This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Enterprise Connect 2012 kicked off in Orlando on Monday the 26th. One of the first press releases I saw cross the wire was Acme Packet’s announcement of its session management solution for Microsoft Lync. The solution from Acme enables full interoperability between Lync and legacy IP PBXs through session management. The solution allows organizations that deploy Lync to simplify the management tasks associated with running a multi-vendor solution.

Some of the features in this product release are:

  • Centralized dial plan management to create a single dial plan for IT managers to administer in a multi-vendor environment. Anyone who’s ever worked in a multi-vendor voice environment knows what a pain dial plan management can be, so this feature alone can save hours of time.
  • Protocol normalization between SIP and H.323. Acme has had this feature for years now in its telco products. It has been one of the biggest differentiators for Acme with that customer base and should broaden appeal in the enterprise segment.
  • Supports Lync media bypass so customers no longer need to route all calls through an IP PBX in a multi-vendor environment, eliminating the need for dual forking of calls.
  • Active Directory integration with sessions routing. Again, a feature designed to save the administrator time so a single rule or policy can be set in AD and then applied to Lync instead of having to do the tasks twice.

In my opinion, this type of solution is the best way to handle vendor interoperability issues. It seems at the Enterprise Connect show vendor interoperability and standards come up as a big topic every year but, frankly, we are years away from that happening. So how does this problem get solved in the meantime? The solution is for a “middleware” layer to sit above the call control, abstract functionality up and then normalize it across vendors – much like middleware does in the software world. Acme’s Net-Net product is a great example of how UC middleware can work. It’s similar to what IBM was trying to do with SameTime Unified Telephony but isn’t threatening to the UC vendors at all, so it should be well received by Microsoft as it makes its strong push into voice.

The other notable part of this product is that it’s focused on the management of “sessions” and not “calls.” While this might seem more like verbiage than anything else, managing a session means the same rules and processes that the customer is using for voice interoperability can then be applied to chat, video or anything else that is encapsulated in the session. As an industry I think it’s important to stop referring to IP communications as calls and to think more of sessions, as “session management” will become a key differentiator for vendors down the road.

Any customer out there trying to run a multi-vendor solution should look for these products that act as “UC middleware.” In addition to Acme Packet’s solution, Avaya’s ACE, ALU’s OpenTouch and VOSS are examples of UC middleware that address other issues. These should keep customers from having to manually complete every task multiple times or to build customer connectors for the systems to work together.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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  • This is not new, the company Um-labs have been supplying this type of solution for over a year now into Finance, Retail, Oil & Gas and Gov organizations through their channel partners. The point that seems to be missing is the need for End to End encryption with inter-op being made easy, this being transparent in the set up, so if SIP Trunk, then UDP straight through to TLS via the Um-labs appliance or hosted service, BYOD autheticated from the Secure Element on the mobile device, encrypted VOIP on an M2M bases for access anywhere, all good for Microsoft lync or IBM Sametime. Especially as they come to terms with not all AD/Exchange and Lync software releases being up to date in the Enterprise…..

    it appears Acme is in catch up!

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