Despite the numerous advancements in Unified Communications (UC) over the past few years, managing UC remains a challenge for many organizations, particularly large enterprises and service providers. Deployments in these environments can be quite complex, as the number of systems and interdependencies between them can overwhelm even the best and most knowledgeable network manager.
Managing a legacy PBX used to be relatively simple since the system was a vertically integrated solution that masked the complexity from the administrator. Today’s systems are comprised of physical servers, virtual servers, desktops, laptops, IP phones, software-based clients that can run on wired, cellular or Wi-Fi networks and now expand out to the cloud. Because of this diversity, no two UC environments are the same, so building an all-encompassing UC management tool can be just as or more complex as the environment itself. A general rule of thumb I like to use is that solutions to problems should never be more complicated than the original problem – and that’s part of what the UC industry has faced.
In an effort to simplify management, VOSS, one of the leading UC management vendors, released a modular version of its management suite called VOSS-4-UC. The modular approach would enable VOSS customers to isolate the areas where the biggest pain is being felt and apply that specific module without having to deploy the entire management suite. VOSS-4-UC has two sets of management modules – interface modules to simplify how administrators and users can interact with the UC systems and component modules to address the various UC applications.
For example, a service provider may want to offload inbound calls into its call center to cut support costs. VOSS has an interface module called “UC Self-Care” that delivers a multi-service, self-care interface that can be customized to shift to more of a self-service support module.
In addition to Self-Care, VOSS offers a UC Admin module, which provides a centralized, multi-level administrator portal. This includes a number of configuration management tools that range from infrastructure management to automating MACDs (moves, add, changes and deletes) across the UC system. While the process of performing MACDs may seem easy enough, remember, this isn’t just moving phones, but rather entire user profiles across a number of systems such as voice, dial plans, security information, video, chat and presence. This module offers granular control to enable engineers of varying skill levels to be used efficiently, instead of the highly advanced engineers doing everything.
The company also has an analytics module road mapped that will provide customers with a number of real-time reports regarding the UC system. Analytics has become a huge theme across IT, but just recently became a theme in the network and communications industry.
Along with the interface modules, VOSS-4-UC has a number of “component” modules to address the various applications that make up UC. The module that I anticipate gaining the most interest is “UC Voice, Messaging and Mobility,” which provides capabilities to manage the IP PBX, unified messaging, presence and mobile applications. While the UC industry is certainly broader than this, these are the core components that almost every organization, large or small, starts with.
Complementing the core services module is “UC collaboration” to manage the conferencing and collaboration components of UC. These UC applications often follow the initial voice deployment so customers can have the management tools follow the deployment strategy.
There are a couple of other service modules that are road mapped – UC Contact Center and UC Video/TelePresence. Again, the same thesis of being able to scale up the management system as the environment gets more complex is a sensible approach to UC management.
One of the aspects that I like most about VOSS-4-UC is that the solution can work in almost any kind of deployment model. Enterprise, service provider, single tenant, multi-tenant, cloud, premise, greenfield or brownfield, VOSS has created a number of import tools, wizards, scripts and APIs to enable the application to be brought into almost any kind of deployment scenario.
Does this solve all UC management problems? Heck no, but at least companies that deploy have a UC management suite that’s less complicated than the environment they are trying to manage.