One of the more interesting trends in enterprise telephony is the notion of centralization. This just wasn’t possible a few years ago. With VoIP came two powerful ideas: teleworker phones and pseudo FX lines. Both effectively newly possible since VoIP eliminated boundaries of geography traditionally imposed on telephony.
A teleworker was the idea that an office extension didn’t have to be at the office any more. My home office phone was identical to my at office phone – not just physically, but in everyway – voice mail light, BLF, internal dialing, etc.
FX lines is Bell-speak for Foreign Exchange. Basically it meant that the extension or phone was associated with a different city. Vonage was quick to market this notion by offering consumers any area code they wanted – regardless of where they lived. The long held understanding of “local” became ambiguous (much like it is with cellular). The power of VoIP.
With phones and phone numbers no longer tied to locations, the need for dedicated branch office phone systems was increasingly questioned. Branch office phone systems are a pain – they are expensive, require separate management and administration, and need to be designed for peak traffic loads creating lots of spare capacity across the enterprise. Though a potentially bigger issue was feature disparity – some workers got different features than others and visiting employees to a branch never knew how to work the local system.
The simple solution is to put remote phones in the branch with local numbers all hosted off a centralized server. Solves lots of problems and very attractive financially (due to numerous factors), but really? a WAN link providing the lifeline to a local branch? There just has to be some option in between!
Several enterprise telephony vendors offer a survivable branch solution. The “appliances” basically provide centralized telephony by connecting to the data center over the WAN, but should a failure occur, it can route calls (seamlessly) over local PSTN trunks. For the most part, there isn’t much to discuss as these devices are simply an option on a vendor’s line card.
Microsoft Lync takes a slightly different approach. The Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA) provides the full spectrum of Lync services to the branch – not just voice, and because Microsoft is a “software” company – it licensed the solution to five hardware vendors which each determined the best way to create an SBA. Not all SBAs are created equal. While Microsoft discusses SBAs as a consistent even keel solution, the fact is their vendors have gone in different directions to meet Lync requirements. Additionally, Microsoft’s notion of a branch is pretty broad.
The SBA is new in Microsoft Lync 2010 and makes Lync a far more versatile enterprise product than OCS was.
If you would like to learn more about Microsoft Lync SBA choices and offerings – check out this guide I completed for UCStrategies.
Lync 2010 and the SBA