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Building a New, UC-Driven Architecture

Ah, for the good old days. When communications had nice, neatly defined silos--voice, data, video, wireless, fixed --and when there were clear distinctions between the technologies used in our personal lives vs. time on the job. The vendor side of the industry was more clearly delineated as well in terms of what they could provide--infrastructure, software, desktop vs. network or apps.Well, those days are gone, long gone. While the uptake for Unified Communications hasn't been as large or as rapid as its advocates would have liked, This emerging UC-influenced framework also assumes the presence of massive, always-available bandwidth, and a mix of services or apps that can be accessed and delivered from premises- or cloud-based servers.

Now note that I referred to this new framework as "emerging," because virtually all of what is commercially available today is, at best, a hybrid of old and new, and that makes sense. Enterprises don't rip and replace their infrastructures, and while a growing list of vendors can deliver a much wider assortment of systems and services that exemplify what UC is all about, none can yet offer one-stop shopping for the emerging architecture and related services.

But the gap between what's on the drawing boards and what's available in the market is closing. The current wave of industry consolidation is creating giants that have the resources to aggregate the hardware, software and network systems that will drive the new architectures. And as enterprises come to use more of what comes to market initially as consumer-oriented products and apps, there are tremendous opportunities for little guys and start-ups to prosper.

This march toward a new UC-driven architecture shapes much of what you'll see on the conference agenda for VoiceCon Orlando, as it will throughout the coming year on As we see it, key issues in realizing the emerging, UC-driven enterprise communications architecture include:

* High Bandwidth Everywhere (Mobility): When ubiquitously-available mobile networks can deliver as much bandwidth as previous eras' broadband services and private LANs, what are the implications for selecting desktop and personal devices, controlling and securing internal communications platforms and attached devices/systems and integrating diverse network and application functionalities?

* Communications in the Evolving Datacenter (Virtualization): Server virtualization in datacenters is already widespread, but the applications for real-time communications pose new challenges--higher quality, availability and response times. What needs to happen for communications to co-exist with other mission-critical applications? Can datacenter-based communications offer benefits in terms of integration with other business apps?

* Radically Distributed Functionality (Cloud-Based Communications): The migration from TDM to IP has already created much less centralized architectures and this trend is only accelerating. As communications and collaboration functions become increasingly distributed--some elements residing in different networks owned by the enterprise, or service providers or partners, what are the tools and techniques for delivering functional, consistent, scalable and secure services? What is the optimum mix of public "cloud" applications and services vs. those developed and delivered "on-prem"?

* Truly Virtual Communications and Collaboration (Video and Beyond): As technology advances increase the functionality and, hopefully, lowers the cost of video and virtual-reality systems, how can these capabilities be deployed to truly transform how business gets done?

Look for the those issues to form the foundation for much of what goes on at VoiceCon, and drop me a note if you think we should add to or otherwise amend the list.