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Comparing IP Voice Solutions

  • August 27, 2004
  • By Xiaole Song
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Messaging Integration

Traditional TDM PBX can work with messaging systems such as voice mail systems. Similarly, the IP PBX also can integrate with different types of voice mail systems. Cisco did not have TDM PBX products itself, so right here is a typical example for using the Cisco IP PBX to show how IP PBX integrates with a third party's messaging system.

  • SMDI-Capable integration: Use the Simplified Message Desk Interface (SMDI) protocol when integrating voice mail systems. The Cisco CallManager IP PBX fully supports the SMDI protocol through either the Cisco Messaging Interface (CMI) service that normally runs on a server, or the Cisco VG248 Analog Phone Gateway. If you use the VG248, the VG248 itself directly provides the SMDI link.
  • Non-SMDI Serial-Capable integration: In this case, you can place the VG248 between the PBX and the voice mail system, thereby enabling a dual integration with the Cisco CallManager IP PBX using a suitable Skinny Client Control Protocol (SCCP) or Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP) gateway that can provide analog FXS ports.
  • Voice Mail Integration Using Cisco DPA: The Cisco Digital PBX Adapter (DPA) emulates both digital PBX ports as well as digital telephones, and it is available for Avaya G3 PBX and Nortel Meridian 1 PBX. Both products are designed specifically for the Avaya/Octel 200/300/250/350 voice mail systems and can be deployed in either single or dual integration mode.
  • Integrating Cisco Unity: Cisco Unity can be deployed in either Unified Messaging or Voicemail-only mode.

CTI Integration

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) applications include both any applications that use CTI middleware (such as Genesys, Cisco ICM and Intel CT Connect) in TDM and any IP telephony applications that use the IP PBX CTI interface. In IP network, these applications are generally written using either C/C++/VB or are Java based on the IP PBX API. Also, you can write these applications over the Microsoft .NETframework using C#, ASP, VB, or .NET. You can implement either a simple screen pop application on the agent desktop or extend and customize more complex call control functionalities such as callback, chat, softphone, Web requests, ad so forth. Normally, the CTI interface can monitor and control the IP phones, CTI ports, and CTI route points. If necessary, you can integrate IVR, IP Contact Distribution (ICD), or other call center/CRM application into your CTI application.

Avaya provides an Avaya Communication Manager API that is an open, standard-based, Java and XML programming interface for developing CTI applications that work with the Avaya S8xxx series Media Server. Cisco provides both C/C++ API of Telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI)-compatibility and Java API of Java Telephony Application Programming Interface(JTAPI)-compatibility for performing CTI applications.

IVR/Speech Integration

You need to be aware that the IVR is going to open and standard so far. Both of the current standards are VoiceXML and SALT, which are open and standard-based programming languages. Basically, in a VoiceXML/SALT-based, speech-enabling IVR application, one server will run the speech engine for speech recognition in the user interface as well, and another one will run the voice browser for interpreting VoiceXML or SALT. If your IVR application is a pure IP-based system, you do not need the telephony hardware in your IVR platform; otherwise, you can consider allowing your IVR to run on both TDM and IP environments through adding telephony hardware in the IVR platform.

In the market, some vendors' IVR platforms can be chosen, such as IBM WebSphere Voice Server, Microsoft Speech Server, Cisco IP-IVR, Nortel PeriPhonics, Genesys VoicePortal, and so on. So far. the MS Speech Server is SALT-based only; the other vendors' equipment is VoiceXML-based.

Applications Integration

Actually, many applications can work with IP voice solutions though proper integration. These applications are Contact Center, CRM, ACD, ICD, Unified Messaging, Web, Chat, Speech, and the like. What you select will depend on your real solution. You can use Cisco, Avaya, Genesys and Nortel applications; also, you can integrate a third party's application. For instance, the Cisco, Avaya, Nortel, and Genesys systems have the IP Contact Center applications and they can easily integrate into IP voice solutions.

Notes on Design and Implementation

  • Assess the current voice environment. Create an existing and a desired dial plan, inventory of features, current applications, and all hardware.
  • Check your existing system and IP products vendor's compatibility matrix. Determine whether the components of the IP voice system you want to deploy are compatible with your existing components and third party's components.
  • Build the network and data architecture, create a detailed project plan, and choose IP products' vendors.
  • Integrate the application over this network. You may need to create integrated components by coding.
  • Test on different levels, such as unit test, compatibility test, network test, application test, integration test, and so forth.

About the Author

Xiaole Song is a professional in designing, integrating, and consulting CTI, Contact Center, IVR, IP Telephony, CRM, and Speech applications. He has performed various roles for Intel, Dialogic and Minacs, and so on. Feel free to e-mail any comments about this article to Xiaole Song.





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