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December 10, 2007

BlueNote Networks Intros Two New SOA-based Web Service Solutions

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor

Powered by the company’s SessionSuite software, the two additions — Outbound Notification Solution Framework (ON-SF) and Session Interaction Plugin Framework (SI-PF) — leverage open standards and the principals of service oriented architecture (SOA) to deliver flexible tools, services and interfaces enterprises can use to deliver business applications that enable more effective communication both internally and with customers.

Outbound Notification Solution Framework
“Outbound Notification is the first in a line of new APIs that offer a much higher level of abstraction than our traditional Web Service APIs,” explained Mark Ericson (News - Alert), director of product strategy at BlueNote, during a conversation with TMCnet. “With this Solution Framework, we’ve created new capabilities enabling applications to leverage the high-level APIs for specific purposes.”
Ericson added that BlueNote will be adding more Solution Frameworks to its portfolio over time. Outbound Notification, as its name suggests, is a tool that enables enterprises to send messages from within applications using multiple communications channels (not just voice).
As with BlueNote’s SessionSuite Web Service APIs, Outbound Notification is a flexible product that doesn’t require specific telephony knowledge on the part of developers to utilize its capabilities. The power of Outbound Notification lies in the fact that a Web developer with knowledge of languages like SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)can, with relative ease, set up multi-channel outbound notification from enterprise applications.
The Outbound Notification Solution Framework does all the heavy lifting involved with enabling applications to send out messages using different communications channels (voice, e-mail, fax, SMS, etc.). It acts as a flexible, shared resource that multiple applications can use to perform message distribution.
Enterprises and organizations can use Outbound Notification in any case where messages need to be sent out, either individually or in batches, using one or more communications channels. Because of its flexibility, the solution has potential uses in many vertical industries, including travel and transportation, healthcare and workforce management.
“Clients of a financial services company might sign up for stock alerts on a Web site and be able to receive notifications of a target price on a stock via phone, SMS or e-mail,” Ericson said, citing one example of how Outbound Notification might be used. “Or, in the healthcare industry, a pharmacy might provide prescription renewal reminders for patients.”
Another example Ericson provided relates to the travel and transportation industry, where the Outbound Notification Solution Framework could be used by an airline to keep passengers up-to-date regarding flight schedule changes or cancellations. Passengers might, say, sign up to receive notification if their flight is canceled. If that happens, the passenger would be given the option to re-book for another flight using a completely automated system, or contact a call center agent for assistance.
One organization that already plans to use Outbound Notification Solution Framework to enhance its customer service is Northern Kentucky University.
“BlueNote’s expanded Web services will enable NKU to easily and flexibly extend the reach of our applications with voice notifications and interactions to enhance our administration’s communication with the student population,” said Tim Ferguson, chief information officer for Northern Kentucky University, in a statement.  
Ferguson continued: “Specifically, we will be looking to offer personalized notifications, such as university open/closed status, emergency notifications, and similar events. This Web services approach also gives us the opportunity to leverage our own student population to develop new applications to benefit and enhance NKU administration and culture.”  
“ON-SF makes it easy to add outbound notification for any application,” Ericson told TMCnet. “It can become a shared resource for all the applications in an enterprise; any application can decide it needs to contact someone and initiate a contact.”
Not only is Outbound Notification Solution Framework flexible, it is also affordable. Ericson said one project BlueNote priced out for the new product, in the transportation industry, came out to $50,000 for a complete, multi-channel setup—network infrastructure, hardware, and software licenses included. This estimate involved a solution capable of sending roughly 3,000 messages per day.
Ericson added that the multi-channel capabilities of ON-SF have been getting very positive feedback from the industry, especially as this provides a single API for all channels in contrast to point solutions for each channel.

Session Interaction Plugin Framework
BlueNote’s other product announced Monday, Session Interaction Plugin Framework (SI-PF), is a new, embedded, programmable IVR (interactive voice response) tool for SessionSuite. It is a Web Service based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert)) and SOAP designed to deliver interactive voice as a service in a corporate IT environment.
“Session Interaction Plugin Framework readily and directly integrates with business applications and logic, adding a voice interface,” Ericson explained.
But SI-PF is about more than just voice. Like Outbound Notification, this new solution can leverage multiple communications channels, including text-based ones like e-mail, SMS and Web chat. For example, a developer could use the product to build an interactive text chat service.
Ericson stressed that Session Interaction Plugin Framework introduces a new approach to interactive communications that differs in some important ways to solutions that leverage VoiceXML (News - Alert), a standardized format for interactive voice dialog between humans and computers. In particular, SI-PF overcomes many of the limitations inherent with VoiceXML.
“The VoiceXML approach is truly a voice-only solution; it can't do the multi-channel capability that comes with Session Interaction Plugin Framework,” Ericson explained. “It also takes some very specialized skills to implement VoiceXML solutions.”
Ericson added that, although developers in the industry are working on ways to make VoiceXML easier to use, there is no way around the fact that leveraging VoiceXML requires specialized markup language skills. Also, he said, the deployment and implementation of solutions using VoiceXML can be rather complex.
“Session Interaction Plugin Framework offers a much more simplified architecture compared to VoiceXML,” he said. “Plus, it's very cost effective because the licensing is built into the SessionSuite; there’s no additional software to purchase.”
Both of BlueNote Networks’ (News - Alert) new solutions are slated for general release by the end of 2007.
To learn more about SessionSuite and the other solutions discussed here, please visit the SOA/Web Services channel on, brought to you by BlueNote Networks.
Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. She also blogs for TMCnet here.  


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