Stalker Takes a SIP

Stalker Software‘s CommuniGate Pro is an Internet messaging platform combining e-mail, calendar, and other functionality—and in its latest release, version 4.3, the company has added voice over IP to the mix. The server now supports secure SIP messaging and telephony, with the ability to adjust dynamically for firewalls, VPNs, and NAT devices in between.
Last week, Stalker announced a partnership with the Mexican system integrator IT Ware to support CommuniGate Pro in Mexico. CommuniGate Pro’s new VoIP capability was key to the deal, according to Ali Liptrot, Stalker’s Vic President of Marketing. “They were excited because they didn’t know of any other solutions that had it all, and they could see the value in that,” she says. “Voice is everywhere—it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

Thom O’Connor, Stalker’s Senior Solutions Architect, says this is the result of a gradual implementation of SIP in CommuniGate Pro over the past year. The new version allows users to make SIP calls directly from their address book, and additional VoIP functionality will continue to be added in the near future. “Really, our goal is to be able to allow our users to connect wherever they are, whether it’s in the office, in a hotel, or at home behind a firewall,” he says.

Still, O’Connor says, much of the functionality is already there, including registry services for millions of VoIP users, SIP proxy services with thousands of call signals per second, and both near end and far end NAT traversal services. “In today’s product, you can do VoIP, video, multimedia, whiteboard, application sharing—though certainly, some of that is dependent on whatever client the user is using,” he says.

Over time, he says, the aim is to enable companies to replace their phone systems with CommuniGate Pro’s VoIP capabilities. “Within organizations, people are replacing it today,” O’Connor says. “In our own environment here, we have four offices—we have an office in Tokyo, an office in Munich, one here in the Bay Area in Mill Valley, and then one in Moscow. We’re using voice over IP to communicate between those offices, and I know that saves us a lot of money. So people are certainly using it today.”

With the degree of functionality that it offers on a single server, O’Connor says, CommuniGate Pro is relatively unique in the marketplace. “Our biggest competitor in that space is probably Microsoft, with their Live Communications Server,” he says. “But it’s a separate package and a separate install, and they recommend it on a separate server, so I don’t think there’s anybody else really offering a single solution on one server—or one dynamic cluster.”

CommuniGate Pro v4.3 is available as a free upgrade to current customers. Other customers using older versions can upgrade at 35 percent off the list price, which starts at $699 for a single-server, 25-user pack. Version 5.0, O’Connor says, will be available within the next few months, and will add a media server with the ability to store, retrieve, and access voicemail, as well as video and audio conferencing, conference calls, and the ability to read both voicemails and e-mails and to have e-mails read to you via voice.

The new version, O’Connor says, will also give users the ability to set their own preferences and priorities for how the server interprets presence—eliminating, he says, a lot of the errors that occur with current systems. “If you’ve got multiple devices that are all saying they’re online—or some saying they’re online, and some saying they’re offline—then that user may appear to be either online or offline incorrectly,” he says.

In approaching voice over IP services, Liptrot says, Stalker Software has an advantage in that it comes from a data background rather than a voice background—and so it understands the need for security and reliability in providing these services. “We’re looking at it from a sense of being a messaging provider,” she says. “We’re in all of the markets, from ISPs and telcos to the enterprise space and the education space—but the ISP/telco market is where we learned everything in the sense of it being mission critical.”

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