Dave Michels

Dave Michels | May 05, 2009 |


Innovation: The Dumb PBX

Innovation: The Dumb PBX Combining a bare-bones PBX system with one or more services or products for UC capabilities and virtual numbers can result in a very powerful solution.

Combining a bare-bones PBX system with one or more services or products for UC capabilities and virtual numbers can result in a very powerful solution.

Over the past decade, the phone system business has changed dramatically. It changed from TDM to VoIP, from hardware to software, and from switching to unified communications (UC). The changes are not slowing. Traditional phone systems are threatened by cellular carriers, SaaS solutions, and non-traditional alternatives such as Skype and other peer-to-peer offerings as well as enterprise server based solutions.

User requirements and expectations continue to increase. Enterprise customers demand more features, more integration, more flexibility, and more manageability; all at lower costs with a quicker ROI. The voice component of overall communications may be shrinking, but quality voice systems remain a critical component to the enterprise comms puzzle.

The traditional switch vendors have largely developed server based applications to enhance their core switching platforms with modern UC capabilities. A similar pattern emerged among the players; multiple servers for each application consolidating into fewer servers with an increasing independence from the core switching functions. This independence is possible as a result of separate platforms, the increasing popularity of SIP, and the need to integrate with multiple systems and serve multiple locations.

Many of the switch makers are now positioning their UC products as a value-add to existing "legacy" systems rather than replacements. This makes sense given the current economic climate, and generally centers around the virtual number feature. This model effectively separates key PBX/UC intelligence (AKA applications) from the switching core. Drawing a boundary between the phone system and advanced phone features allows users to consider a variety of solutions rather than limit themselves to the incumbent switch maker or to any one PBX manufacturer.

It is a very interesting concept, and one that can apply to green field implementations as well. A brand new cutting edge UC solution could make sense to start with a bare bones on-premise PBX. A bare bones PBX is defined to possess the following core phone features: hold, transfer, redial, speaker, speed dial, and name/number display. The switch itself must support common features such as intercom, paging, PRI, T1, and ideally SIP trunking. No advanced features such as ACD, voice mail, or even redundancy. Most vendors offer such a product either as a separate model or as a bare-bone version of their primary platforms with minimal licensing. These base systems are relative bargains compared to their full-featured brethren.

It is worth noting that this bare-bone PBX could even utilize digital phones. It is a common misconception that VoIP phones are required for advanced features--most “VoIP” features are implemented on the switch itself or the desktop computer; not the phone. Other than the micro-browser, modern IP phones really don’t offer any additional functionality over their predecessors of the past 20 years--and few users actually utilize the micro-browser. VoIP phones are attractive since they enable a single network for management and reduce costs associated with moves. Digital phones should not be ignored though--they cost less and can utilize existing wiring and simplify LAN design.

The typical user will now have 2-5 private numbers such as their direct dial number on the bare-bone system, their mobile number, and perhaps their home number. The virtual number feature provides one public number that routes incoming calls based on user defined criteria--all or some private phones could ring depending on the rules. This is one reason why redundancy wasn’t important on the bare-bone system (it is important on the virtual number server), as calls can be routed to different locations should a problem arise. Call routing rules can determine routing based on time of day or even by who is calling (call screening).

The virtual number solution works very nicely for incoming calls, but outgoing calls pose a problem. The issue is the model falls apart when the private numbers become public; typically via outbound caller ID. Once people start directly dialing the private numbers, the value of the virtual number solution is lost. Multiple work-arounds exist, but the easiest/seamless solution is to just be able to pick up the (office) phone and dial. This can be accomplished with equipment and carrier choices that allow caller ID substitution (fairly common feature set with T1, PRI, and SIP trunking). Outbound calls from the bare bones system should send out the public direct dial number.

But the stated goal was a cutting edge UC solution. That definition requires some or all (even most?) of the following components:

* Presence
* Unified Messaging
* Mobility component
* Fixed Mobile Convergence
* Instant Messaging
* Conferencing (voice and/or video)
* Collaboration

All of these components are readily available from one or multiple vendors. The bare-bone PBX provides core infrastructure including physical phones. The UC components can now be added. A UC solution including the virtual number service can be obtained/implemented in two basic ways: purchase the solution or as a service subscription. There are combinations and permutations of these two methods. An owned solution (from one or multiple vendors) can be implemented on-site, in a co-lo facility, or even in the cloud. The service can be purchased from a single provider or numerous specialized providers. Or, it can be a mixture of some on-premise and service based solutions such as owned/managed Microsoft OCS servers integrating with a SIP/UC service.


April 25, 2018

Yesterdays simple phone call to a contact center or business location is rapidly becoming todays interactive session, spanning multiple channels and devices. If you need to know how Omnichannel can

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.