 500 users or so. “As you grow beyond that, you’re starting to bump heads with the Ciscos and the Nortels—not that we can’t do battle there, but we choose to do it in that SMB/SME space,” he says. “It’s a huge market, and we can help people leverage their investment that they already have in other pieces of software, like their Microsoft environment.”
And Grassie says the functionality is particularly attractive to small businesses, which now have access to things like IVR (interactive voice response) at the extension level. “You as an individual can have your own customized call flow that gives people the opportunity to bail out to a live attendant, to get fax documents sent to them automatically, to direct them to a your cell phone, or however you want the call handled,” he says.
With contact database integration, Grassie adds, calls can even be directed based on the calling number. “We can give you the ability to leave customized voicemail messages for who’s calling, as opposed to getting your general greeting,” he says.
Pricing for the software, Grassie says, comes to about $200 a user—or, with hardware included, about $425 per user. “This type of functionality, from one of the incumbents, would be anywhere from $800 to $1,200,” he says.
Grassie says the nature of Objectworld’s product line makes it very easy to start with CallAttendant Office and transition later to Unified Communications Server. CallAttendant Office can sit as an adjunct to a legacy PBX, adding unified communications functionality, and then, “when that system gets a little bit longer in the tooth, or maybe the company is expanding beyond the system capabilities, you can just turn the SIP PBX on with a license in the software—and now you’ve got a full SIP PBX,” he says.
Ultimately, Grassie says, the offering is all about giving small businesses both ease of integration and ease of use. “We give them the ability to do the telephone system exactly the same way they’re doing everything else, in a Microsoft ecosystem—and we do it in a way that’s very familiar to them, from auto-discovering the phones, to managing it and administering it in Active Directory, to the fact that it’s a single CD install that you drop into the server and follow Microsoft wizards,” he says.