Speech Technology with Impact - Avaya Voice Portal 3.0 and Dialog Designer 3.0

Avaya Voice Portal 3.0 and Dialog Designer 3.0
For 20 some odd years now telecom industry personnel have talked about the hopeful convergence of telecom and IT, and the emergence of blended manager roles.  They have talked and talked and talked. For most of that time it didn't happen, or at least not quickly. Telecom and IT weren't speaking the same language.  Therefore, the traditional PBX vendors developed ACDs, manned call centers with agents and IVRs that talked to customers on one end and updated databases on the other. They partnered with their data friends and created products that forced the issue - CTI, VoIP, SIP.  They moved contact center applications to software-based architectures, and developed voice standards that dovetailed off of Internet standards.

Avaya, one of the offspring of companies AT&T and then Lucent that helped begin this battle, has certainly been pushing this issue lately. In June, they announced expansion of the plethora of courses taught at Avaya University, with the addition of management training and certification for convergence that address cross-training for contact center and voice services managers. More importantly, at SpeechTEK 2005 they announced their efforts to help customers to bridge the move to an Open IP Speech Architecture.

This announcement addresses giving customers an evolutionary path to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and IP-based voice services and applications, along with the speech-enablement of the same. They announced the Avaya Voice Portal 3.0; a Web services-based self service platform for IT environments, along with Avaya Dialog Designer 3.0; an open Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE). If you could condense the purpose of this announcement down to a simple goal what would it be? To use common technologies and tools to allow for simple deployment and management of highly distributed applications across IP telephony (H.323, SIP) or TDM networks. This evolutionary path includes an easy transition from TDM-based IVR to IP speech both through the way the products are architected as well as the way they are priced.

Avaya Voice Portal 3.0

We have long discussed in the contact center space that customers have a need to provide consistency across all channels of customer interaction. For example, if you are a movie chain and provide movie information, time and location, and ticketing services on the Web, that same information should be available to customers by phone - ideally without the costs of agents. Although this is happening with greater frequency now, Avaya takes a step closer to making this happen easier and less expensively with this announcement, as they have taken a completely Web-centric approach in the development of Avaya Voice Portal 3.0, allowing companies to significantly reduce the costs of deploying speech self service in existing Web services.

Customers are also making buying decisions based on products that use open standards and are interoperable, and are looking to minimize costs by developing application components that are reusable. Avaya Voice Portal 3.0 enables IT staff to lower total cost of ownership (TCO) by re-using existing software components and applications, and is architected to take advantage of industry standards. Voice Portal 3.0's VoiceXML 2.0 media-processing software runs on any certified Red Hat Linux Enterprise 3.0 Intel or AMD platform, and runs across SIP and H.323 compliant media gateway architectures. It can be deployed on IBM's WebSphere application server, Apache Tomcat, and other Java2 based services. As for speech resources, it supports standard speech engines through the MRCP standard, such as ScanSoft's Open-Speech Recognizer and IBM's WebSphere Voice Server.

Further, Avaya Voice Portal's IP-based architecture provides higher availability with automatic (N+1) failover capabilities, and license pooling. For example, if a media server fails in one part of the business, licenses and workload are automatically distributed to other servers. This provides continuous, reliable and secure operation of critical applications, at a lower cost by eliminating the need to purchase extra licenses or over-provision. Avaya Voice Portal also contains simplified management and integration capabilities tailored for globally distributed enterprises, from centralized management with a single interface to control all self-service applications across an enterprise, to extremely flexible scalability (one to thousands of ports).

Dialog Designer 3.0

The second part of the announcement was Avaya Dialog Designer 3.0; an Eclipse-based application development tool that allows designers to more easily and efficiently create new speech applications. Eclipse is a technology framework that enables Dialog Designer to interoperate with a broad range of standards-based development tools, letting designers use their preferred languages to create applications. The Dialog Designer does dynamic generation of both speech and DTMF VoiceXML applications. Its common VoiceXML 2.0 browser is for use with both Avaya Voice Portal and Interactive Response which helps eliminate the need for compatibility testing and ensures a more consistent end user experience. Dialog Designer is packaged at no cost with both self-service platforms. 

This is an innovations column. Is this particularly innovative? Not particularly in that it is not like the neatest thing since sliced bread, just a better way to slice bread, or perhaps a whole new way to make a sandwich. This announcement is a huge step towards the convergence of voice and data from the voice applications side. Even if the long-established development and management of call center and IVR applications has taken a different mind set than that of IT by allowing the easy deployment of these applications in a traditional IT environment to be transparent, at least enterprises can address the overall management of their applications more easily and reduce the cost of deploying and maintaining them. Perhaps Avaya is helping win the battle started long ago by its ancestors.

Have a cool, or noteworthy announcement? Please email me at nsj@jamisons.com

Nancy Jamison is the principal analyst at Jamison Consulting. She can be reached at nsj@jamison.com

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