Ken Kuenzel, Founder, VP Engineering and CTO for Covergence recently chatted with me about the impact of wireless technology, and the way in which SIP has changed communications, among other topics.
Offering its customers “the edge in SIP”, Covergence specializes in a variety of communications solutions. Read this story
to find out more about them.
Please outline your new corporate initiatives.
One of the most exciting trends we are seeing in the market is the rise of voice and other real-time communications embedded into business applications. We had a number of customers that were using Eclipse, our next-generation session border controller, and wanted to add real-time capabilities into customer-facing applications to improve the customer experience and streamline complex customer interactions. We also had service providers who were looking to add new offerings to their portfolios. To address these business needs, Covergence has introduced the Covergence Policy Manager, a policy enforcement solution that allows developers to build real-time applications into existing architectures without writing complex codes and models.
With this new solution, organizations can build session policy enforcement into applications quickly and easily. Designed to automate and simplify policy enforcement, the Covergence Policy Manager ensures that communication-enabled applications such as VoIP, video, presence and other forms of SIP-based real-time communications comply with security, regulatory, quality and other business measures. It is the first solution to allow developers to define and enforce real-time policy through familiar object interfaces.
How is IP communications changing your company’s strategy?
Both enterprises and service providers are developing or extending applications that include real-time services to give users offerings that combine the best of wireless, wireline, and IP communications. This move beyond voice to real-time services has opened new markets for Covergence. As a company that architected its solutions to meet enterprise-grade security, quality and reliability measures, Covergence is uniquely positioned to help organizations secure, manage and control IP communications and the enhanced business processes it promises.
How has SIP changed communications?
By bringing together diverse applications, devices and communication processes, the Session Initiation Protocol is transforming the world of communications. The convergence of real-time applications including voice, video and other multimedia services is delivering a powerful new set of capabilities and features. By enabling unified communications, the Session Initiation Protocol is driving organizational cost reduction, revenue generation and productivity enhancement.
As users demand networks that provide access to a new wave of real-time services, organizations are shifting away from simply building VoIP networks and giving access to basic services to finding ways to connect users to a broad range of services across different networks. In order to deliver these services securely and reliably, organizations must standardize on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and focus management and scaling practices along the access edge.
What is the biggest request coming from your customer base?
We are definitely seeing a trend among our service provider customers of extending their services beyond VoIP to increase subscribers and create new sources of revenue. We call these “pre-IMS” deployments. A common pre-IMS theme that has emerged this past year is service providers using Eclipse to incorporate Microsoft’s Live Communications Server (LCS) into their offerings to add IM, presence, multimedia conferencing and other services to their existing VoIP offerings. Service providers also use Eclipse to offer LCS federation services to their customers, to enable broader use of IM and to enable the use of Office Communicator as a phone for “on-net” calling between federation partners.
We are also seeing a rise in the number of organizations looking to embed real-time communications into business applications. We have customers that are now using Eclipse and its Web services interface to integrate voice capabilities into customer facing applications. For instance, one customer has integrated its CRM system into Eclipse so that its sales force can use the CRM system to initiate calls to connect with prospects. If a call is not answered, Eclipse delivers a pre-recorded voicemail to the prospect, and the sales rep can move onto the next prospect without losing time. We have other customers that have integrated Eclipse with their Call Center applications to route inbound service calls based on the logic contained in their Call Center applications.
How are you answering their demands?
As organizations deploy communication-enabled applications, they are faced with a complex set of security, control, regulatory and business policy-enforcement challenges that require developers to invest an incredible amount of time learning new models or writing code. By introducing the Covergence Policy Manager, we have removed the complexity and are making real-time applications policy enforcement accessible to millions of developers instantly. The Covergence Policy Manager allows developers to deploy communication-enabled applications without investing an incredible amount of time learning new models or writing code. For the first time, it makes real-time applications policy enforcement accessible immediately and ensures that these applications meet industry compliance requirements.
What do you think the future of the market is?
We are entering the next phase of the evolution of real-time communications. In this phase, multi-modal, IP-based real-time services reach all the way to end users, and these services will transform how we communicate and collaborate. Securitywill remain a big issue and even reach heightened levels of significance as enterprises start to get serious about the technology and look to make sure they have the systems in place to protect themselves properly. Participating in that transformation is tremendously exciting to our team. We gain a lot of satisfaction from building a solution that allows our customers to overcome complex problems to reach their business goals.
How does the growth rate in the US compare to the rest of the world?
The market is evolving and all indicators point to growth in the United States, EMEA and Asia. In the US, consumer VoIP is on a growth track and the market is expecting to see an up-tick in the small-to-medium sized business (SMB) market. There is a tremendous amount of international activity in VoIP now, surpassing the activity in the US. The telecommunications market in Asia is the largest and fastest growing in the world. Unified Communications deployments are also anticipated to hit a new high within the US and abroad with the release of Microsoft’s OCS this year.
What do you think of Google and Apple entering the telecom market?
How about Microsoft?
It was simply a matter of time before the large companies entered this space. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing for other companies because smaller companies and start-ups are creating solutions that will augment the larger, broader offerings. To realize the potential for the unified communications market, larger companies such as Microsoft and Google will need to work with a wide range of industry partners, such as smaller vendors, to create best-of-breed solutions that work across networks and devices.
A great example of this collaboration between large companies and start-ups is Covergence’s recent announcement
with Interoute, a pan-European service provider. Interoute selected Covergence’s Eclipse Session Border Controller to enable its new
clearinghouse service, which allows enterprises to connect their Microsoft LCS Server and its successor, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS), to OCS/LCS deployments in other organizations securely and reliably. This means companies with LCS/OCS can communicate directly with other companies using all of the Microsoft Office Communicator functions to their full potential (IM, Video, Calls, presence). Interoute One is using Eclipse to secure VoIP, video, IM, presence and other real-time collaborative services based on Microsoft’s LCS/OCS in order to extend reliable unified communications beyond the walls of individual enterprises.
How will wireless technologies change our market?
The wireless technology market is booming and will continue to grow as the industry moves forward. As more devices and applications become available, quality and security will remain the critical issues. By adopting standards and using solutions such as Eclipse that can provide a single point of security, monitoring, control and interoperability, wireless technologies will give providers and enterprises a new vehicle for growth and enhancement.
How will communications evolve over the next five years?
We are entering the next phase of the evolution of real-time communications. Rich, multi-modal, IP-based real-time services are reaching all the way to end users and large corporations such as Google and Microsoft are extending full force into the IP space. Over the next five years, offerings will become increasingly intertwined so that real-time communications, business applications, web development, etc. will be deployed simultaneously from a single provider. Consumers may no longer have to go to several providers for varying business and communications-related services. Playing a role in this transformation is critical for Covergence and tremendously exciting. We look forward to introducing innovations that allow large providers to leverage our security and real-time session management offerings. We will continue to develop solutions that allow our customers to overcome complex business/communications problems because one of our primary concerns is customer satisfaction and meeting next-generation IP needs.
What sort of things will we be hearing about during your presentation at ITEXPO?
I will be participating in three sessions at the conference: “FMC: Driving the Transition to IMS,” “Introduction to Security” and “Migration to IMS.” I am looking forward to discussing the intelligent evolution of provider infrastructure and how carriers can ready their networks for the future.
Why is your presentation a “Can’t Miss?”
In order for the floodgates to open as far as VoIP and real-time adoption is concerned, providers need to address the chief concern of the market, which is security. In my sessions, I look forward to discussing the importance of standards and discussing how providers can mitigate next generation challenges and add revenue-generating services to their portfolios today.
What do you want the industry to know about your company?
At Covergence, we are focused on enabling the mass adoption of new and more effective forms of real-time communication and collaboration. Our goal is to give organizations the confidence and knowledge that their real-time communications platforms have the same security, reliability, performance and quality as their existing IP applications.
Covergence is the creator of Eclipse, a series of next-generation session border controllers that combines traditional session-border-control functionality with comprehensive security features and management tools. Eclipse is purpose-built to securely and reliably connect users to VoIP and multi-media services while giving organizations the complete control and visibility they require.
Please make one surprising prediction we will see in 5 years
My prediction is that you will see organizations begin to phase out PBX systems in favor of a unified communications platform that integrates VoIP with other forms of communications, including instant messaging, conferencing and e-mail. The next generation of office workers will interact with a rich set of presence-based real-time, multimedia services, both fixed and mobile. Voice will be one application in a rich, multimedia communications toolbox.