Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Fax server developers looking for the most cost effective development platform should see what Aculab has to offer

Aculab may be better known for voice applications where our award winning hardware and software is used as the core technology to power contact centre IVR systems, voice conferencing servers, etcetera, but perhaps less well known is the fact that those very same media processing hardware boards (Prosody X) and host media processing software (Prosody S) also support many other functionalities:
  • Modem protocol support (wide-ranging support for ITU-T V series modem protocols) and V.150.1 Modem over IP (MoIP)
  • Video communications (RTP-based video sessions, H.263 and H.264 packetisation)
  • Full SIP stack, unique SIP redundancy capability, and H.323 call control
  • Full range of fax capabilities (T.30, T.38 up to V.34 speed, G.711 fax pass-through)
This post describes the fax solutions available from Aculab.

For best flexibility and cost-effectiveness use a software solution
As communications platforms evolve to become fully IP-based, a shift is taking place in favour of software solutions. A modern server with a multi-core processor is more than capable of running the application code and handling all the media processing work required. The good news for Aculab customers is that we have a common API for our hardware and software products so there is no learning curve to moving from one to the other, and in addition, the features are common between the software and hardware approaches.

Whilst other vendors of media processing hardware and software sell fax features separately, with Aculab, you get all the standard voice communications capability, including fax, at one low price. Why do we do this, you may ask? Well the answer is that we wish to develop long term business relationships. We aim to provide the utmost in flexibility and ease of use with our products and we know that whilst our customers may initially develop a voice platform, the next project might be something completely different – such as a fax server.

Because we offer the full range of capability and back that up with a full suite of support services, all at a very cost-effective price point, we don’t tend to get involved in rebate programs. We can offer truly cost-effective media processing software without offering to buy back your old fax boards. Our fax offering provides the full range of features you may need for a fax server deployment and our architecture means that large systems are not a problem. We can support 1600 T.38 fax channels on a single (typical) server running Linux and our distributed architecture capability allows multi-server systems.

If you just need a few channels, that is not a problem either as with Prosody S, you can buy the number of channels you need.

Given that our Prosody S software is priced on a per channel basis, it offers the most cost-effective approach for fax server developers. If you only need a 100 channel server, then just purchase 100 channels – for less than $4000, if you only need 10 channels, then that’s less than $400! Can you get a reliable fax board or a fully-supported (non- open source) software solution for that price?

Prosody S fax features in more detail
There are two ways to achieve fax communications using a software-only solution – T.38 and T.30 over IP – Aculab’s Prosody S supports both options.

T.38 fax over IP
The T.30 fax protocol used by fax machines expects a ‘nailed-up’ TDM timeslot for a fax session. Historically, sending fax traffic over the Internet with its inherent lack of control over packet loss, jitter and delay has meant that many organisations have kept a single analogue phone line for their fax machine as the rest of their communications has moved on to an IP-based solution. The T.38 protocol was created to solve the issue, and provides truly reliable faxing over a fully IP network. Aculab’s Prosody S supports the T.38 protocol at its highest speed of 33.6kbit/s (V.34).

T.30 fax over IP/RTP connection
T.30 faxing is normally associated with hardware-based platforms as T.30 is the protocol used to connect fax machines to the PSTN over a TDM link. However, if the IP-based fax server application can mislead the fax machine into thinking it is connected to a TDM timeslot, then an alternative to T.38 is possible. Prosody S supports this mode, which is also known as fax ‘pass-through’, by supporting the modem protocols V.17, V.27 and V.29. The analogue fax machine is able to set up a modem handshake to the IP-based fax server, which then encapsulates the modem signal into IP/RTP packets for onward transmission.

For networks that do not yet support T.38, this is a useful feature to have.

Ease of use
Aculab’s hardware and software media processing products use C APIs, which are fully documented and backed up by our dedicated support teams. We provide assistance to get you up to speed and support if you find issues along the way. If you are used to developing to other vendors’ C APIs then you will have no problem with ours.

But there’s more – we are always trying to make our products easy to use and have just launched a new product, AMS Server, that enables developers to produce applications much quicker using familiar, high-level C# (.NET) or Python APIs. This means that AMS Server users can get on with the job of building their own VoIP and IP-based communications products and focus on the end result, rather than the underlying telephony and media processing. The first version of AMS Server is available now – fax functionality is on the roadmap.

If you are in the market for a fax development platform, then take a look at Aculab – we have the functionality you will need, our prices are some of the best you will see, and a transition to a new vendor from your existing supplier might not be as hard as you imagined.

About me
Andrew Nicholson is a Product Manager at Aculab responsible for the Prosody X and Prosody S media processing products. You can contact me here. Alternatively, follow Aculab using our Twitter account, Aculab.

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