15 Feb Another Long Tail?
Your product plans call for the development of a product that requires multi-channel media-processing resources. You’ve looked at the market and have concluded that a PC-based system could meet your functional, capacity, performance, and cost requirements. And with the financial constraints and lower-demand realities of today’s market and time-to-market delays not supporting in-house development, you are looking at what is available as a value-adding platform. But sometimes all the criteria that should be considered are not made obvious by only looking at the requirements of today’s product due to the long-tail ramifications of the initial selection.
“Long-tail ramifications”? Well, yes, but a “long tail” different from the one Chris Anderson wrote about a few years ago. The consequences of a platform’s selection will be around a long time, often much longer than imagined and well beyond that initial product. You and your channel partners will invest in the competencies required to support the new platform in marketing, product development, and customer service. You and your channel partners will also invest in product inventory, although software-only strategies can reduce that number, sometimes to zero. Since this big brontosaurus-like tail is so difficult to move, it will shape your marketing strategy, constraining your choices to those supported by today’s possibly narrowly focused selection. Once you’ve absorbed those large initial investments, moving to a new platform is a tough call. So, it pays to look beyond today’s requirements and do your best to cover tomorrow’s as well.
The best way to avoid being put into a box is to select a comprehensive, functionally open-ended telephony platform that requires no compromises today, yet has the architectural flexibility to support nearly any direction you care to take in the future.
Take, as an example (just to pick one at random), multi-line fax resources required for an enterprise server targeting the Fortune 1000 for use in IP networks. What requirements does this suggest?
- The platform must be robust, capable of continuous operation.
- The platform must be interoperable with a wide range of gateways and IP service providers.
- Name recognition is more important than price since the system’s average ticket will be over $30,000.
- The platform must support T.38; G.711 pass-through is not required, nor is support for other media.
You could meet these requirements by going with the incumbent, but what about the future? Let’s say you’ve discovered that with a growing partnership with a PBX manufacturer you see an opportunity to repurpose your enterprise-fax application for the small-medium enterprise as a software add-in to your partner’s UM subsystem. But the $450-plus per channel you’ve been paying for fax resources suddenly looms large, effectively nipping your idea in the bud.
Suppose you need to add voice to your product, possibly as a prompt to input an extension. Suddenly, your choice of a platform that can’t support voice shuts you out of that application.
Suppose you find that all the propaganda you’ve heard about G.711 pass-though being worthless in IP networks wasn’t true. Perhaps it’s as simple as the SIP-trunking service provider not offering T.38, yet always delivering error-free G.711 faxes or perhaps an enterprise customer using an IP PBX, which has yet to add T.38 support, as a gateway. Lack of G.711 support can hurt in unexpected ways.
Some software-only T.38 fax-resource products began as an emulation of a T.38-only hardware resource, so that’s all it does. Others are produced by organizations with no signal-processing skills, so they have no HMP fax modems. But there are fax-resource platforms that were built from the ground up as a scalable and extensible telephony platform, a platform that not only supports all the media-processing technologies you need now or in the future, but also what could become critical telephony functions for a new market initiative.
So, what might the additional requirements be? The best protection is to choose an open, extensible, general-purpose telephony platform-one that is architecturally open-ended. Of course, having the industry’s best fax technology at the best price is required for today’s requirement. But what about tomorrow’s?
Here are a few things to look for:
- Scalable to tens of thousands of channels.
- Support for both IP and TDM networks on the same platform at the same time.
- Support for G.711 pass-through fax.
- Support for SIP, but extensible to support other signaling (Woomera anyone?).
- Support for voice.
- Open and extensible in every dimension: media, system service, management, signaling, etc.