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Cash and Burn: Three Generations of Telephony Failures

Despite the best efforts of the communications industry, telephony servers have never been a strategic buy. Most VoIP purchases are made to increase business value rather than transform the enterprise.

While Avaya's products are the most overt examples, all the vendors are making plays in this area. This month, Cisco provided a Web services interface in its system for the first time. Siemens had previously announced a similar capability for its HiPath 8000, but has yet to publish its WSDL. Nortel doesn't yet offer a Web service interface for its CS-1000 IP PBX nor its unified communications platform for enterprises, the MCS-5100. Nortel did release an API last month that will let developers tap the unified communications capabilities of the MCS-5100, but it's a low-level interface.

Start-ups, namely Blue Note Networks and Sphere Communications, also see SOA as key to the telephony space. Blue Note in particular has garnered attention by recently releasing its SessionSuite WebCaller, a thin-client application that lets developers easily introduce communications into their business applications. What's more, Sphere and Blue Note expose access to advanced features like presence tracking, while Avaya still restricts developers to core telephony functions, such as placing a call.

These tools may pique customer interest, but most organizations are wary of automation. Just look at how many users in your organization automate simple tasks, like configuring rules to process incoming e-mail. Do you want to risk annoying a senior executive with a phone call or contact that might have been mistriggered by the telephony system? Automation and the incorporation of telephony within the business process will raise questions from executives, but it won't be the charm VoIP vendors are hoping for--third time or not.

David Greenfield is NWC's editor. He has spent 20 years analyzing virtually every networking technology and has consulted to and assisted Fortune 500 enterprises in their technology acquisitions. Write to him at dgreenfield@nwc.com.

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