Last year (October, Simply Super CT, Page 54) we covered PBX digital station emulation (DSE) as an economical approach to CT app/switch integration. Then as now, at least five CT board manufacturers offered products that give small-to-medium-duty applications access to the switch. They do this by imbedding the board equivalent of a digital station set inside the same boxrunning the app. Like a counter-spy (we said then), the phone-set emulator appears to the switch as a faithful digital phone set, receiving instructions on such things as dialed extension number, line and lamp status, positive disconnect status, and then turning that info over, via direct digital link or SMDI interface, to the insurgent adjunct behind enemy (PC) lines.
The espionage metaphor works (and the emulation category exists) because of the major PBX manufacturers traditional
hostility to third-party voice mail and auto attendant products. Telephony-board generalists like Dialogic, Pika, and Bicom and specialty companies such as VTG and Calista, therefore, have amassed considerable intellectual property by reverse-engineering the call signaling of major PBXes, cracking the code, and putting that technology within reach of developers through their boards, enclosed integration appliances, and APIs to same.
Last year, we concentrated on voicemail. Theres still a great
market there indeed, Calista calls all the products we wrote about last year voicemail interfaces. Calista also claims that OEM voicemail revenue is five times what it was in 98, and that theyve captured a great deal of the OEM voicemail market, including Lucents own Octel voicemail platform. VTG, for its part, is the in-skin solution for Toshiba and Mitel; Bicom does NECs. But generic voicemail is a mature, sewn-up market, more and more presumed as an OEMed in-skin.
PBX integration technology vendors are now looking to expand the market for their intellectual property, and, of course, to get on the IP train. Beyond voicemail currently includes medium-duty CT for call centers of up to 100 seats, in-building wireless applications, IVR, and monitoring and logging applications.
Examples: A VTG (Buffalo, NY 716-689-6700,
) VoiceBridge integration board helps an Apropos call center server get ANI and DNIS,
speed call routing, reduce touch-tone prompting, and allow customer database lookup for screen pop. It even lets Apropos get to abandoned calls for call-back.
VTGs digital set emulation is used in most of the current call center monitoring and recording products, including Witness Systems. These third-party apps take advantage of the service observe function of Lucent, Nortel, Simens/Rolm or Mitel supervisory extensions to listen in on or record CSR interactions.
On the wireless
front, wireless server adjuncts to PBXs, armed with DSE, allow the switch makers mobile phones to have the same transfer, conference, hold, and voicemail features as tethered station sets. Last summer VTG announced an OEM partnership with Ericsson to integrate its DCT-1900 wireless system with Lucent, Siemens or Nortel digital PBXs. Expected product release date is by end of this year.
Creating the most interest, though, is the notion of putting remote office phones on the company PBX. This has
been done over ISDN, and is now going over IP using various means of broadband connectivity. Were talking about IP gateway voice packetization for actual Nortel Meridian 2616 handsets and the like, augmented by preserving feature-phone functionality over an intranet or broadband Internet. Instead of relocating traditional handsets, these switch-enabled remote access apps may drive new IP phones, so all that needs to be added is familiar button functionality. Or no-phones softphones
as desktop clients or even web-page apps with phone-like GUIs, that ring, play dial tones, transfer, conference, light message lamps, and positively detect disconnects.
In this scenario, a remote worker can use a web site as an extension on the company PBX. The DSE-enabled app here is part of a remote-access server on the network, connected to digital station lines with an emulation board.
Plug-and-play is most valuable to a SOHO app. Calista, due soon to be part of Cisco, took the
DSE-over-IP idea all the way to end product, selling PBXoverIP Solo, a telecommuters gateway/DSE box. This packetizes voice and allows both voice and data to be shipped between identical units at the home-office and head-office. Its been selling for a year. A 24-port product, PBXoverIP Workgroup, has also been produced, relocating 24 digital phone sets for a whole branch office across the WAN. The single-user product is on hold, for now, pending Ciscos ultimate strategy. VTG, for its
part, appears to still be in the proof-of-concept stage, appealing to third parties to extend PBX features over the WAN while still figuring out how to make it as shrink-wrapped as possible.
PBX makers themselves have jumped into the remote access part of the station-set market, as well. See Nortels MHO (Meridian Home Office II), below.
Bicoms (Monroe, CT 203-268-4484,
) entry into the DSE marketplace is the
4D-NTEL, a four-port voice board that emulates M7310 phones on the Norstar KSU and Nortel M2616 station sets on Meridians. You can stuff up to eight ISA cards per system, for up to 32 ports of integration. All boards share the same IRQ. List price for one Norstar board is $1,000; Bicom wants to hear from you for volume purchase and Meridian quotes.
Bicom also continues to supply the in-skin voicemail for NEC the ElectraMail AD8 single-board computer. In four or eight ports, it connects directly
into the backplane of the Electra Professional Level I and II key systems. In-skin voicemails not only save ports: According to Mehmet Binal, Bicom president, the overall cost of ownership for such systems is less than 50% of external adjuncts.
Calistas (San Jose, CA 408-558-9700,
) Brian Straw, national sales manager for VoIP, demoed the one-port PBXoverIP Solo product from his office in the Boston area,
extension 227 on Calistas San Jose PBX. He called me through his IP-connected extension using a 384-kb DSL FlowPoint external router, and his voice was PSTN-quality. His router had four Ethernet ports for data traffic, a Solo and a Nortel 2616 handset on one side, he told me, and a DSL connection from Concentric Communications on the other. When we were finished speaking, I asked him to transfer me to the operator. It took a few extra seconds and beeps perhaps 12 to 15 seconds worth but there
was the San Jose operator, greeting me with good morning at 2 p.m. EST. Calistas PBX was equipped with a Solo on its side.