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Virtualization – Does All Custom Hardware Eventually Become Obsolete?

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Virtual servers have become the rule rather than the exception in most IT organizations. So when applications that do not support virtualization need to be deployed, they may stand out as being behind the times, which may also be perceived as a negative.

Today's unified communication systems have their roots in proprietary PBX designs where racks of custom hardware were the norm. We have come along way to where today's UC applications can be virtualized to a large extent.

But there seem to be some resistant outposts that are worth a further look.

Some modalities of unified communication are not sensitive to latency – instant messages, presence updates, emails – these generally happen in a timely manner without users being impacted by delays.

When it comes to voice and video communications, users are very sensitive to the slightest delays, gaps or break-ups, and these modes absolutely need to be implemented very carefully.

By their nature virtualized resources are shared across multiple applications, which can conflict directly with the dedicated resources required by real-time communications, like voice and video, to guarantee performance. As Moore's law continues to hold true, we will likely see virtualization technology evolve to the point where an application can be guaranteed real-time performance even while sharing resources with other applications.

Additionally, where we see transitions between the IP domain and physical trunks (PRI and/or analog), generic computing resources cannot address this and proprietary hardware like gateways will continue to be a part of a unified communication solution if such legacy trunks are required. Conversely, by deploying SIP trunks, which are IP based, it is actually possible today to deploy fully virtualized UC solutions.

We are in a transition period where most UC solutions still require some custom hardware but these requirements will certainly diminish over time.