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

It’s been a couple of weeks since Interop and I’ve had some time to think about some of the happenings from the conference. One of the sessions I ran was a panel on the value of session management, and I came away disappointed in the panel responses. Session management has been hyped by the vendors as one of the next big things in Unified Communications. On my panel I had a number of representatives from various UC solution providers and I asked what I thought was a pretty basic question – What are the killer applications for deploying a session management solution?

There was one answer given by all four of my panelists and that was that session management makes it easier to deploy SIP trunking. While this is true, I felt the answer lacked much of the real, long-term value of session management. Here are the primary reasons I think session management needs to be part of every company’s UC strategy:

  • It’s middleware. I’ve written about the concept of “specialty middleware” being the thing that can deliver UC interoperability. Solution providers, such as Avaya with ACE, Acme Packet and VOSS, have created products that can enable common dial plans and speed up the provisioning of UC services.
  • Simplified management of dial plans. The use of session management enables companies to manage dial plans on an enterprise-wide basis, giving the company more flexibility and lower maintenance costs.
  • It enables BYOD. The day of having vendor-supplied endpoints as the only thing that connects to an IP PBX are over. In fact, over the long haul, I think we’ll have orders of magnitude for more non-vendor-supplied endpoints, such as tablets and smartphones connected to the IP PBX, than traditional phones. Session management allows a host of non-vendor-supplied devices to connect to the communications infrastructure, enabling UC on consumer devices.
  • It enables multimedia interoperability. There are many modes of communications today – video, voice, chat, etc. However, each of these is typically deployed in silos, so you can’t have a single conversation with some people on voice, some on video and some on chat. However, session management allows for multiple modes of communications in a single conversation. Eventually, UC should be smart enough to understand when a conversation should move from, say, video to voice, like if a person is driving.
  • Increases the usefulness of SIP Trunking. The majority of discussion with SIP Trunking revolves around the consolidation of the trunk. This was the key point brought up by all the panelists on my Interop session. However, session management removes some of the complexity associated with SIP Trunking, such as having a central dial plan to do smarter call routing. Session management needs to be a key part of the migration to SIP Trunking.
  • Enables mobility. We really don’t have mobile UC today. Today, we really have more mini, portable UC where users can take their experience with them. Session management can bring mobile UC to the next level, where the switching between devices can be automated based on user activity. As an example, why can’t an audio conference bridge call me if my location is continually changing, indicating that I’m mobile? Again, session management enables this.
  • Integration into applications. Session management creates the ability to rapidly integrate voice and video into applications. True, this could be done with legacy CTI methods, but doing this with IP sessions can cut development time from weeks to hours.

One of the keys to understanding the value of session management is to shed conventional thinking of legacy communications and think more of tradition web applications to understand what’s possible. We don’t make calls, we establish IP sessions. These sessions can enable a whole world that isn’t even remotely possible with traditional communications.

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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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