May the PBX rest in peace

While attending Enterprise Connect in Orlando last week, I was struck by how often I still hear the use of the term “PBX.” The PBX as we once knew it is long gone. Enterprise Communications today is all software. But let’s be honest, the only way software has any utility is when it is running on hardware. What’s different from the old days of the PBX is that the software now runs on commercial off the shelf hardware. A vendor may sell the communication solution as a hardened, turnkey package of hardware and software in some cases, or alternatively, as software-only to run on customer-provided servers that meet the vendor’s specifications.

This move to software is precisely what Avaya did in 2002 when it moved from Definity to Communication Manager. This software approach led the way to Avaya introducing the first enterprise class communication solution in a 3-tiered architecture based on IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) principles in 2009.

It is this software approach that made it possible to virtualize communication services. Beginning in 2006, Avaya introduced virtualized solutions in an appliance based package. These early pursuits allowed Avaya to deliver a virtualized solution for real time communications while the virtualization platforms used for non-real-time applications were still maturing. More recently, Avaya applications are now supported on VMware — which has become the common operating environment for data centers run by many enterprises and service providers.

The other signal that shows that we’ve moved far beyond the PBX is the expanse of collaboration applications and enterprise use cases that are now supported. Avaya’s recently launched Suite packaging and pricing is a fitting example. Avaya Aura Foundation Suite is now the base level software package that meets entry level communication needs. Avaya Aura Foundation Suite includes the voice services that one typically associates with a PBX, but riding on a more flexible, SIP-based session management based platform, along with video services, instant messaging, presence, voice mail and the PC client for typical deskphone functionality.

The next option up, the Avaya Aura Mobility Suite offers all of above, and provides the empowerment to work from anywhere. It has the software for fixed mobile convergence that provides users with a single number and single mailbox to support campus roamers, teleworkers, and road warriors to securely connect to the enterprise from anywhere. This includes software for a variety of smartphones and tablets such as the Apple iPad — be they company provided or in support of BYOD initiatives — that keeps people connected, available, and responsive. The Mobility Suite also includes Unified Messaging and a speech recognition-based personal assistant to drive employee productivity.

Building on the Foundational and Mobility suites, the Avaya Aura Collaboration suite provides users with virtual meeting rooms for audio, web, and video conferencing facilitating both ad hoc or scheduled collaboration sessions. Not only does this collaboration software help organizations reduce travel costs and the expense of using independent third party over the top services, but the user experiences and management are integrated with the experiences provided with the Foundation and Mobility suites. The virtual meeting room concept is one that we’ve been using for audio and web conferencing for years, now applies to video conferencing. Users can now be assigned a video “virtual” room and it is there for their use any time they need it. All of these suites are integrated with each other, meaning enterprises can segment their employees by their typical collaboration needs and still have shared user experiences and common management across the suites.

The same Avaya Aura platform that supports all these collaboration applications also supports a range of multi-channel contact center applications designed to help the enterprise manage the customer experience and improve key metrics such as net promoter score. The suite includes multi-modal automated and assisted service with experience orchestration tools, performance, reporting, workforce optimization, and open integrations.

So, considering the software-based approach to today’s communication systems and factor in the breadth of functionality enabled by the software, how could we possibly refer to it as a PBX? While old habits die hard, if you must call it a “PBX”, at least do so knowing that it is not your grandfather’s PBX. Rather, we have moved into the age of “Collaboration Platform” … may the PBX rest in peace.

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