Comdial Speaks the Language of Convergence
By Kelly M. Teal
Manufacturer Comdial is seeking to broaden the pool of distributors for its IP-based equipment, and is looking beyond the traditional interconnect to convergent solutions providers. Comdial’s Mark Lindsay, vice president of sales, talked with T@G in April.
T@G: What is Comdial’s distribution strategy?
Mark Lindsay: We really have a three-prong distribution strategy. The one we’ve had in place the longest is our two-tiered distribution strategy where we go after traditional voice interconnects. … The second initiative we have for distribution is the convergence solutions provider. This is the company that would have competency in voice and data applications or maybe just competency in data applications and networking but is looking to get into voice because the convergence phenomenon is occurring. … Our third prong is that we do have a direct dealer program where we sell to our … small subset of dealers qualified to work with us on a direct basis.
T@G: How many partners does Comdial have?
ML: We have at least 800 that are registered with us. There’s the potential for a greater number of guys buying and selling our products through some of our open distribution programs.
T@G: The growing trend is toward convergence. Why is this the space agents, resellers and other partners need to focus on?
ML: … [F]or the traditional telecommunications agents, the breadth of services and equipment they can resell has expanded … so they’re able to sell the traditional equipment and services, as well as the IP-based equipment and services. [Partners] are able to go to their customers and offer them a greater value proposition in many cases when offering the IP-based equipment and services. I think that’s really where the opportunity is for these guys.
T@G: What kinds of training programs does Comdial provide its partners?
ML: Directly, we provide technical certification on the products that we produce. And indirectly, we recommend programs like [TIA’s] Convergence Technology Professional … [I]t’s an industry designation that requires you to take a course and then pass a very comprehensive exam that’s monitored. Then you earn this credential, which designates that you are both a voice and data convergence professional, and [that] you understand all the technical nuances of implementing those types of solutions in that convergence environment.
T@G: How should partners address interoperability issues? How do Comdial’s products address interoperability?
ML: First and foremost, what we do is we try to play within the standards that have been established within the industry for IP communications. Basically, if you look back five or six years … there were standards like [the IETF’s] H.323 and megaco (H.248 or media gateway controller) ... These protocols were voice-only protocols to transport voice across IP networks and they were great for that. … In most cases [though], most manufacturers’ IP products did not work with one another. You couldn’t take Avaya’s IP phone and stick it on a Comdial switch. An IP phone was designed to talk across a company-standard IP network. … Now what’s happened in the last year or so is manufacturers began introducing products based on a new Voice over IP protocol called SIP.
We introduced our first SIP-based switch in May of last year and with SIP, you can actually take an off-the-shelf SIP telephone and plug it into my switch, and it will interoperate. Granted, it may not have 100 percent feature transparency, but the basic functions typically work out of the box. That is where I think ultimately you’re going to see true interoperability between PBX vendors and third-party vendors that are producing adjunct equipment to go into the SIP-based PBX vendor product lines.
T@G: So what’s the outlook over the next six to eight months in terms of the development of convergence products? What should partners look for?
ML: I think there’s an area where there’s a lot of interest but it’s just not quite there yet in Voice over Wi-Fi. With SIP, I think the W-Fi market is really growing rapidly and data applications work extremely well in that environment, but the voice applications have three hurdles to overcome: one, security; two, quality of service because we’re talking about a real-time application versus data transport, which can add delay; three, access-point hopping, so that as you move around, you don’t get an interruption as you jump from one access point to another.