HP Ships Voice and Data in One Server

Earlier this month Hewlett-Packard Co. shipped the HP Business Communications Server (HP BCS), a product of the Nortel Networks Inc. (www.nortel.com), Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and HP partnership announced in March.

The HP BCS system provides an integrated voice and data communications platform. The platform combines Nortel Networks’ Voice Product Portfolio with a server that addresses business application and Internet needs.

"The system is designed to combine data functions with telephony functions in a single NT server," says Mark Rosenblum, a director of product development at HP.

The HP BCS system, for instance, has telephony applications such as basic telephony, voice mail, email, an Intranet VOIP gateway, unified messaging, IP telephony, call-center control and auto-attendant applications.

"We’ve taken the features of traditional PBXs and included a full NT server in the box," says Dan Abouav, HP’s director of strategic programs. "So in addition to the PBX, there is a total data server that has 100 percent of its bandwidth allocated for data."

The biggest concern with using Windows NT servers is the product’s notorious reliability problems. Many companies are unwilling to subject their normally very reliable PBX systems to the unpredictability of Windows NT.

Although HP BCS does not guarantee the uptime of Windows NT, most of the telephony aspects of this solution can run if the server crashes.

"The design objective of this solution is that regardless of what you’re doing on the NT server the telephony will still work -- so the telephony is independent of NT Server," Abouav says.

If the Windows NT server is down, either for routine reboots or because it crashes, the telephony works in the sense that an employee on the phone at the time the server is down will not notice a difference in the telephony itself. When that employee finishes the phone call, though, and tries to retrieve a message via Microsoft Exchange, they will notice that the server is down, and not be able to receive those messages.

The initial markets HP will target with this server are remote and branch offices within large enterprises, as well as small- to mid-sized businesses.

In the coming months HP plans to add local mobility functionality to the server. In a minicellular fashion, users will be able to roam around LANs with wireless phones and other devices while accessing the server and their messages.