Vmerge: CPE Meets The Cloud

by Dave Michels

Voice Mobility has introduced a new product called Vmerge, a CPE appliance used for UC cloud integration. This is the first I have seen of a new hybrid cloud model that I expect to become more prevalent.

I love the idea of SaaS, in many cases the benefits seem to be to outweigh the risks. But for most organizations, I am not a strong advocate of hosted voice. It can make sense in some situations such as multi site small offices. But for a variety of reasons, I think on-premise call processing will continue as the default model. Regardless, this solution will also work with hosted voice too. Over the past few years, unified messaging made significant progress linking voice mail to on-site email solutions. The new question will be how to instead integrate with offsite/onsite applications such as Google Apps, Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Skype, Goldmine, Act, Google calendar, presence, etc.

So with on-site call processing and on/offsite applications – does UC need to be any more complex? Not really. Increasingly, systems are integrating via SIP trunks which are inherently distance insensitive. The hard part with be the integration into the apps (not just email via IMAP or similar). The problem (or the opportunity) is that most CPE is designed to integrate only with Exchange or Notes.

Voice Mobility is a 12 year old Canadian company with a heritage largely in hosted voice messaging. More recently they developed a voice mail gateway solution with integration to Google Apps. Realizing the opportunity for a more complete solution, they licensed the Telephony Office-LinX product from Esna Technologies (another Canadian company). Esna does sell direct, but mostly sells through various OEM channels from the likes of Mitel and Toshiba. Voice Mobility knew Google Apps and Esna knew UC – and the product of their joint experience is Google Approved Vmerge.

I’ve been using the Esna product for the past several years and understand its UC and messaging capabilities very well. Our Esna product was Tightly (capital T) integrated with MS Exchange (all the way up until we moved to Google Apps). It utilized an Outlook plugin that provided access to most features directly from Outlook, although it also offers its own web portal and desktop client.

The checklist of this product is a bit overwhelming. Consider the following capabilities:

  • Synchronized unified messaging.
  • Integrates presence with Google Talk and/or SalesForce.com.
  • Integration to Google Voice simplifying outgoing calling.
  • Reads Gmail messages or Google Calendar appointments to you over any phone.
  • Integrates with most phone systems (even hosted) via SIP, analog, or T1.
  • fax to email: access via Gmail or redirect them to any fax machine on demand.
  • Outbound desktop faxing (via email)
  • Click to dial from any phone (Google Contacts, Web Contacts, or from Email).
  • Record a call or conference.
  • Voice mail and/or conference transcription.
  • Delivers UC capabilities to Google Mobile
  • Meet me conferencing.
  • Virtual number porting to Google Voice for simultaneous ring.
  • Play back messages in WAV or MP3.
  • Wake up calls.
  • Speech, mobility, conferencing, faxing, messaging, presence, desktop dialing… in a single server, single management solution.
  • Web gadgets (coming).
  • Skype integration (coming).
  • Update outgoing message on voice mail based on Google Calendar.
  • Available in 6 languages (can be set per user).
  • Mashup Capabilities: Automatically use Google to do a reverse lookup of callerID and then search email for references to that customer name.
  • Screen pops
  • Change status to “on the phone” (depends on presence system and phone system).

This type of UC evolution from server based application integration to server or cloud based application integration makes a lot of sense. Users that migrated to the cloud may be finding difficulty with such basic UC capabilities as synchronized (delete once) unified messaging. Few voice mail platforms have integrated to Google Apps so far, but more will follow. Vmerge is early in this game, with what appears to be a very mature offering. The system is available in SMB and enterprise bundles – organizations as small as 25 users may want to take a look at it.