Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Heading in both directions at once

Or, an alternative definition of the 'pushmi-pullyu'

I guess many of you will remember Doctor Dolittle, probably from the Rex Harrision film version, perhaps from the books of Hugh Lofting, maybe from the Eddie Murphy remake, surely not from Lotte Reiniger's silent animation. Whatever your vintage, it's the 'pushmi-pullyu' - that cross between a gazelle and a unicorn with two heads, one at each end - that challenges the imagination. A beast in eternal conflict; when it tries to move, both heads attempt to go in opposite directions. How could it make any progress?

Apply that analogy to the telecommunications market or the computer telephony market or unified communications - any label of your choice - and you might end up thinking, yes, we've got PSTN pulling one way and VoIP, let's say, pulling in the other direction. The one 'head' frantically resisting and the other, frankly irresistible.

What's really happening in the telephony market is definitely a 'pushmi-pullyu', but it's no longer a battle between opposing camps. What we see is that application developers are being asked by the market - their customers - to produce IP-centric voice and video systems. That's market 'pull'. At the same time, those very same developers are falling over themselves to offer IP-based, software-only, applications or service delivery platforms. They are 'pushing' those products onto or into the market place, because they are easier to create, sell, support and maintain. You'll note though, that they are not necessarily cheaper to buy. The end result is one party pushing with the other pulling - a 'pushmi-pullyu' where both 'heads' are going in the same direction. Magic!

Of course, vendors of enabling technology are playing their part, offering IP-based, software-only, media processing platforms with high-level APIs (C# or Python, for example). The media server or telephony engine may be drifting into the 'Cloud', but that is only one deployment option. It's a bit like saying, "premises-based CPE beats hosted delivery any day" - or vice versa. Neither statement is unconditional. Application developers who are focused on a physical, product-based model need a quicker route into the VoIP market. The greatest consumer of their time is coding and debugging so, for those guys, high-level APIs make sense, because they deliver a double bonus. Not only do they lend themselves to more rapid development, they also produce less code, which means a given 'app' is also far easier to debug.

So, who gets the last word? As Red Hot Chili Peppers sing, "Doctor Dolittle, what's your secret? Give it to me Doctor, don't keep it."

If you're looking to build telephony-enabled applications faster and more cost-effectively, give Aculab's new AMS Server a try.

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