Taking Advantage of New Business Models

Google,Yahoo! and a host of other Internet powerhouses have begun to challenge the telephony status quo with their own free VoIP offerings. How will market dynamics change as these companies give away the very voice services that traditional telephone companies sell for profit? Are these VoIP offerings truly free?

The Executive Viewpoint: A New Voice for the Internet panel will explore how this new voice paradigm is poised to change the voice business as we know it.

Todd Landry, senior vice president, Sphere Communications; Jeff Ganek, chairman and CEO, NeuStar Inc.; and Tom Kershaw, vice president, next-generation services,VeriSign Inc., will provide focused insight into these questions.

The topic tees up a good question, said Landry. The prospect of free voice has been around for a long time. So you have to ask yourself why would this not be true for business? The difference, Landry said, is what the business needs are and what the expectations are of communication for their businesses. In many respects it is mission-critical.

What businesses already are adopting, mostly smaller businesses now, is the technology of free services, namely hosted voice. For larger businesses, those that have IT organizations, first and foremost they see their jobs as running this stuff in a business, and they already run a lot of back-office applications. Plenty of companies run their own CRM rather than, Landry said.

An IT staff wants to control mission-critical applications for their businesses, which means they want to manage deployments themselves. At the same time, developers of technology, like Sphere, are making that solution more economical, more software-oriented, making it easier to deploy and operate every day.

Sphere Communications, a developer of IP PBXs recently has released a new version of its product that is all software.

The only hardware that you need is an off-the-shelf server to run it on like other back-office applications, Landry said. That fits in with another trend in voice over IP, SIP trunking, in which enterprises link to service providers over all-IP trunks. They dont really need media gateways anymore. Having that all-IP pipe not only reduces voice expenses and makes deployment of new features easier, it also makes it possible to link voice to yet another trend in business, namely service-oriented architectures (SOAs).

Here, businesses use business management software, such as SAP or BEA, and various human resources financial and sales automation systems, and one of the premises of SOA is to give those systems a way to communicate with each other so they can optimize different transactions, Landry described. Communication also should be a part of that linked architecture.

For example, if a new employee joins a company, the human resources contact should not only brief the person and provide company resources, but also be able to authorize and assign the phone on that persons desk as an automated part of the process, rather than sending e-mail to other individuals to do that task.

For service providers, the message is, Why wait to reach this middle market? Landry asked. Someone will either deploy it themselves or buy hosted. It is analogous to buying Centrex or circuits. Service providers can sell suites of bundled services but on the premises have installed software that the customer can use to control everything.

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