10/3/2005 - Uniqall made the fourth beta of its upcoming Gridborg HMP Server 1.1 software available for free evaluation and download. With T.38 FoIP (Fax over IP) working, the Gridborg Host Media Processing Server targets vendors of fax board-based applications who need to both cut prices and enable their products for the boardless VoIP world.
Although its earliest ancestor was invented in around 1840 by Scottish inventor Alexander Bain, it wasn't until 1970s when fax finally became a mass-market product. 25 years later, as email became mainstream, we were supposed to have paperless offices. Every man and his dog started calling for the imminent and rapid demise of the fax machine.
The problems with faxes are well known. One ends up with a lot of paper documents. They are difficult to route it to the designated person without someone else reading them along the way. Their quality is too often practically indecipherable. And even if received by a computer, it is next to impossible to search through the content.
Despite its problems, and unfortunately for the prophets, outside the IT world the fax is still very much alive and kicking. According to the recent NYT article citing the Consumer Electronics Association there were 1.5m stand-alone fax machines sold in the US alone in 2004. There were also another 0.5m of combo devices that do include copier, scanner, or printer as well. Although it is a far cry from the numbers sold in the 1999, that is still 2m fax-enabled devices.
Far too many for the technology that was 'supposed to be extinct' years ago. It seems that it is not so easy to send fax technology off to its overdue retirement when a fair percentage of your customers still 'receives' emails on a sheet of paper -- printed by an assistant, if they 'receive' them at all. It is going to change for sure. Hopefully, in less than another 25 years.
Fax server and unified messaging solutions that started to appear during 1990s, made some aspects of fax communications management much easier, lowered the time consumption associated with it, and reduced the number of paper documents hanging around the office.
These solutions were definitively a relief, at least to those deep-pocketed enterprises which were able to afford the huge price tag attached to them. That price tag was partly due to the extremely expensive specialized fax boards that such solutions were based on. There was little that fax server vendors could do about it. The port density and features of cheap commodity fax modems were insufficient, and reliability -- nonexistent.
The recent market proliferation of VoIP brings another problem to light: the need to attach those fax boards directly to analog or T1/E1 digital telephone lines made VoIP deployment within an enterprise more complicated and expensive than it should be.
Those who wish to move their enterprise to VoIP interconnection-enabled telco are facing a dilemma. One option is to leave the fax server as the only part that is still connected to the old provider's legacy analog or TDM interconnection, and in turn have a non-consolidated and more complex telephony infrastructure. Another option is to move the fax server too, by placing it behind a T.38 enabled VoIP gateway, which in turn increases the cost of the investment: after all, someone has to pay for that gateway too.
These problems are exactly where T.38 Fax over IP enabled HMP solutions, such as Uniqall's Gridborg HMP Server is, fit into the picture. By upgrading their products to support HMP in addition to fax boards that are already supported, fax server software vendors will ensure that their existing customers have a smooth and simple transition path once when they start their VoIP deployment.
The next step may easily be even more important for fax application vendors. Once HMP technology is incorporated there is very little if anything at all that prevents vendors from releasing stripped-down, software-only, versions of their products. Such versions will allow them to conquer market segments that were previously completely out of reach due to the disparity between what potential customers were willing to spend and the total price of expensive fax board-based solutions.
"Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, only a few enterprises can afford to be virtually fax free environments. Outside the IT world, the vast majority still depend heavily on fax technology in order to do their day-to-day business. With the inclusion of FoIP in Gridborg HMP Server, we are reaching fax software vendors whose products need to make that evolutionary step in order to keep existing customers happy -- and to acquire new customers who were previously priced out of market." said Drazen Dimoti, lead developer on Uniqall's Fax over IP effort. "It should also be noted that vendors of T.38 building blocks have to put in additional work to ensure standard compliance in order to avoid spoiling their own party. The current situation where it is common to find the 'compatibility switch' for vendor A in the configuration settings of vendor B, is a bit frustrating for everyone involved. The industry needs to have these interoperability kinks ironed out."
Other new and upcoming features in the Gridborg HMP Server 1.1 include support for plugable codecs, Redirect Number, and dramatically improved conferencing capabilities. Gridborg HMP 1.1 works on x86 processors within both Windows and Linux environments. Support for additional operating systems and processor architectures will follow in subsequent minor releases.
HMP (Host Media Processing) is the concept where both network connectivity and media processing are solved by software, thus freeing developers of computer telephony applications from the need of having expensive voice, conference, or fax cards included in the equation. Other HMP vendors include Intel/Dialogic, Eicon/SoftIP, Aculab/Prosody S, Brooktrout/Snowshore, NMS/PacketMedia and Commetrex/Bladeware.
About Uniqall, Inc.
Incorporated in the USA with headquarters and development in Zagreb, Croatia, Uniqall is the world's first Host Media Processing vendor with no legacy telephony board hardware business as well. With its low cost structure, Uniqall is dedicated to providing the best HMP products at extremely attractive prices.
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