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5 Reasons For Adding A Centralized Session Manager For UC

Not so long ago, if your company had a PBX, then you'd take it as a given that all your dial plans, call routing, and session control happened there--never mind all the complexity that came along with doing so. But moving those functions away from the PBX may emerge as a rising global trend among large companies with distributed and multivendor communications environments.

That was the message from Brent Kelly, principal analyst at technology consulting firm KelCor, to attendees of this week's Oracle-sponsored Enterprise Connect/NoJitter webinar, "Smoothing the Bumps in a Multivendor UC Network" (available now for listening on demand).

Rather than bogging down the PBX and creating a crazy patchwork of connectivity, a growing number of organizations are now considering a centralized session manager for handling all that heavy lifting instead, according to Kelly.

"It's not for everybody," he said, though he added that the use of a centralized session manager is likely to come into play more and more in the UC space over the next, say, five years.

The concept isn't new, to be sure. As Kelly pointed out, big UC vendors like Avaya, Cisco and Unify all offer session managers. But heterogeneity within the communications environment--say Cisco voice on one side and Microsoft Lync IM/presence on the other- is creating a new imperative, Kelly said.

"What you really want to be able to do is deploy what makes most sense for your business and not have to worry about this idea of session control and call routing and all the issues when you have a multivendor communications environment," he said.

Here's how this class of products work. When an inbound voice call comes into the centralized session manager, it triggers an Active Directory lookup to see where the user is homed. If that person is using the Cisco Unified Communications Manager, say, that's where the call would ring. Likewise if the person is a Lync user, the centralized session controller would send the signaling and media down to the Microsoft client, Kelly described.

Centralized session managers provide a number of advantages, he said. They include these five:

  1. Seamless heterogeneity: If the voice guys want to boost the Cisco infrastructure and investment and the apps guys want to get more use out of Lync, including video conferencing and voice, then nobody has to go home mad. With a centralized session controller, everybody can live in harmony with ease of call routing and call control among the different vendors' systems, Kelly said.
  2. Increased flexibility: Centralized session controllers typically have SIP registrar capabilities, and so they can register third-party softphone clients or other SIP devices. This is beneficial, say, for organizations that are moving away from buying traditional desk phones in favor of softphones. "This gets them into the dialing plan and then you don't have to pay a PBX license for a second or third device, and so forth," he said.

    The same is true for third-party softphone capabilities on mobile phones, Kelly added. They simply register directly in with the centralized session controller.

  3. Cost savings and/or avoidance: Organizations can connect analog devices--fax machines, door openers, alarms and such--to a centralized session controller rather than into the PBX. That's useful, Kelly said, because by moving such devices off of the PBX--"they're never going to join a conferencing call, after all"--an organization can avoid associated licensing fees.
  4. Enhanced mobility: PBX functionality can be overkill for some mobile users. Kelly suggested removing such users from your PBX license as the softphone mobile clients can register with the centralized session manager, as mentioned. "This is a great solution for people who are 100% mobile--and if you already have some sort of UC client trunk improvised, this isn't going to increasing your trunking costs. It'll be exactly the same."
  5. Operational efficiency: Local dial plans remain resident on the local PBX, but calls outside the local area get routed to the centralized session manager for routing. Enterprise communications managers need not worry about complex programming any longer. The same goes for least cost routing rules, Kelly added. "Local changes...aren't going to impact what's happening with the least cost routing and a global dial plan." And, from the user perspective, all that's required when traveling is remembering the same four-or five-digit dialing as always.

  • Seamless heterogeneity: If the voice guys want to boost the Cisco infrastructure and investment and the apps guys want to get more use out of Lync, including video conferencing and voice, then nobody has to go home mad. With a centralized session controller, everybody can live in harmony with ease of call routing and call control among the different vendors' systems, Kelly said.
  • Increased flexibility: Centralized session controllers typically have SIP registrar capabilities, and so they can register third-party softphone clients or other SIP devices. This is beneficial, say, for organizations that are moving away from buying traditional desk phones in favor of softphones. "This gets them into the dialing plan and then you don't have to pay a PBX license for a second or third device, and so forth," he said.

    The same is true for third-party softphone capabilities on mobile phones, Kelly added. They simply register directly in with the centralized session controller.

  • The same is true for third-party softphone capabilities on mobile phones, Kelly added. They simply register directly in with the centralized session controller.

  • Cost savings and/or avoidance: Organizations can connect analog devices--fax machines, door openers, alarms and such--to a centralized session controller rather than into the PBX. That's useful, Kelly said, because by moving such devices off of the PBX--"they're never going to join a conferencing call, after all"--an organization can avoid associated licensing fees.
  • Enhanced mobility: PBX functionality can be overkill for some mobile users. Kelly suggested removing such users from your PBX license as the softphone mobile clients can register with the centralized session manager, as mentioned. "This is a great solution for people who are 100% mobile--and if you already have some sort of UC client trunk improvised, this isn't going to increasing your trunking costs. It'll be exactly the same."
  • Operational efficiency: Local dial plans remain resident on the local PBX, but calls outside the local area get routed to the centralized session manager for routing. Enterprise communications managers need not worry about complex programming any longer. The same goes for least cost routing rules, Kelly added. "Local changes...aren't going to impact what's happening with the least cost routing and a global dial plan." And, from the user perspective, all that's required when traveling is remembering the same four-or five-digit dialing as always.
  • If you're interested in learning more, tune in to "Smoothing the Bumps in a Multivendor UC Network" now. And let's discuss this trend. Are you considering this type of product for your communications infrastructure? What are your hoped-for benefits...top concerns? Share below!