Throughout the history of the modern office, voice was a dedicated and proprietary application. The “servers” were dedicated with proprietary boxes connecting users and networks. On the user side, dedicated wiring was involved to mostly dedicated and proprietary terminals (phones). On the network side, specialized carriers using proprietary protocols and services connected to the servers with special connectors also over dedicated wires.
Since the early 2000s that model has been (slowly) changing. Most voice traffic is now transmitted over shared IP networks. The proprietary servers are being replaced with industry standard boxes. This convergence of technologies enables features like softphones, unified messaging, IM to voice, and click-to-dial. This is not going to be undone; voice and data will co-exist on networks, servers and endpoints for the foreseeable future.
Years ago, the data center had separate servers for everything. The result was “server-sprawl,” and big efforts were made to consolidate them. Initially, this fell onto the vendors. Mitel, for example, consolidated several servers into what became MiCollab.
Server sprawl was reduced, but customers realized that they wanted to be in control of server consolidation. With most applications running on industry standard servers, customers wanted to determine which applications ran on which systems. Virtualization made this possible by converting servers into server resources. As resources, customers had unprecedented control over which applications consumed which resources.
The problem with dedicated servers is they are not very efficient. When they get busy, they don’t have enough capacity or resources, and when they are underutilized, the available resources go to waste. Virtualization allows an organization to dynamically reallocate resources as needed. Hardware resources can go to a real-time application during business hours and then be shifted to batch-mode operations at night.
Since hardware was just a resource, applications could be moved among configurations, systems and locations. Virtualization was less about saving money on fewer machines and more about efficiency in operations. For example, when applications outgrew resources, instead of doing server rebuilds resources could be upgraded or replaced.
Until recently, the ability to virtualize hardware could not apply to real-time applications, such as voice systems, due to operational time delay. A 4-second delay in delivery might not impact an email message, but such latency would compromise the effectiveness of phone and teleconference usage.
Together, Mitel® and VMware®, the market leader in virtualization, broke this latency barrier between real-time and non-real time business applications, enabling Mitel’s unified communication applications to run on VMware’s virtualized platform. This means that your telephony hardware can be condensed right along with your computing infrastructure, further streamlining your communications network with simplified voice administration.