Virtualization and UC: Strange Bedfellows No More

Brian Riggs
B. Riggs
Summary Bullets:

  • Server virtualization is available here and now for a wide range of UC solutions
  • Desktop virtualization for UC client software is by and large in the works

Virtualization and real-time communications have traditionally made for strange bedfellows. Yet persistent R&D work among top UC solution and virtualization software developers led to deployment on virtualized servers in a data center as a standard option for PBX call control software. Mitel started the ball rolling, working closely with VMware to develop a version of the vSphere virtualization platform capable of supporting real-time communications software. Server virtualization is now a checklist item for both UC and contact center software, with Aastra, Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Siemens Enterprise and to a certain extent, ShoreTel, all supporting it.

Enterprise IT departments can take advantage of this immediately, neatly folding the deployment and support of corporate communications and customer support software into existing initiatives aimed at centralizing business applications in data centers. Benefits include fewer servers to purchase and support, as well as reduced power consumption. And before long UC software deployed in a virtualized server environment should be able to take advantage of the high-availability, fault tolerance, distributed power management and other advanced management features available via VMware, Citrix and Microsoft virtualization software. This is something that Mitel is delivering now, with others expected to follow suit.

Marrying UC and desktop virtualization is next on the agenda. It’s something that IT departments have been interested in for quite some time. Ever since VDI software began to displace PCs in enterprise, SMB and contact center environments, IT departments have been interested in deploying soft phone clients in conjunction with them. The motivation is to replace not only traditional PCs, but also traditional desk phones. Unfortunately, VDI software has not lent itself well to real-time voice and video communications, with performance, voice quality and scalability issues all cropping up. But Citrix has tested select soft phone clients, such as Avaya IP Softphone and Microsoft Office Communicator, and created reference designs of how to run soft phones on virtualized desktops effectively. Cisco’s Virtual Experience Infrastructure allows the Jabber, Quad and WebEx clients to all be extended to virtualized desktops, including Cisco’s Cius tablet. And now VMware is in the process of developing an API that will allow most any soft phone or UC client run on its View client. So before long IT departments will have a wide range of choices when it comes to how they marry both UC server and client software to initiatives around server and desktop virtualization.

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