With the announcement of the world’s first “Software Intercom Server” (SIS) at this year’s Intertraffic trade fair, market leader Commend has set a milestone in the industry. Both market interest and customer feedback have been excellent, and first projects are already in the planning stage. The purely software-based solution for virtual IT infrastructures will pack the full functionality of a hardware server into VMware and Citrix environments. The latest addition to the Commend Intercom Server range will have its market premiere next year.
As a hub that manages all data flows between the Control Desk and connected subscriber units (e.g. Intercom stations, alarms, Public Address systems, emergency call stations, security and building management equipment), the Intercom Server is the core element of any networked Intercom solution. Accordingly, the market requirements imposed on the world’s first 100% software-based server of this kind were very high, as were the technical challenges.
Hardware in a software housing
By now, the first major obstacles have been cleared, and one key goal has been achieved: the SIS provides the full range of functions of a GE 800, the flagship in Commend’s hardware server portfolio. “It sounds easier than it is ‒ after all, the software-based server must provide the same level of performance as our dedicated high-quality hardware,” explains Florian Floimair, Team Leader for Software Development at Commend. “But for us as software developers it was a dream come true.”
For the first time, the SIS will also fulfil the common customer request for an Intercom solution that requires no extra hardware installations while making use of available virtualisation environments with all their benefits. Secure, reliable communication is essential for most business processes, and a deciding factor for business success. High availability, as provided by the SIS, is a perfect answer to this trend.
Apart from high fail safety, the SIS solution helps to save installation and maintenance costs, as well as energy and server space requirements. To suit individual spatial conditions, various combinations of software and hardware servers are supported.
Virtual server environment, real security
The SIS will run in the latest versionas of VMware® and Citrix® environments (currently VMware® vSphere™ 5 and Citrix® XenServer® 6). This means it will support the two by far most common server platforms, which represent a total market share of over 80%. A key benefit lies in the ability to make use of the existing security mechanisms provided by these platforms. Both VMware® and Citrix® offer license-based high availability options for this purpose, from which Intercom users can benefit as well. “High Availability” ensures that in the event of a server failure a standby server takes will take over in a matter of seconds; although any active connections are lost in this case, users can re-establish them almost instantly. VMware® also offers an even more convenient solution: its “Fault Tolerance” feature ensures a smooth, uninterrupted switch-over to the standby server, so that Intercom users will not even notice the fault.
Full power, fully networked
Of course, the SIS will support the full range of Commend Intercom 2.0 functions, including 16 kHz high-definition audio, video support, Intercom over IP®, and so on. If required, the SIS will manage the individually licensed number of Intercom subscribers across several virtual machines or several instances on the same virtual machine.
As a purely IP-based Intercom Server, the SIS supports all kinds of implementation, from software.only server operation to combinations with various hardware Intercom Servers of the Commend product range. Even analogue and digital Intercom stations (2-wire ad 4-wire connections) integrate easily into the virtual server infrastructure by way of a simple converter module. But flexibility does not end here: like its hardware equivalents, the SIS can use Commend’s intelligent, open interfaces to provide control of third-party systems, from building management equipment to video recording solutions.
Remarkably, despite the high-performance profile of the SIS, the Commend engineers have managed to keep its CPU and memory resource requirements at negligibly low levels.
Turning Intercom virtuality into reality
The market launch of the SIS (with a first beta version) will be next year. Meanwhile, Florian Floimair and his team are already thinking further ahead. “We’ve got quite a few aces up our sleeves for future versions,” he says with a smile. Commend customers have a lot to look forward to, as these are certain to add some stunning new dimensions to the world of Intercom.