Random thoughts from an unusual company

SUT - Are You Sure?

Gabriella Davis  3 February 2010 23:53:09
I've had a lot of conversations since Lotusphere with customers about SUT (Sametime Unified Telephony), everyone seems excited by it and lots of people want it.  I think somewhere along the way the IBM message about SUT got a bit confused and a lot of people asking for "SUT" actually want and need something different.  So - in my words - here are some options for Audio / Video and Telephony in Sametime.

Option 1:  TCSPI - This ISN'T what IBM is calling SUT
This is a SDK for developing connectivity between your Sametime server, be it SIP, proprietary API or other.  In 8.5 this was extended by IBM to include Video.  Getting someone like Carl Tyler and his team at Epilio to develop a TCSPI solution for you to connect to the services you want to use can give you "click to call" from the Sametime buddy list as well as Audio and Video conferencing in your meetings.  TCSPI is the only interface that exposes telephony capabilities in Sametime Meetings for 8.5 and earlier releases. TCSPI can be used to develop a custom solution for you and has been around in Sametime since 3.0 so if you already have a TCSPI solution it may well still work in Sametime 8.5.  You should also check with your telephony vendor as many of them have TCSPI solutions already developed that you can purchase.

This is available as part of the Sametime Standard licensing.

Option 2: SIP Client - This ISN'T what IBM is calling SUT
The Sametime connect client can now act as a SIP endpoint for other audio or video services that want to connect to it directly.  This is new with Sametime Connect 8.5 .

This is available as part of the Sametime Standard Licensing

Option 3 & 4: TAS - Telephony Application Server and TCS - Telephony Control Server - These ARE what IBM is calling SUT
This is the really cool stuff you see IBM demoing on stage - you know, the routing of calls between mobile and desk and headset, the softphone on your desktop, the logical rules that know which phone to ring when someone is trying to find you?  All that stuff is SUT and that's what TAS and TCS provide.  Here is an extract from this IBM whitepaper explaining the roles of each:

•        Telephony Application Server (TAS). It’s responsible for providing telephony services to Sametime clients, including voice presence aggregation, call management, a rules engine for call routing, voice calling and conferencing capabilities.

•        Telephony Control Server (TCS). It’s a carrier- grade telephony appliance that’s responsible for connecting to Media Servers, SIP Conference Bridges, SIP Softswitches, SIP Gateways, and TAS’s. The TCS provides the unified number facility, also known as a "one-number service", that lets you have a single telephone number for routing calls to any of your telephony devices.

Apparently the Sametime team envisage offering in the future the TAS solution separate from the TCS hardware/software, allowing it to connect to any PBX you want to use, but that's not in the immediate future.

SUT requires separate licensing above that of Sametime Standard and called Sametime SUT licensing.  Currently TAS and TCS are sold together and although they are on Passport Advantage as products (at 100 USD per user and 50 USD per user each), they are restricted and can't be seen or ordered as they can only be deployed by certified partners.   The only certified partner that currently exists is IBM Global Consulting.  This is primarily due to the enormous amount of hardware and telephone knowledge (it installs on specific IBM servers) that is needed currently to install and configure the two products.  

Another quote from the whitepaper:

"The TCS is installed as an appliance in full duplex mode and runs on specific IBM 3650T hardware to provide certified carrier-grade reliability. Each pair can host up to 100,000 subscribers. "

So currently it looks like deploying SUT is really something only very large companies would consider but that doesn't leave everyone else out, there are still plenty of options with TCSPI and SUT-like services developed from Cisco and Broadvision etc that you can look into. In fact if what you want is click to call and audio / video in meetings you don't want SUT right now you want a TCSPI solution.  

Does that help clear things up or make them more muddy?   :-)