Why SOA, VOIP will converge

There are too many opportunities to ignore the amalgamation of voice and data networking

A dozen years ago, I wrote a Byte cover story on the subject of computer-telephony integration. CTI was "right around the corner" back then. Every time I revisit the subject I conclude that, regrettably, it still is.

Voice and data networking remain two different cultures that have so far failed spectacularly to come together. But I'm stubbornly optimistic that, sooner or later, they will. There are too many opportunities to ignore, and those opportunities multiply as service orientation takes hold.

Consider a business process that's been automated, SOA-style. A BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) script orchestrates the flow of XML payloads through a sequence of steps, untouched by human hands, until an exception occurs. In all such workflows, people are the exception handlers of last resort.

How does the process that raised the exception kick off a meeting between the requester of a purchase order and its approver? Today the most likely method would be to set up a call in a conference bridge and then e-mail invitations to the two parties. But although computers are supposed to be our intelligent assistants, an intelligent human assistant would set up the conference call between the parties.

According to Mark Ericson, director of SOA product strategy at BlueNote Networks, setting up that call in response to a BPEL exception is exactly the kind of thing that BlueNote's SessionSuite SOA Edition is designed to do.

What's intriguing about this scenario is that, as with Amazon's Mechanical Turk, it enables a software-based service to call on the services of humans. In the case of MTurk, an application creates a HIT (human intelligence task) that a human worker accepts, performs, and submits. To the application, this just looks like an asynchronous request. It polls for a response or arranges to be notified in an event-driven manner, but in either case the service provided by the human looks no different to the application than would a service provided by another piece of software.

In a world where SOA and VOIP work hand in hand, more natural scenarios become possible. I have, for example, been dealing with a stalled purchase order of my own for several days. The business rule says that I have to contact two parties, who must in turn reach an agreement. But we've all been playing voice-mail or e-mail tag, and so far we haven't managed to close the loop. It's admittedly creepy to imagine empowering that business rule to detect our common availability, initiate a conference call, and receive a signal from us that tells it to proceed. But the alternative that we constantly endure is arguably worse.

BlueNote's product can't do all of this yet. Even if it could, VOIP infrastructure isn't deployed widely enough and isn't interoperable enough to make this kind of scenario routine. But the vision of a common framework for process-to-process, process-to-human, and human-to-human communication is compelling.

The genius of REST (Representational State Transfer) is that it's a mode of communication equally accessible to programs and humans. To software, a URL is a method call. To a person, it's a bookmark that can be saved, traded, and tagged. VOIP/SOA convergence aims for a similar kind of duality. Programs may not ever understand what we're saying on the voice channel. But when voice and data share a common application context, our software agents will seem smarter and will be more helpful.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Udell

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?