Coming of Age: The Server-Based Turret System

Up until about a week ago, if you chanced to ask anyone at the world’s leading turret manufacturer about the efficacy of installing a server-based call control platform for traders we imagine the response would have been a curt “N-O!”

One-by-one the incumbents have moved in the server-based direction. In April of last year it was Orange Business Services, then British Telecom  announced the availability of a cloud-based platform, now, the lone holdout, IPC has announced that they will soon be in customer beta trials with their platform called Unigy. WCS, IP Trade (Belgium) and Speakerbus (United Kingdom) have all been on the server-based bandwagon for several years.

Anyone who has read “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore knows this is the normal course of things in technology. Incumbents are invested in maintaining the status quo. Along come the pesky disruptors evangelizing about a new and better (and often cheaper) way of doing things.

Most customers (all but the innovators and early adopter types) standby and watch the old guy and the new guy duke it out with bemused interest until (or if) the new approach gains a reasonable foothold. From there any number of things can happen from the incumbent buying the disruptor to the disruptor displacing the incumbent to the incumbent responding to the demand for innovation by finally developing their own version of the new platform.

This is what is playing out in the turret market as we speak. The incumbents are now “on board” that server-based systems are the way to go now that they have them on offer (or will shortly).

Server-based systems offer tremendous advantages to the customer in terms of reduced space and power footprint, flexible deployment options, scalability, software-based call control, resilience and so on and so forth. And let’s not forget it should have the potential to lower costs.

And it would seem for customers that all is now “okay” in the turret world. That they are “spoiled for choice” as it were. Six providers and six server-based systems. Different flavors of the same thing, almost. Just go ahead and pick one.

But all may not be as it seems.

Customers should be asking themselves (and their vendors) some questions.

For one, can one reasonably expect that the incumbents have re-calibrated their engineering and implementation/support teams to be able to deal with soft switch and IP networking technologies?

Second, will the incumbents, from a business model perspective, be capable (willing?) of passing on the economies they are realizing with introducing streamlined platforms. Customers should have a right to expect their acquisition and life cycle operating costs to go down in correlation with the reduction of  “big iron” to software-oriented platforms.

Third, while it is a relief that the end of the monolithic turret system era is on the horizon can you expect that these platforms will be “normalized” in the IT sense of the word? Specifically, take advantage of industry standard hardware, be switch-agnostic, run with reasonable power draws, provide scalability, resilience and extensibility and integration with enterprise applications, offer modern system management tools and all at justifiable price points?

Fourth, are these new server-based systems “trading floor tested?” The leap from a TDM to IP switching architecture, especially on the trading floor is considerable. At WCS, we have the luxury of marketing a server-based platform that has tens of thousands of nodes installed at enterprises of all types since 2001 and is in its’ 10th software release in partnership with a company, Mitel, that is allocating tens of millions of dollars annually into R&D.

Fifth, if you are a customer who is currently in the “buying mode” are you going to be a “guinea pig?” It takes time to train and more importantly, get the hands-on experience across-the-board. So if you are buying Orange’s  solution in Paris or IPC’s in New York (where their respective core engineering and technical teams are stationed) you can seek comfort in being near the epicenter of expertise and support. What if, though, you are in a far off locale and there are teething problems?

All in all, whichever path makes the most sense, customers are finally benefiting from a much-needed progression away of antiquated, proprietary switching platforms toward more scalable, open systems.

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Date: Wednesday, 9. March 2011 16:52
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