Today a startup named Adomo is launching their new product, Adomo Voice Messaging. They briefed me on it a month or so ago, and I've been eagerly waiting for today (the start of the DEMO 2005 conference) for the embargo to lift so I could talk about it. What they're essentially trying to do is build a comprehensive unified messaging (UM) solution that uses Exchange not just as a message store (like Cisco's Unity) but as the communications backbone. I think they're on the right track, taking what I privately label the CommVault approach: they're leveraging Exchange as much as possible, instead of building a product and trying to make it work, not very well, with multiple back ends.
The Adomo system has three parts: an appliance (running their own *NIX variant, I forget which-- maybe FreeBSD?) that handles up to 36 ports from the PBX, a connector that ties the appliance to the Exchange message store, and a really slick speech-based auto-attendant. You can chain appliances to use more than 36 ports, and Adomo's literature shows smaller 12- and 24-port appliances being used in remote offices. Adomo claims that a single 36-port appliance is enough to serve between 1800 and 3600 users, depending on usage; they're purposefully targeting organizations with more than 500 users. The appliance compresses incoming messages using the GSM codec (which means that you can listen to messages on pretty much any Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux machine-- the codec is ubiquitous, unlike Cisco's ACELP implementation) and sends them to the Exchange connector.
The Exchange connector is where the action happens: incoming messages are directed to the user's mailbox, where they appear as regular email messages. This is particularly important because it allows you to deploy their solution without any desktop changes: there are no required plugins or Outlook bits to add, and VM attachments are available on any device that can handle email attachments (including handhelds, OWA, and so on). Messages are delivered using an Exchange form that includes buttons that let you play your VM on your phone, call the sender, and take other appropriate actions; Adomo has promised tighter integration with Outlook for future versions, but the existing integration is pretty darn good.
One of Adomo's big selling points is that you don't have to touch the Exchange server or Active Directory to implement their product. You only need one connector per Exchange organization. The connector doesn't have to be on an Exchange server, and there are no AD schema changes required. You provision user accounts for voicemail by specifying the associated phone numbers, so there's no need for a separate user management tool. Adomo hasn't said which AD attributes they use, but their literature does claim that you can do all the provisioning through AD Users and Computers or through scripts.
Messages appear with Caller ID data, and the connector is smart enough to match that data against the user's Contacts folder so that messages appear with the correct sender information. That makes it easy to prioritize and handle VMs (either manually or with rules) in the same way you would any other email. In addition to the ubiquitous "message waiting" light, the connector can send SMS messages to a mobile phone or alerts (including the Caller ID number in the subject line) to BlackBerry or other non-audio-capable devices.
It's hard to do the auto-attendant justice in this form, but I'll try. When you call in, the attendant answers and plays its recorded greeting. You can speak a name at any time, and their speech recognizer will attempt to find the name in the GAL (with conflict resolution, so it can ask the user which John Smith ("John Smith in Sales, or John Smith in Engineering?") to connect to based on OU, domain, or group membership. This in itself is very cool; the cooler part is that the attendant has access to a wealth of user-specific data, including your schedule and presence data from LCS. Imagine being able to set a rule that says "if my wife calls on her cell phone, IM me to tell me; otherwise, dump all incoming calls to voicemail". From a user perspective, imagine calling a contact and having the attendant tell you "Jane's in a meeting until 3pm Central; do you want me to notify her that you're calling?" (based, of course, on Jane's decision to trust you with that information as a contact in her Contacts folder). There are almost limitless possibilities for future expansion here, particularly given that the Adomo solution can be used with SIP products (conveniently including LCS 2005).
Of course, given Adomo's target market focus, their solution won't work for everyone. First, it requires Exchange 2003. Second, they haven't released pricing data (at least to me) but since their focus is on 500-plus seat organizations, it likely won't be cheap. (One interesting note: Adomo's pitch talks about the benefits of their product for organizations that sell hosted Exchange services-- this could potentially be a nice revenue sweetener for hosting companies). However, in terms of functionality, their nearest competitor is the Wildfire service, which (last I checked) was $70-150/month/user-- so they've definitely got some pricing maneuvering room. I think their product will be successful, but I'm sure it will be interesting to see how Microsoft's announced UM support in Exchange 12 plays against Adomo's solution, which now has a year or two to get traction before E12 ships.Posted by Paul at February 14, 2005 06:26 AM
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