IBM Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony

Sametime provides services such as aggregated presence, instant messaging, online meetings, VoIP/video and incoming call control, while enabling the integration of multi-vendor telephony and video systems.

It's my pleasure to have E. Brent Kelly, Senior Analyst and Partner at Wainhouse Research join me for the column. His session at VoiceCon (now Enterprise Connect) on Microsoft's OCS and IBM’s Sametime is terrific and so (selfishly), I asked him to help write this week's column.

I also interviewed IBM's Program Director for Unified Communications & Collaboration Software, John Del Pizzo in preparation for this column. BTW, John also writes an interesting blog about IBM/real-life at http://johndelpizzo.wordpress.com/. Check it out if you have time.

So with thanks to Brent and John, let's jump into this week’s column....

The Economy and Unified Communications
First, the bad news. Since 2008, US businesses have eliminated roughly 8.4 million payroll jobs. With the "recovery", these same businesses have brought back just 11% or less than 1M of these lost jobs.

Now the good news. Corporate profits are on the rise. Through 1Q2010, US businesses have recovered roughly 87% of the revenue declines experienced during the recession. Standard & Poor 500 companies such as 3M, Apple, Bank of America, Caterpillar, and Citigroup have accumulated huge cash reserves estimated at $848 billion.

Many companies are now sitting on piles of cash. And yet they're not hiring. So what the heck is going on? It's called a "jobless recovery."

When the recession hit, US companies large and small, quickly (and I do mean quickly) cut headcount to keep the doors open and restore some semblance of profitability. Now that the economy is coming back (albeit slowly), these same companies are reticent to rehire.

Call it whatever you like (fiscal prudence or FUD), US companies are looking to increase profits by driving/squeezing/demanding even more productivity out of current staffs.

Frankly, the economic environment is a "perfect storm" for Unified Communications with its potential to optimize business processes and increase productivity (aka profitability). Still, overcoming corporate resistance to technology investments is a problem, but perhaps hosted/managed UC offerings will be just the ticket. I'll leave that for another column or writer. My point is that the current economy is ripe for UC. As such, I wanted to look at IBM's Sametime. Apologies for the long road to get here, but I thought it would be good to connect these recession-UC dots as a lead-in to the discussion on Sametime.

Sametime: An Overview
Sametime is IBM's software platform for unified communications and collaboration. Sametime provides services such as aggregated presence, instant messaging, online meetings, VoIP/video and incoming call control, while enabling the integration of multi-vendor telephony and video systems.

Unlike Microsoft's OCS, which offers its own telephony app and is intended to run UC functionality in the homogeneous world of Exchange, Active Directory, and Office desktops, Sametime is specifically designed for mixed vendor environments. IBM really doesn't care which "PBX" is used, which leaves the actual telephony app to a broad range of telephony vendors (and customers).

While offering integration with most telephony servers, companies can use either vendor plugins with Sametime Standard (good for single vendor environments) or use Sametime Unified Telephony to deliver common UC capabilities across a mixed vendor infrastructure.

Sametime is offered in three options: Entry, Standard, and Advanced. As you move up from one level to another, the functionality is additive, meaning that if you buy Sametime Advanced, you also get the functionality of Sametime Entry + Standard.

Note the telephony integration listed under Sametime Standard. Most telephony vendors also have plugins that provide on-hook/off-hook status, "click to call", and other capabilities from their PBX through Sametime.

Sametime Unified Telephony (SUT)
A competitor of Microsoft OCS telephony, SUT provides a common set of UC services regardless of the underlying PBX infrastructure. These services include telephony presence, "click to call", one number service, softphone, intelligent call routing and more.

Unlike Microsoft's Enterprise Voice (Communications Server "14"), which is built into the OCS Front End Server role, SUT runs on completely separate servers which are abstracted from the regular Sametime servers. Sametime Standard is a prerequisite to a SUT deployment.

SUT has two main elements: Telephony Application Server (TAS) and Telephony Control Server (TCS) applications. The TAS has the logic for the call routing and control, while the TCS interfaces with the third party PBXs and telephony gateways. The TAS server is deployed in a redundant N+1 design and can handle ~20,000 users. The TCS is deployed as a fully clustered pair and designed to provide high availability. One TCS pair can support ~100,000 users and multiple IP/TDM PBX systems from different vendors simultaneously.

Today, the number of 3rd party IP telephony vendors that support Sametime "click to call" and telephony presence integration is extensive. While SUT provides its own softphone, other vendors' softphones also can be used/controlled from the Sametime click-to-call interface.

All Sametime features are available for all users when an enterprise deploys SUT as a unifying layer on top of a heterogeneous PBX environment. With voice calls "anchored" in SUT, telephony presence information is available, as is "click to call", "click to conference" from the Sametime client.

As always, customers need to assess their "must have" vs. "nice to have" requirements to ensure Sametime can provide the features/functionality needed with your IP Telephony and UM platforms

Sametime Software Licensing and Pricing
The Sametime license model is pretty simple. Licenses are purchased via one-time, right-to-use (RTU) fees. The one-time cost includes all server/client software so there are no additional server or desktop licenses. At this time, subscription licensing is not an option with Sametime or Sametime Unified Telephony.

A license is "consumed" or charged for every authorized, named user (every valid user license has a "proof of entitlement" user ID). Sametime licensing has only has one "tier," as opposed to having multiple tiers which are based on volume purchases (i.e., in the multiple-tier model, as you buy more licenses, you move to another tier which has a lower per unit cost). For Sametime, software discounts are negotiated on a per deal basis.

Sametime licenses include the first year of software support with standard coverage (8am-5pm, M-F) for patches, fixes, upgrades, and support services. Year 2 support costs are ~ 20% of the initial list license cost (not the discounted price). 24x7 support and other support services can be purchased through the IBM Software Accelerated Value Program. Customers with an extensive IBM infrastructure can have an "Enterprise Licensing Agreement" that includes Sametime; however, Sametime license fees are still based on the # of authorized users.

If you have Notes/Domino, Sametime Entry is provided as part of that offering with discounted upgrades to Standard and Advanced. You can also upgrade to the next level for a one-time fee. The following table presents Sametime license purchase and upgrade list pricing:

Policies on license transfers and porting are flexible and in the customer's favor:

* Transferability: Sametime software licenses can transfer from one customer to another customer without penalty or cost.

* Portability: Customers can move licenses from one Sametime server to another without penalty.

Other Costs to Consider
While my focus is on software, for Sametime with SUT, there are hardware costs for servers/gateways required (Sametime/Domino Telephony Control, Telephony Application, Telephony Gateway). Still, with Sametime there are no additional server or client software licenses, as Sametime and the underlying infrastructure software come as part of the package.

And don't forget you'll also likely need to include IBM or 3rd party professional services plus software maintenance for the years after Year 1 in your total cost of ownership.

Wrap up
That's code for--Do you have a UC roadmap that fits with your business’ strategic plan and operating model?

Specific to IBM's Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony, SUT is clearly aimed at companies with a mixed telephony environment. But Sametime Standard integrates well with single vendor solutions. In fact, IBM reports that in each of the last three years, ~30% of their new customers have been Microsoft shops using Exchange/Outlook for email.

IBM Sametime can integrate with Office, SharePoint, Outlook and Active Directory and there seem to be few technical reasons why a customer with an existing Microsoft environment would not consider Sametime if they were looking for new UC solutions. Microsoft vs. IBM et al.

Competition. It's a beautiful thing for the consumer.

For more info on Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony:

* Sametime Blog
* Sametime
* YouTube Sametime Unified Telephony Features

Up next…

Session Border Controllers (Acme Packet, Cisco, Dialogic, and Ingate)
Avaya Aura 6.0
Mitel

Until next time, all the best.

--Doug Carolus, MBA
Doug Carolus is the Director of Communication Solutions at independent technology consulting firm N'compass Solutions in Minneapolis, MN. N'compass provides professional consulting services for Data Center solutions and communication technologies such as unified communications, carrier services, video/video security, virtualization, and virtual desktops.

--E. Brent Kelly, Ph.D
E. Brent Kelly is a Senior Analyst and Partner at Wainhouse Research where he focuses on all aspects of unified communications and collaboration.

--E. Brent Kelly, Ph.D
E. Brent Kelly is a Senior Analyst and Partner at Wainhouse Research where he focuses on all aspects of unified communications and collaboration.