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SOTAs: The Telephony Code

Service orientation simplifies the building of telephony-enabled applications, but pitfalls still abound. Here's what vendors are up to and what you should look out for.

Most companies implement VoIP systems to meet a variety of short-term goals. But the most significant potential for VoIP is the long-term capability for integrating voice services into the enterprise data services architecture. Once businesses convert their te-lephony services into packetized networking services, those telephony services can then be folded into and used to transform business applications.

This is the underlying principle behind SOTAs (service-oriented telephony architec-tures). These telephony/data hybrids enable Web developers to invoke telephony com-mands by calling well-understood Web services.

As with the virtualization of human resource and database systems, a SOTA allows IT to better get more out of an IP PBX: The numbering system used in a telephone, for example, is a unique naming convention that could, in theory, be used by other appli-cations to address devices and users. The corporate phone directory is a massive data-base that could also play a fundamental role in identity management. The presence server that forms part of a SIP service could be leveraged in other applications as well.

By encouraging corporate and commercial application developers to develop against these interfaces, IT can enrich the application experience. Calling on a generalized presence engine that's constantly updated by different sources, for example, could reduce the development time in creating ad-hoc workflow systems. At the same time, these systems extend the value of IP PBX platforms into the rest of the enterprise.

Little wonder then that IP PBX vendors are pushing to create service-oriented inter-faces into their telephony systems. These efforts include Avaya's February, 2006 intro-duction of its Application Enablement Services and Sphere Communications' February release of Sphericall, as well as Siemens' and startup BlueNote's expected introductions of their SOAP-based interface by year's end.

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