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Vmware/Mitel Compete With Cisco For Contact-Center Desktop Virtualization

VMware and Mitel have announced an integrated desktop virtualization product that the companies say will enable contact center managers to manage their agents anywhere in the world with cloud-based access to contact center functionality. Additionally, Mitel is making available its virtualized Unified Communicator Advanced client software for VMware View.

"The critical IT requirements [for] contact centers are high availability and rapid service restoration in the event of an equipment failure,'' says Simon Bramfitt, founder and principal analyst at Entelechy Associates. "We're reasonably good at delivering this from a desktop computing perspective, but we have taken conventional desktop PCs pretty much as far as they can go here. VDI gives us an opportunity to both increase overall system availability and minimize service restoration times."

At the same time, he says, the high degree of standardization found in contact centers means that many of the more challenging aspects of VDI are not seen. "In many respects, you could say that call centers and VDI are made for each other."

A 2011 studyfound that 90% of businesses are considering or implementing client virtualization projects, most of them within the next 12 to 24 months. Of those with client virtualization plans, 61% said the driver is an expected reduction in IT costs; 40% are looking for easier distribution of software; 38% aim for increased IT productivity; and 37% seek to improve IT support services. Another report expects that U.S. thin-client sales will double during the next few years, amounting to less than 2 million units by 2013.

If you're a CIO and you believe in virtual desktop technology, you're buying soft clients on desktops and the virtual desktop is the soft client or thin client, but what's been missing is voice and the ability to integrate it with that virtual desktop, says Mitel's Alan Zurakowski, director of corporate business development and strategic alliances. If a company uses remote agents, Mitel's Contact Center Solution for VMware View can be downloaded via email, instead of a contact center manager having to ship the agents a physical phone and, in some cases, a laptop. The software can reduce costs while extending the organization's desktop and mobile environment to anywhere an end user has an Internet connection, Mitel says.

"From a capital costs perspective, if [companies] want, all they have to ship now is a USB headset, so the costs are driven way down,'' says Zurakowski. "For an IT person, it makes sense for them to virtualize everything and have everything unified." Organizations can benefit from better control and management by centrally managing the desktops, applications and user data in the data center, Mitel says.

Bramfitt believes that from the telephony side, VDI can only go so far. Opportunities for using unified communications technologies in VDI are limited, he says. UC systems install a soft phone on the Windows desktop alongside all the other call center applications. In a VDI environment, where that desktop is running in the data center, the soft phone is also running in the data center.


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