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Avaya and Virtualizing Call Processing
Some more interesting comms and virtualization news in this week's announcement of Avaya Aura System Platform. Like the Aspect and Mitel support for VMware I wrote about last week, System Platform uses a hypervisor to combine communications software currently requiring separate servers onto a single hardware platform. Less server hardware equates to less expensive communications solutions, as well as easier maintenance and management.There are many facets to this announcement, but two in particular I'd like to draw NoJitter readers' attention to. First, Avaya is proposing to run call control--call processing and Communication Manager's ancillary voice messaging, SIP services and other IP PBX software--on partitions in a virtualized server environment. This is fundamentally different from the Aspect and--at least for now--Mitel virtualization solutions, which are more focused around the companies' application software. At first I thought this marked a significant advancement in Citrix's virtualization technology. To date I've not seen real-time communications applications run with it, since I/O issues have traditionally prevented this. But it turns out IT departments cannot simply take Xen and run Avaya's communications software with it. Avaya has made certain enhancements to Xen that allow it to support real-time apps, and this hardened version of the hypervisor is only available with the System Platform appliance. Mitel's been doing something similar with VMware, tweaking its hypervisor so it can support the Mitel 3300 call control software.
Secondly, Citrix Xen underlying System Platform is only the first hypervisor that Avaya will support. The company plans to eventually run other hypervisors with System Platform as well. This stems from Avaya's use of the Open Virtualization Format which is not dependent on any specific vendors' proprietary virtualization technology. The implication is that Aura System Platform support for VMware could be upcoming, though Avaya is not yet ready to commit to it at this point.
Cisco has a close relationship with VMware and can already run its Unity unified messaging software with the VMware hypervisor. I figure it's only a matter of time before we see more Cisco communications software running in a virtualized server environment. Given that Microsoft owns both its own communications and virtualization technology, the company is likely to start banging these particular rocks together before long unless the relative immaturity of Hyper-V (only released a few months ago) proves an impediment.