The growing trend towards virtualisation seems to be affecting the unified communications market. Mitel has now taken its first steps down a virtualisation path.

The company has announced that it has integrated a range of its telecoms products with VMware's vSphere 4.0. Mitel has followed in the steps of Avaya which released its own virtualised unified comms system in October.

"We're very different from Avaya," said Alan Zurakowski - manager business development and strategic alliances at Mitel. " For one thing, we went with VMware, the company that owns either 85 percent or 89 percent of the market, while Avaya went with Xen/Citrix, which has little market share.  Secondly, Avaya has said that its server can only be reserved for Avaya applications, with our system you can run other applications - you can run it with SAP or Oracle for example." He pointed out that the company has stressed that its products were run on standard servers. "Unlike some unified comms companies," he said, "we made a conscious decision to run on standard servers. We started with Sun and now you can buy servers from the likes IBM, Dell and HP and get our software working within minutes.

The key problem facing any company looking to virtualise voice is trying to handle the latency issues. Zurakowski acknowledged that had been an issue. "We've been working with VMware on this for about 18 months, our R&D team looked at issues like latency and jitter and we made changes to Mitel Communications Director - the heartbeat of our products - to improve its real-time call-handling at about the same time that VMware made changes to vSphere." But it wasn't just about Mitel and VMware said Zurakowski. "The third event was that Intel came out with Nehalem range of processors that offered more powerful machines," he added.

He said that there were Mitel products that were being offered as virtual appliances: Unified Communicator (UC); Contact Center Solutions and Enterprise Manager. He said that the real benefits would come when MCD is released in the first quarter. "We still have some work to do," he said "We looking at things like VMotion, VMware's live migration software to check that our software works with that."