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July 19, 2011

Using Microsoft UCMA in the post-PBX world

Continuing to guest blog for Tom Cross on http://crosstalk-techtionary.blogspot.com/, below is my second installment:

IVR Affordable Solutions Using UCMA - Affordable UCMA in the Post-PBX World Part 2

So what is UCMA and why should you care? According to Microsoft , it is "a managed-code platform that developers use to build applications that provide access to and control over Microsoft Enhanced Presence information, instant messaging, telephone and video calls, and audio/video conferencing."

Given that you are reading this newsletter, you might actually know what that means, but I'm going to try to make it just a little more clear for everyone else. UCMA is software, written by Microsoft, that other software developers use to create their own applications that interact with Lync in some way. Most software today is built on other pieces of software, provided by Microsoft or other vendors. We talked about reusable code for years, and now we have it.

UCMA stands for Unified Communications Managed API. It's one of those great acronyms that actually contains another acronym, in this case API, which stands for Application Programming Interface.

Let's say I want to write a simple help desk application. Maybe I have agents in different locations, but they all are using Lync, and I want to know if we ever get into a situation where there are fewer than five agents available to take a call. (Or an email, or IM, it doesn't really matter.) Using the UCMA API, I can write software that tells Lync that I want to know whenever an agent is available. The API is really just a way for my code to talk Microsoft's code. They worry about the mechanics of communicating with Lync, while I code up the business logic. I write code that keeps track of how many agents are available and how I want to notify a supervisor if we run out of agents. Microsoft's code handles everything else behind the scenes.

Just about anything that can be done by a user of Lync, can also be done by software using UCMA. Just as a user can make a phone call or an IM, so can my software application, courtesy of UCMA. Sometimes you'll hear people mention the UCMA SDK. That's just packaging around UCMA that makes it easy for a software engineer to access the API from their development environment.

UCMA isn't just for building simple applications; in fact it can be used to build completely new products. At Gold Systems, we've built the first UC-Enabled IVR that works with both Microsoft Tellme in the cloud as well as on premises with, or without, Microsoft Lync. UCMA includes a speech engine, a text-to-speech engine, as well as all the telephony capabilities we needed to build our product, Vonetix 7 Voice. For us, this means that we can sell a product that is much more capable than the legacy IVR products on the market today, and we can sell it at less than half the price because we do not need to pay expensive speech engine licenses to a third party.

For our customers, that means that they now have an IVR option that was designed to work with their Lync environment. For our customer's customers, it means we can create applications that are more "personable" and that are more satisfying to use than the traditional legacy IVR.

Other ISVs are exploring what can be done with UCMA too, and I believe that this will be what makes Lync successful. Microsoft will continue to build out the core product, and companies like Gold Systems will build around the edges creating new products that just can't be created with the old PBXs that I started my career working on.

Ultimately UCMA is about making Lync even more capable, more affordable and extending it in ways that fit the desires of the customers who buy it. Try calling up your PBX vendor and telling them you don't like the way they designed call routing. And not only that, but you want your own software developer to have access to their code so that you can just get in there and do it right. You can do that with Lync, thanks to UCMA.


July 19, 2011 in Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack