Enterprises can now combine VMware View 5 virtual desktops and virtual softphone systems into one environment, giving IT departments fewer devices to manage.
Companies already use virtual desktops and virtual PBXes, but because voice data can't have any lag, unified contact centers are separated from the virtual desktop environment to ensure that the real-time voice packets aren't choppy or delayed.
Mitel Networks Corp. and VMware Inc. now offer the ability to use a softphone's unified contact center application through a virtual desktop client. Mitel has integrated its Contact Center softphone client with VMware View 5.0, which the two companies describe as a VoIP advancement.
"Now, when you log into the View client you simultaneously log into the corporate phone and the extension comes alive," said Stephen Beamish, Mitel's vice president of business development. "There's no additional software or configuration."
Industry watchers say the ability to provide the combination of a virtualized softphone and desktop should become a standard unified communications option within 12-18 months -- if the performance is as good as Mitel claims it is.
Not everybody will merge virtual desktops with voice communications systems, in part because it could take some time to understand its full business impact, said Brian Riggs, an analyst with Current Analysis, a telecom research firm based in Washington, D.C.
But, he added, "if SMBs or enterprises are thinking about a desktop virtualization initiative, why wouldn't they marry a virtual [unified communication] initiative to it?"
A combined virtual desktop-communications system will benefit companies that have already committed themselves to VMware-centric virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) initiatives. In broader strokes, the combination of VDI and softphones into a single environment gives IT departments fewer systems and less hardware to manage, Riggs said.
Over time, this should help businesses lower costs and make life easier for their IT departments when it comes to security and administration for large call centers and remote or mobile workforces, some IT pros said.
Tim Maio, co-founder of Fuse Networks, an IT solutions provider based in Seattle, Wash., believes this is "a no-brainer" for businesses already relying on thin clients or ones with a high percentage of remote and mobile employees.
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"Device management is a pain," Maio said. Between voice and data there are too many moving parts involved to provide his customers an efficient service. Fuse Networks will now be able to provide a "centralized, plug-and-play box of technology goodies" to its customers, he said.
"We want to reduce the number of devices businesses have to use and lower the cost of managing that equipment," Maio said. "Running VMware View on a thin client and extending the Mitel [virtual softphone] is pretty exciting because it does just that.
"Now businesses just need a thin client and a headset for employees' desktop and voice," he added.
Mitel also created the ability to extend its virtualized phone environment out to mobile devices by building apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Beamish said as long as employees have a connected headset, access to a mobile device with the Unified Communicator Advanced app installed or a laptop with the View client, workers can use their corporate phone number anywhere there's 3G or Wi-Fi.
"We've taken geography out of the communications equation," was how Beamish put it.
Currently, business calls can be received on any mobile phone running the Mitel app through the virtual PBX. Calls out can be made on BlackBerry phones, while Mitel is working to bring this feature to Android and iOS. The company did not have a time frame for when this would be available.
Mitel's Contact Center Softphone with VMware View integration is a one-time $175 per user fee.