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My Post at Network Computing

Posted by tggokul on July 11, 2009

Network computing in its latest edition has  my post on something that is very close to my heart . What is really unified communication and what aspects of unified communication is relevant in today’s world. My U2C manifesto.

Have a read and let me know what you think


Posted in Cisco, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Who has the better SIP?

Posted by tggokul on June 3, 2009

I was having some internal discussions when one of my bosses told me that he heard from one of his acquantaince who works for company X that their SIP implementation is light years ahead of their competitions. That ticked me off.

I hear similar claims from lot of the big companies like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel  and it never ceases to amaze me their lack of understanding especially when it comes to SIP. SIP now no more is a techie’s delight. It has become a marketing weapon and claims on who has got the better SIP seems to be the order of the day rather than a prudent discussion on what can SIP do for the world. And yes I am disappointed that SIP is today being misused like this.

Anybody saying that their SIP is better is like me saying the electricity I have in my house is better than my neighbor’s!!! It is that ridiculous. What matters are the devices that “electricity” powers. SIP is the same, the greatness lies in the seamless effort taken for the devices which it empowers to communicate with.

For an open standard like SIP, greatness is measured by how many devices your stack has interoped with and the track record of Cisco/Avaya are dismal. If I were to pick a good SIP stack it would be openSIP. They outclass everybody else wrt to interop and they are by far the best when it comes to performance They were earlier called openSER and at that time when I used them they could do I think a million calls in BHCA!!!!! Oh, did I mention they are open source?

This is my grouse. We have been communicating donkey years (TDM included) and nobody really cared what the underlying signalling protocol was. Why is there a new found respect for SIP (which is just another signaling protocol) and why are these companies fighting over this? What this essentially shows is that innovation has come to a grinding halt and there is nothing else the top companies are able to boast about. Hence they are harping on something as mundane as “we have the better SIP”.

Anyway, SIP is old and so retro 🙂 and the techies have moved to other things.  Perfect example HD VoIP. They use SIP as well. In fact I read an interesting thought by Pulver that  these HD devices should be identified by the SIP URI. You don’t see him talking about SIP per se. Reason is SIP in essence is just a platform and historically users never care about platform. They care about what they can experience or the solutions that these platforms power.

Any discussion on superior SIP according to me is meaningless and shows the lack of thought leadership in the companies that run these kinds of campaigns.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 3 Comments »

A Next Gen Contact Center

Posted by tggokul on April 22, 2009

I am back after travelling for two weeks within the US and most of my time was spent at iQor, a BPO customer (outbound collections) of my current employer. My guys have been involved in some of the  work there within iQor, and they were raving about the vision and goals of iQor. Well, as the saying goes you can take Gokul away from technology, but never take the technologist away from Gokul 🙂 And so, I planned a visit to see what these guys were upto.

Even before I  got to know the different technology initiatives iQor was working on, what intrigued me the most was the fact that a BPO was actually investing so much time and money in innovation. The typical BPOs I have been dealing with for the last few years have always looked at vendors ( could be the product vendors like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel, or at SIs like ourselves) to guide them on technology and in fact they have gone to the extent of saying that they are not interested in technology at all and all they care about is being insulated from the obsolescence of the technology. But not iQor.Their technology team pushes whatever platform they are working on to the hilt and then develop applications on top of that would make more sense to their business and eventually be cost effective. So if they faced a problem in the solution provided by the product vendor, what do they do? Develop customized applications!!

I can’t write too much about their applications since that is proprietary information. But for example, since they are an outbound collections BPO, predictive dialing is most crucial to their business and they have developed an algorithm internally that will enhance productivity of the agents. They have simplified the agent desktops ( IP Blue phone with screen pop) and what the agent sees is most optimal to increase his/her productivity.

On the contact center platform front, they have written applications that will help dramatically in MAC (move/add changes). When you are talking the size of iQor agents (close to 7000), it is a support nightmare if the removal/addition/reskilling etc has to be done manually. iQor has developed an interface that ensures that human errors are minimal. Automation of processes are key in all of iQor’s initiatives and that mantra holds good in the platform as well.

There is a push to use open source in all of their technologies (including enterprise applications like HR/finance) to make operations much more cost effective. Virtualization of applications is critical since not only does it reduce cost but also ensures “free seating” in the real sense of the word. An agent is the same agent irrespective he is in India/US/Philippines and isn’t that one of the very premise of Unified Communication? A real Unified Contact center in some sense. Oh btw, no surprises, agents login via biometrics 🙂

I for one believe once iQor fully implements these solutions, it should try packaging these solutions to other BPOs as well. Reference sites are always a big challenge for product companies. But when you have solutions that are tried and tested in a 7000 seat contact center, you don’t have worry about your solution’s performance!!!

I won’t be surprised if product vendors start looking at these solutions and start adding them to their product suite. Sooner or later all BPOs are going to have a need for those features that iQor needed in the past, and the product vendors need to be cognizant of that. Technology is a big chunk of BPOs cost and every attempt to improve performance of these technologies at the same cost would only help these BPOs. iQor just did that on their own and it is only fair to say they run the next gen contact center in more ways than one!!!

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

IP world v/s Green?

Posted by tggokul on February 4, 2009

With the whole world talking about greener devices/Applications, I am kind of wondering whether people who evangalized “IP” as a platform for communication kept this in mind. Let me tell you why this thought.

I don’t see one single Message Packet either in SIP/H323/MGCP that will enable the server to switch off the endpoints when they are not active. Isn’t that weird? Now lets say that as a monitoring application, I find out that an IP Phone ( could be using any of the above signalling protocols) has not been used (maybe in a conference room) for “x” days, shouldn’t I have the option to switch it off remotely? Shouldn’t there be a protocol that supports this action?

At a much larger level, is there a “Green” protocol at all? Maybe a protocol that will exchange power consumption data between the server/endpoint that will enable an administrator to make informed decisions.

I am seeing something equivalent to a GMS ( Green Monitoring System) similar to an NMS (Network Monitoring System) that would exchange power related data and the adminstrator could take decisions based on that. The devices under control could be anything from a tubelight to a washing machine. It is just not communication devices that are becoming smarter. Consumer electonics are equally there as well.

The need of the hour is to create one such protocol. Not sure whether anybody is working on that.

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS | 5 Comments »

Not so good for IP Telephony in India

Posted by tggokul on February 3, 2009

Though there was some good news for the Indian telecom subscribers as far as using other operators to make ISD/STD calls, it was not the case as far as IP Telephony calls was concerned.

The commission referred it back to the regulator’s desk which pretty much means atleast another year before anything materializes. It is obvious that the Telcos will not let it happen since they would be killed by the Internet Service Providers but what I fail to understand is why don’t these Telcos do it themselves? Most of them offer broadband as well, so what is preventing them from offering these services? They have the licenses as well.

As far as the main news on STD/ISD calls, there are a lot of questions in the blogosphere as to what is new in this and calling cards in India were always available. The catch though is, you can very rarely dial from one operator’s number to the toll free number published by the other one. And the problem is even more in land lines. So if I am an Airtel landline subscriber, I cannot dial BSNL’s 1600 number. This used to be a problem with mobile phones as well, but thankfully it has become better.

So essentially what this new act will do is anybody can call the toll free from any phone using the calling card of other operators. But with a deep penetration of mobile phones in India, and a systematic drop in landline subscribers every month, I am not sure whether this would be any good. There are alresdy some mobile plans with which subscribers can make STD calls as low as 1 Re (2 cents) per minute.

What I would like to see is, making these STD/ISD calls without any calling cards but still use the tariffs of the other provider. So for example I could get a landline connection from Airtel but my STD/ISD operator would be BSNL/Idea and if I dial from my landline phone a STD number, my carrier would be BSNL. Even this might be possible in the near future, but what would be a pipe dream is having the same kind of flexibility on my mobile phone!! That would never happen!

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 1 Comment »

NGN in India?

Posted by tggokul on December 10, 2008

iLocus reports that there is a surge within the service providers to provide NGN service. People who follow my blog know that I am a big fan of IMS and who honestly believe that it is not just another marketing gimmick.

At the same time, I have come to believe that Indian service providers are not ready to deploy it for the following reasons. Before I get to the reasons, I had a chance to meet up with some very senior technical folks in a major Telco last week and they told me that they were Beta testing the NGN architecture and was asking how the contact center solution we were going to provide fit in that scheme of things. I was very surprised that atleast one Telco was talking this language and I told them so. The guys smiled wryly that they are thrilled about the technical possibilities but they still don’t have the business approval to go to production on full swing.

When I questioned him further on why they face resistance, the answer was simple. The Telcos in India operate on revenue sharing model and believe it or not, ZTE/Huawei are the hottest selling vendors in India. Though they claim to have a NGN play, they are not half as ready as Ericsson or even for that matter Alcatel. These guys cannot afford Ericsson and for what they get, they cannot implement a pure play IMS world.

Now if we are talking just about SIP Trunking ( well VoIP trunking is SIP trunking in this new world. H323 is there but the number are dwindling), then the report holds a lot of merit.

Posted in Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

This one is for my bosses!!!

Posted by tggokul on September 4, 2008

TMC reports that VoIP salaries are up.

I am into Unified Communications which is supposed to be the mother of VoIP which I translate as even more salary hike. Bosses, I am not saying anything. Blame the industry. It is them who are asking you to pay me more 🙂

Posted in VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

IP Termination is just a myth

Posted by tggokul on August 28, 2008

There seems be a lot of hype going around of late about how IP Termination is about to get legal in India. I had to wake up from my slumber and respond to this in my blog. Let me make myself clear. I am not brushing this announcement because I am not convinced about this, but to temper expectations. I heard people saying things like there are no more restrictions to terminate calls originated on IP to PSTN lines and I want to say how far from the truth we are.

My first reaction to this announcement was cynicism since TRAI had recommended this 3 years ago as well and the telecom operators convinced DoT to reject TRAI’s suggestion.This is a similar recommendation that has again been placed before DoT.

What the news clippings suggest is the rosy picture. What they don’t say is that all the Telecom operators have already filed a lawsuit that will prevent this from becoming a law. The reason is simple. These Telecom providers have paid 1650 crores each to get these licenses and the new Internet Service providers are paying 0. What the telecom operators are asking for is for a leveling field. Which means the following, if the new ISPs want to play this game they have to pay the same amount for the licenses or if DoT wants to go ahead and implement this TRAI recommendation, they would need to give these licenses to the existing operators. I know for sure Airtel is atleast ready to do this.

Sadly to say, there will not be any impact whatsoever in the way we communicate in the near future. And even in the distant future what I see is, IP calls landing on the PSTN would be permitted, only if the current telecom providers (namely Airtel, Reliance) are also the ISPs. That is how I see it.

So if somebody says that all is well in this world of “Walled garden” ask them to wake up and smell the coffee. But I have hope that this might happen and I have stated the reason in one of my earlier post as well. This can become a reality only when the players feel that they are playing the same field and ADC has to go for that.

Posted in General, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | 8 Comments »

Who is going to buyout Avaya?

Posted by tggokul on June 11, 2008

By now, the storm of Lou stepping down as CEO has passed over. Yet the question still remains. What is going to happen to Avaya that was bought over by SilverLake partners just over a year ago.

I have been hearing from different sources that top guys ( one was even close to Lou) are being let go and this would only mean that Avaya is going to be sold to the topmost bidder. Either as a whole entity or after splitting them into different entities.

Interestingly though, there are two names that are being floated as possible buyers. One is Cisco ( is there any deal in the world, where their name is not flouted?) and the other is very surprisingly Nuance. I can understand why Cisco’s name is prominent. The interim CEO who is taking over from Lou is none other than Charles Giancarlo, a prominent ex-Ciscoian. 

Nuance is trying to enter the PBX/ACD world to further stabilize their speech market and this would be a logical step. Microsoft and upto some extent IBM are developing Speech engines and the only way for Nuance to continue their stranglehold would be to enter the PBX sector as well.Nortel seemed a little interested a year ago, but with their current state of affairs would not be brave enough to venture in this.

One thing is sure. The face of Avaya would change in the next couple of months.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 2 Comments »

VoIP termination may just about become legal in India

Posted by tggokul on March 27, 2008

There was a very important announcement from TRAI where they are abolishing ADC ( Access Deficit charge) from April 1st. This was one of the main reasons why the existing Telecom providers were saying that Enterprises/Users should not terminate VoIP calls on PSTN ( because they were loosing out on this revenue).

Now with this being abolished, it could pave way for VoIP termination to become legal. There was a unique problem where we were architecting an Outbound call center over IP for a BPO in India and we had to architect it such a way that termination of each of the outbound calls had to happen in the same STD region ( i.e have a Media/Voice Gateway) in each of the locations. We could not have agents sitting in Chennai making calls out of Mumbai VG to customers in Chennai. The law as of today states that the Chennai agents HAVE to call the Chennai customers through the local gateways.

This news might be a blessing since cost of having Media Gateways in each location is phenomenol and rules out a centralized architecture. Maybe this abolition of ADC might help us architect solutions better. Most of the times, things are possible using Technology but it is the process/business needs that are the impediments 🙂

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 6 Comments »