Fix the licensing confusion
To be honest I’m not sure if the licensing scheme is flawed or not because I don’t fully understand it. And I’m not alone in my confusion as it seems that a lot of people are confused about what they need to get properly licensed. Do you need licenses for outbound applications? What if callers aren’t authenticating? What constitutes authentication for license purposes? What kind of licensing and how much will it cost to migrate an Speech Server 2004 app to the new platform?
There is also a lot of confusion about how Speech Server fits into the overall OCS picture. Just last week I received a call from someone who was interested in switching over to Speech Server for their platform but they had been told that to do that they would have to install all of OCS plus Exchange. He couldn’t see why they needed to install Exchange and Unified Messaging when all he wanted was Speech Server. We spoke for several minutes and I got him on the right track but my point is that there shouldn’t have been any confusion to start with.
Direct SIP connections to PBX/POTS
Currently the supported means of connecting to OCS 2007 Speech Server is through a media gateway (I’m not even considering the TIM/TIMC option). I know of two large companies that are implementing solutions using MSS 2007 and both want to do direct SIP connections between their Avaya PBX and Speech Server. Both of them have the necessary PBX hardware and software but this is not a supported architecture. I’ll say it here in bold text Speech Server should be capable of a direct SIP connecting to a PBX or any SIP provider and be a supported configuration. If you follow the forums here on GotSpeech (or if I let you read the emails I get) then you would know that there is a lot of interest (and confusion) in setting up Speech Server this way. This isn’t to say you can’t do this or that it won’t work but rather to say that it needs to be a supported configuration.
Fix the documentation
This should be as the help files (or at least mine) have been broken from the start. Too many times I have tried to look something up in the help files only to find that the links are broken. Or there is help but it doesn’t include any sample code. I know Speech Server very well (though I don’t know it all ) and when I need to look up something I want lots of explanation and a code sample. I want to be able to see what it does and how it works.
Open up the ASR
In order to gain wider acceptance I think that Microsoft needs to open Speech Server up so that third party applications can use its ASR/TTS engines. I realize it may sound counter productive to let others use your stuff but I believe that if it was open and others could use the ASR engine then it would create a migration path for moving those applications to C#. I think that Visual Studio and Windows Workflow is the best development platform currently available. I realize that aumtech has an MRCP connector but I think that the platform itself should allow this.
Promote Speech Server
I was the first and only Speech Server MVP (before we became part of OCS) and even though I’m now an OCS MVP it is still very near and dear to my heart. I talk about it and promote it every chance I get. I just wish Microsoft would do the same.
It seems that since Speech Server got rolled up into Office Communications Server that it has become like a *** stepchild. No one wants to talk about it. There is confusion about how to get it and how it fits into OCS. I can’t count the number of people I’ve encountered that think you need to install OCS in order to install Speech Server. If you don’t believe me then go to an OCS event and ask questions about Speech Server – everyone clams up. I know because I’ve been to 2 different OCS Ignite events (a 2 day event and a 5 day event) and I’ve tried asking questions only to get the cold shoulder. I know of two companies (not the same companies I mentioned above) that spend days trying to get answers from their Microsoft reps about how Speech Server fit in with no luck. One company couldn’t even get an answer when they asked where they could get the install CDs.
I don’t know what the problem is but I do know that Microsoft should really start promoting Speech Server if they expect the number of users to grow.
Okay, I’ve gone and stuck my neck out ont his one.. I’ve vented a little in this posting and may have even aggravated a few people. But I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now and I finally decided to publish what I’ve been thinking and feeling. I love Speech Server and have staked my career on it. I’ve spent a lot of my own time and money promoting it by speaking and and helping others get started with Speech Server. I really want to see it grow and become more popular as I think it is the best IVR platform available. I don’t allow Microsoft bashing in the blogs or forums on GotSpeech so I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I should post this. In the end it came down to two simple facts – I’ve always allowed valid criticism and I think this just needed to be said.
If you agree with me or not I still want to hear what you have to say about this. If you have your own ideas on how to grow Speech Server then I would love to hear them too. If I’ve misunderstood anything or you think I’ve misrepresented anything then feel free to call me out on it.
I want to make it clear that these are my opinions and they may or may not be the opinions of my employer (I didn’t ask them for their opinion).