The growing server virtualization market was a key topic at this spring's VoiceCon Orlando 2010 (now Enterprise Connect) with a number of communications systems manufacturers highlighting their virtualized telephony solutions.
This important advancement means that real-time voice applications can run side-by-side with non-voice applications on a single server. Fewer servers in the data center results in numerous benefits in terms of capital, operational and energy savings. In simplified terms, virtualization technology, which has been on the market for a few years now, is a layer of software that decouples or breaks the bond between the operating system and the physical hardware, thus allowing multiple operating systems and software applications to run simultaneously and share the resources of a single physical computer. So, for example, an IT organization can run both Windows and Linux, or multiple versions of an operating system, along with multiple applications, on the same server.
Several telecommunications manufacturers are announcing new telephony solutions that leverage the potential of virtualization to consolidate IT infrastructure in a company's data center environment, but virtualized unified communications is also used in a "cloud computing" scenario in which a physical server's resources are shared by multiple virtual machines in order to fully utilize the server's capacity. In either a data center or cloud computing model, virtualization can improve availability and business continuity since applications running on virtual machines are not dependent on a particular physical server and can be quickly transferred to an alternate server if needed, minimizing downtime. Or, copies of virtual machines can be duplicated on another server off-site for backup. It is easy to see the benefits, but there are some considerations. For example, each physical server still has the potential for hardware failure, and with fewer actual servers running multiple applications, there is the risk for failure of all of these applications at once if the server goes down.
On another note, server consolidation using virtualization technology and the associated hardware and energy savings makes a statement to potential customers about a vendor's concern for the environment. Consumers are increasingly considering 'green' solutions when they make a purchase. In fact, environmentally friendly solutions may become a requirement, rather than an option, in the near future.
Voice virtualization is clearly emerging as an important trend and a way for telecom manufacturers to attract or keep customers. The technology for handling real-time voice communications in a data environment is progressing quickly, with latency, jitter and poor call quality being the biggest challenges. Mitel, for example, reports spending 18 months in joint engineering with virtualization solutions provider VMware to resolve latency issues around handling voice communications in a data environment, Mitel and VMware have certified and tested Mitel's MCD real-time call control application to run side-by-side with non-voice (data) business applications using the VMware vSphere 4 platform in the data center. ALM Holding Company has already deployed Mitel Virtual Solutions and reports significant cost and space savings by consolidating 70 servers down to five. ALM also describes significant benefits from incorporating telephony into a single data center disaster recovery plan.
A number of communications manufacturers, including Cisco (News - Alert), Mitel and Siemens
Enterprise Communications have announced partnerships with VMware since the VMware platform is already widely deployed for data application virtualization (VMware vSphere4 graphic shown). Mitel and Siemens (News - Alert) have designed their solutions to be hardware-agnostic so that the physical server is of the customer's own choosing and can be any server that meets the specifications and supports the Intel Nehalem chip set (i.e. a specific hardware vendor or specific server is not mandated). Avaya (News - Alert) has partnered with Xen initially (others to follow) for its virtualized Aura System Platform, a single server solution for mid-size enterprises which, unlike Mitel and Siemens, utilizes a specific hardware configuration (Avaya utilizes virtualization technology to consolidate its application portfolio on one of three supported Avaya servers). Siemens initially supports the VMware platform, but has announced plans to support other virtualization platforms going forward, such as KVM and Xen, depending on customer demand and performance. Cisco also describes a virtualized environment with the Cisco Unified Computing System which supports Cisco Unified Communications (News - Alert) Manager 8.0, Cisco Unity and Unity Connection, Cisco Unified Presence, Cisco Unified Mobility Advantage, Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and Enterprise, Customer Voice Portal and Cisco Unified Communications Management Suite. More details on Cisco's solution should be forthcoming.
To read about recently-announced voice virtualization capabilities from three leading telecommunications manufacturers -- Avaya, Mitel and Siemens Enterprise Communications (News - Alert) -- click here, here and here, respectively.
Visit T3i Group's TelecomTactics for more about these telecom manufacturers and the enterprise telephony market. www.t3igroup.com or www.telecomtactics.com