Tomorrow’s Enterprise Communications Market
How will the new era be defined, what communications product/technology trends are reshaping the market, and who will be the market leaders (and market losers)?
There have been several distinct enterprise communications eras since the first digital switching systems arrived on the scene more than three decades ago. For a quarter-century digital PBXs dominated the market for enterprise communications systems. Digital PBXs were available with a choice of applications options throughout the years, including: voice messaging and IVR systems (beginning in the early 1980s); fully integrated enhanced contact centers (beginning in the late 1980s); and wireless handsets and CTI (beginning in the early 1990s).
The IP telephony era dates from the beginning of this century and has seen several more application options added to the list, including mobile cellular extensions and Unified Communications (UC). UC has since become a catch-all shorthand term for virtually all communications solutions, and now includes core telephony functions such as dial tone, according to a growing number of system suppliers. At the close of this decade, the distinct line between a standalone IP telephony system and the optional peripheral UC server is beginning to fade as we enter yet another enterprise communications era.
The key questions currently confronting customers, suppliers and dealers alike are: how will the new era be defined, what communications product/technology trends are reshaping the market, and who will be the market leaders (and market losers)? Unfortunately, there are no clear cut answers to any of these important questions, but it is advantageous to speculate about how enterprise communications will continue to evolve and what possible scenarios are likely to play out. The only sure thing is that market dynamics will change, not stay static, during the next 10 years.
The Next Era: Federated Communications
The IP telephony era matured rather quickly during the past few years as peripheral UC options became a more integral, almost standard, component of the customer enterprise communications system. The first full-featured converged telephony/UC offering was the Siemens OpenScape UC Server that integrated two Siemens standalone products, HiPath8000 and OpenScape, into a single, seamless solution running on the same control server. Mitel also introduced its Mitel Communications Suite (MCS), a pre-integrated unified communications (UC) solution that allows Mitel’s flagship 3300 IP Communications Platform (ICP) software to reside on a virtualized Sun Microsystems server along with other Mitel voice and API applications. Microsoft OCS is yet another example of an integrated telephony/UC solution.
A key element of unified communications is federated presence management. Federated presence management allows system users to control all aspects of their communications with other users, regardless of the make or platform of the devices. The initial application has been Instant Messaging (IM), but the concept can also apply to the seamless flow of bearer and control signaling transmission between: competing supplier systems; customer premises products and network-based services; and business and consumer solutions.
Federated Communications is true interdomain communications without boundaries and restrictive firewalls: It is the act of unifying discrete communications components and solutions into a single seamless solution, with each participating component/solution maintaining control of its unique operations, though there are centralized unifying elements governing transmission. A few prominent examples help illustrate the Federated Communications concept:
* Multi-supplier: The recently announced Avaya Aura Session Manager uses SIP services to network Avaya IP telephony systems with offerings from Cisco Systems, Nortel, and Siemens;
* Premises-to-Network: Cisco Systems’ hosted Webex Connect service is designed to work seamlessly with the company’s enterprise Unified Communications solutions;
* Business-Consumer: The ubiquitous Apple iPhone can operate as either a mobile telephone extension behind a customer premises IP telephony system, as well as a consumer wireless communications device.
Federated Communications expands enterprise communications across individual corporate domains and carrier service networks. It is not limited to voice communications, but includes data, text, graphics, and video. Intelligent communications will be available to station users regardless of location or network access device. This is certainly not a new concept, but it’s one that is actually doable.