Building on a longstanding partnership to marry virtualization with unified communications applications, VMware and Mitel are unveiling technology that will enable voice communications through a virtualized desktop.
From a product perspective, Mitel (NASDAQ: MITL) will begin offering its Unified Communicator (UC) Advanced client software as an integrated application to run on VMware's (NYSE: VMW) View 5 desktop virtualization environment. This integration will enable mobile devices, soft phones and collaboration applications to run on a virtual desktop, the culmination of a significant technological and engineering effort to address the problems of latency and jitter that have delayed the implementation of voice services on virtualized machines.
"You can actually have telephony running in a virtual desktop," Alan Zurakowsky, Mitel's director of strategic alliances and business development, said in an interview. "We've basically applied some of the voice over IP design rules into a virtual desktop in a way that hasn't been done before."
Today's announcement, which will be accompanied by demonstrations at the VMworld 2011 conference this week in Las Vegas, marks the latest milestone in the four-year-old partnership between Mitel and VMware to virtualize voice communications, a step that both firms believe will dramatically increase the adoption of virtualization deployments in the enterprise.
The companies went public with their formal partnership in June of 2009, announcing for the first time their designs on the virtualized UC space. In October of that year, Mitel and VMware jointly announced the first fruits of their collaboration with Mitel Communications Director, billed as the industry's first real-time voice application created for VMware's vSphere 4 platform. Mitel announced general availability of the product the following February.
That brought Mitel's UC applications into the virtualized data center, running on industry-standard servers, but for reasons related to networking and call-routing architecture, the virtualized desktop was a tougher nut to crack, Zurakowsky explained. But in both cases the central challenge to overcome was eliminating latency and jitter in mission-critical streaming applications. In accessing other, traditional applications housed in a virtualized environment, the sequence and packaging of the ones and zeros didn't demand a high degree of specification, yet not so with real-time voice communications.
In addressing the latency challenge, Mitel aims to make VoIP just another feature that can be consolidated alongside non-mission-critical applications, in the process helping enterprises achieve the same cost savings that have been drawing businesses to virtualized environments. VMware, for its part, boasts that the migration to a virtualized desktop environment with its View product can lower the total cost of ownership by as much as 50 percent.
The partnership enabled "the synergy on the VMware side of the house they needed to get into this last vertical that they were not in," Zurakowsky said. For Mitel, the desktop virtualization extension figures to provide a foothold into one of the hottest segments in enterprise IT. The integration will give users access to the full complement of collaboration applications, including voice, video, instant messaging, and audio and Web conferencing.
Rich Costello, a senior research analyst at IDC, said the news marks "a significant step forward in the evolution of desktop virtualization."
"These new technology breakthroughs will help accelerate adoption of desktop virtualization," Costello said in a statement. "IT departments should begin evaluating how and when they should make the transition to this type of environment."
According to Zurakowsky, today's announcement will truly be the industry's first introduction to Mitel's UC product for the desktop virtualization environment. Mitel and VMware only recently completed the lab work on the product, and are bringing it to market without any trial customers on hand for testimonials or case studies.
"On the desktop side, we literally just got this up and running in the last couple months," he said.
At the same time, the product builds on the two companies' longstanding work on the data center solution, and Zurakowsky said it comes in response to "a lot of pent-up demand" for a desktop extension.
"One of the big questions that's been hanging out from the customers is when is voice going to be a part of [the desktop virtualization environment]," he said.
Looking ahead, in addition to the refining and general availability of the desktop virtualization integration, Mitel is looking to deepen its partnership with VMware on the cloud front.
"Offering UC as a cloud and having UC available as a cloud service is where we want to go from here," Zurakowsky said. "[We] want to have it available as a pubic cloud and have that bridged with View.
Additionally, he said the two companies will be working on a deeper integration with email, tapping into the Zimbra technology that VMware acquired from Yahoo last January.