ShoreTel V14 Real-time Diagnostic and Monitoring Dashboard

I am found of repeating that “product development is a process not an event”!   Though the marketing folks need to package, position and promote products based on feature sets, generally products emerge over time.   Building on previous releases, customer feed back and recommendations, products continue to emerge with new functionality.    Most product development focuses on features that have market demand or differentiate one product from another.   Occasionally, a new product feature is targeted at someone other than an end user.   Engineers and Technicians are typically the last group of people to get a feature developed that makes their lives a bit more easy.   Such is the case for ShoreTel Version 14 and the introduction of  a “Diagnostic and Monitoring” tool!
The latest Version of ShoreTel has added a capability that we think is essential in iPBX technology as SIP becomes more of a standard.   If you have ever attempted to trouble shoot SIP without the ability to do packet capture, you will know how valuable this feature set is.    CISCO long ago had RMTM tools as a standard part of a Call Manager deployment.   ShoreTel has now added that functionality to its standard product offering and it is dramatic!   Now part of the ShoreWareDirector user interface, the Diagnostic Monitoring tool is a complete glass cockpit with a variety of monitoring tools.  These tools include real time status updates of system  areas including connections, trunk groups, bandwidth utilization, voice quality, switch status and service conditions.   Combining “Quick View”, with other tools that previously required loading  modules or a putty session,  the Diagnostic Monitoring center is a self navigation center for trouble shooting.
We are particularly excited about the “remote packet capture” feature of the Diagnostic tools.    This tool enables you to remotely capture packets and bring them to a local pcap file.   You are offered the opportunity to capture everything or limit your capture to specific areas of interest.  For example, if you want to capture only SIP packets related to the ShoreGear switch you are running your SIP Proxies on, the diagnostic tool set lets you select these options.  The files are WireShark compatible and if you have that application on your server, a simple click will launch the application and bring up your capture for analysis.   This is a very power capability and simplifies some of the issues associated with setting up WireShark for remote capture.   We think this feature set was long over due, but we are just mere engineers, what do we know!

ShoreTel Version 14.2 is “Virtually there”!

We have previously argued that ShoreTel should shed the hardware business and focus on software development only.  Just our opinion and personal hangup!  We believe that unless you have the Market Capitalization of an Apple, it is hard to walk both sides of the street and do both Hardware and Software!   Even Microsoft, does only Software!     Well ShoreTel may in fact be moving to Software only through the introduction of a family of “virtual” machine offerings.   Though versions prior to Version 14.1 offered some level of Server virtualization,  ShoreTel deployments would still require lots of those “Orange” ShoreGear switches.

On January 28th ShoreTel will begin to ship the first release of Version 14.2 and all components of the ShoreTel architecture will be virtualized!   This means that you don’t need those “Orange” boxes unless you are connecting to analog or digital trunk lines!   ShoreTel Switches including Conferencing servers will be available as OVA files for VMware deployments.    ShoreTel will begin to offer  a virtual phone switch, a virtual service appliance and a new family of virtual SIP Switches with complete PRI parity.  The ShoreTel compatible Ingate SIParator will also be available as a Virtual Session Border Controller.   Licensing can be significantly reduced to a phone or trunk license, now how kool is that?

The ShoreTel virtual phone switch will support between 250 and 1000 phones based on calculated VM resources.  The virtual phone switch will will support all ShoreTel features including backup automated attendant, make-me-conferences, hunt groups, bridged call appearances and extension monitoring.  Pricing is estimated at 8-15% below the cost of another “Orange” box and you can mix and match virtual and real boxes! The virtual SIP trunk switch is estimated to be some 50% below “Orange” box costs!  The virtual service appliance will offer IM and Web conferencing from 50-200 simultaneous sessions.  Instant Messaging is now without charge from ShoreTel when implemented on a virtual server,  just your usual VMware hardware costs!

We consider this the strongest move that ShoreTel has made in its product line, since it moved from analog phones to SIP handsets!  Though ShoreTel is following the examples of others like CISCO Version10, we see this a the right next step in the process for ShoreTel product development.   With the enterprise world solidly focused on virtualization and the rapid but steady migration from TDM to SIP, a Virtualized ShoreTel is an essential element of a successful business continuity and disaster recovery program.    ShoreTel is starting to look an awful lot like a pure software company and we think that is not only “brilliantly simple”, but very smart.

– DrVoIP