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Three Ways IT Can Become a Baby Bell

With cutting costs looming as THE big issues for IT next year, Unified Communications vendors are turning to service providers as a model for reducing capital expenditures.  I’m hearing three approaches from  vendors along these lines.

With cutting costs looming as THE big issues for IT next year, Unified Communications vendors are turning to service providers as a model for reducing capital expenditures.  I’m hearing three approaches from  vendors along these lines. Here what they will mean for your organization.

At the most basic, a number of traditional equipment vendors are trying to turn capital expenditures into operating expenditures through various leasing programs, like the one Mitel announced earlier in the fall. You can read more about these in my report published here.   

The second approach calls for replacing corporate telephony with hosted services, such as those offered by M5 and others.  In my own research and in with Michael Osterman, I found that this to be a growing option for enterprises particularly within the SME space. Tom Nolle had a similar conclusion.  

But there’s a third approach, as well. One that conceptualizes IT as a service provider of hosted VoIP services.  Covergence, for example, announced today the availability of Covergence Session Manager (CSM). CSM is a middleware package that abstracts the interfaces to the PBXs and Unified Communications systems.  It effectively does for PBXs and IP PBXs what load balancers have done for servers: turn them into a single logical entity.

There are a number of benefits to the CSM.  Tactically, it allows organizations to cut costs by consolidating ports across platforms.   Since the CSM sees all the traffic in and out of the network, IT can realize greater economies of scale and reduce the number of voice ports into the CSM. At the same time, voice traffic can be moved off of the PSTN onto the WAN or VoIP services using SIP trunks. Strategically, though, CSM lets organizations reduce end point costs and expand end point options by providing Web 2.0 developers with common interfaces to embedding voice and presence information within applications. These applications can then work across any of the PBX and IP PBXs within the enterprise. You can read the full CSM release here.

Aastra is also a big proponent of the convert-IT-into-a-voice-service-provider.  The company resells BroadWorks carrier-oriented application server within the enterprise. The product, rebranded as ClearSpan, provides IT with carrier-grade telephony capabilities. The platform runs on a blade server, is highly scalable, and offers the kinds of extensive client services one would expect from a carrier platform, such as custom voice portals to meet particular departmental requirements.

Viewing IT as a service provider isn’t particularly new.  The release of ITIL 3.0 describes at great length how IT should be conceptualized as a provider of IT services. CA has done significant work in this space in the IT governance space as have others. The introduction of those capabilities within communication platforms though is a different matter one that could well offer yet another approach for reducing their communication costs.