Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SmartSIP fills the gap and more

I spent some time in Redmond recently and had the pleasure of finally meeting Mike Stacy from Evangelyze Communications (http://www.evangelyze.net/). Like many other relationships formed with the power of Microsoft's Unified Communications platform, it was great chatting and talking over Communicator but being there in person has it's benefits as well.

Mike introduced me to a software application called SmartSIP which is the focus of my post today. I'll be posting a lot more in the coming months about this product's capabilities so be sure to check back frequently.

I want to start off by talking about some of the limitations within OCS today. Some of these are truely "deployment blockers" for some of our clients. I'll then talk about how SmartSIP can solve some of these.
  1. The Mediation Server role in OCS can only have one "next hop relationship". This means that if you have a voice gateway connected to a PRI and a SIP Trunk from a provider like Thinktel (http://www.thinktel.ca/), you need two Mediation Servers.
  2. An OCS user can have only one LINE URI (phone number).
  3. Mirosoft's solution to "branch office survivability" is to install an OCS/Mediation server locally.
  4. There is only one IP phone solution available from Microsoft's list of "optimized devices".
  5. You can't connect other IP phone solutions to OCS and there are no OIP certified solutions that support RCC/DF.
  6. The solutions available for shared phone situations often involve the use of a Polycom cx700 IP phone which is not only expensive, it's impracticle for many situations. You wouldn't want to install a cx700 in an elevator or have one in a lunch room. The phone is an "executive style" touch screen IP phone that has great purpose on the desk of a UC enabled user. 
SmartSIP isn't a gateway, it isn't an IP PBX, and it isn't easily classified. You install SmartSIP on your Mediation server (or a stand-alone server) and now you're open to all kinds of new solutions:
  1. You can send calls to one Mediation server and have multiple routes (primary or failover) to various IP endpoints. For example, a call made past the Mediation server can end up with SmartSIP deciding where to send the call based on the number dialed or if the next hop(s) are up.
  2. If you want to assign alternate numbers to an OCS user, you simply define them in the AD user account properties (click the "other" button in the telephone field). SmartSIP has tight integration with Active Directory so it knows that a call to an alternate extension or DID should be sent to an endpoint.
  3. In the case of an outage to OCS, your local IP phones (except the cx700) can talk/register directly to SmartSIP and use it as the routing engine for outbound calls. This means you have a branch office survivability solution without the need for an OCS server.
  4. If you can load a SIP stack on an IP phone you can probably use it with OCS. I'm particularly happy about this feature since many customers may want to leverage the benefits of OCS but don't want to lose the investment in their existing IP phones.
  5. If you want presence on your IP phone you can have it. Actually you can get presence on your TDM phone too with the use of a Portico TVA gateway.
I've posted in the past about how SNOM (http://www.snom.com/) has come up with a brilliant solution for OCS deployments with their firmware that signs into AD/OCS. It isn't without it's challenges as well. For example, you end up with a user's id/password in the phone....so what happens when they change their password? The phone won't work.

The better way to use the SNOM phones is to have them register with SmartSIP using the regular, non-OCS firmware. Also, SmartSIP has a TFTP server built in and will support automatic provisioning of the phones!!

Okay, that's enough for today. Stay tuned for more soon...


  1. Great stuff. Would this work to integrate the pile of Polycom IP4000s I have in use?

    Currently we route the calls to OCS trough PRI-trunking from the legacy IP-PBX to the primary M1k gateway. Yuck.

  2. I don't see why not. I have a few IP phones working with SmartSIP now.

    One of the best benefits is that you get presence on the phone as well which isn't something you can do today with R2 natively since nobody is certified to do RCC.