Compaq and Lucent Team for Unified Messaging

Compaq Computer Corp. and Lucent Technologies ( have allied to offer a unified messaging solution. The plan calls for integrating voice mail messages with e-mail and fax messages via Microsoft Exchange.

Under terms of the agreement, Lucent has acquired technology in development from Compaq, but both companies will offer the solution based on that technology, as well as Compaq ProLiant servers running Windows NT and Exchange and Lucent’s Octel 400 server.

The result will allow end users to receive all messages -- e-mail, voice and fax -- through the Outlook client that connects to the Exchange server and an Octel server. Messages can be received and responded to in either text or voice formats.

For administrators, the solution offers a single point of management for fax, voice and e-mail messaging. By running all messaging through Exchange, administrators and end users gain many of the advantages of the software program, such as archiving, storing, easy replies, forwarding, editing messages and then forwarding them, broadcasting messages and including text with a voice message.

"Instead of having a telecom group and a LAN group companies can manage both through one system, so it’s easier and more efficient," says Blair Pleasant, director of communications analysis at the Polaris Group (

One of the biggest reasons IT departments have been slow to implement this technology is reliability. If both voice mail and e-mail reside on one system and that system goes down, a company is stymied. Lucent and Compaq, however, say this solution includes fail-over clustering. If the Exchange server fails, the Octel server still handles the phone lines.

The two companies claim another reason for the slow adoption of unified messaging is the complexity of purchasing a solution.

"It hasn’t been clear enough to customers how to build or buy unified messaging. Customers don’t know what to buy or from whom, and they’re uncomfortable with the certification of which parts work together," says Lex Dekker, director of Compaq’s messaging and collaboration unit. "We’re trying to take the magic out of unified messaging systems."

Eric Arnum, industry analyst and editor of the newsletter Electronic Mail and Messaging Systems, says this is a breakdown in the east-is-east and west-is-west division between text and voice messaging.

"Trying to make voice mail grow up to be like e-mail is a challenge," he says. "Voice mail makers, like Lucent with its purchase of Octel, realized that they couldn’t build a better voice mail system capable of handling text than Exchange and its contemporaries. So they partnered with Compaq to take advantage of e-mail systems optimized for voice messages."

Lucent’s general manager of unified messaging business, Vinnie Deschamps, says the cost per user for a complete system will be less than $200.

According to a study by the Radicati Group Inc. (, an independent market research firm, employees using this solution average one half hour more productivity every day.

But in the end, analysts agree that Lucent and Compaq face the question of whether companies are ready for this type of solution.

"The technology is here now, so its not a matter of technology," Polaris’ Pleasant says.