Melanie Turek's Blog

Virtualization a Key Enabler of Unified Communications - with Caveats

03 Mar 2010 | by Melanie Turek
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Aside from “unified communications,” one of the biggest buzz words in the tech world today is “virtualization.” Simply put, virtualization refers to technologies that provide a layer of abstraction between computer hardware systems and the software running on them, the separation of the physical from the logical. By providing a logical view of computing resources, rather than a physical one, virtualization allows IT managers to trick the operating system into thinking that a group of servers is a single pool of computing resources. And they can allow you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single machine.

Vendors like Citrix Systems are already offering virtual desktop (VDI) solutions that can deliver significant operational benefits, environmental efficiencies, and cost savings. Now, UC vendors are looking for ways to leverage virtualization to deliver unified communications more effectively to more users, especially as those users grow increasingly virtual themselves (that is, they work in locations separate from those of their colleagues, managers and direct reports).

Virtualization makes sense, but the idea remains in its infancy in regards to communications. When used in conjunction with videoconferencing and other advanced communications applications, VDI environments put a heavy burden on a company’s infrastructure and network, creating limited scalability. Add a growing demand for desktop communications and videoconferencing, and end users are often left with lackluster performance, while IT managers wrestle with compromised scalability and cost-benefit ratios.

As a result, communications vendors will need to pay close attention to how and when they support virtualization at the UC level, and some may want to partner with more experienced virtualization vendors (such as Citrix and VMware) to get the technology support they need to ensure a top-quality UC experience for all users.

For instance, the relatively new Avistar C3 Integrator—Citrix Edition is designed to run on the Citrix ICA platform, launched directly from a Wyse terminal or Citrix Xen solution (it runs by the operator on Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop). The Avistar technology optimizes media processing at the terminal, while allowing application control and functionality to continue to run in the virtualized environment or data center. This ensures the terminal doesn’t transmit uncompressed audio or video, minimizing transmission delays and ensuring the network is not overburdened.

Similarly, Mitel and VMWare have teamed up to enable virtualized voice communications, with the Mitel Communications Director (MCD), which is now officially “VMWare Ready.” We can expect to see more such products, especially from the leading UC and infrastructure vendors, in the months to come. Without them, it is tough to pull off virtualization in the demanding environment of real-time communications.



Worthy commentary. I would like to add that we have seen tremendous interest and early success with MCD deployed in virtualized data centers, as fitting med-large enterprise data center strategies, and with the benefits enjoyed from virtualization in general. Channel interest is high as well to leverage this for more efficient delivery of communications solutions to the SMB market - a single server solution combined with other business apps.

Kevin Johnson - Mitel

Posted by Kevin Johnson | 08 Mar 2010

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