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Driving Enterprise-Cellular Convergence

The big news in mobility this past week was Cisco's partnership with Ericsson, which Zeus Kerravala and Michael Finneran have covered on No Jitter. Cisco's obviously in a lot of markets where a stronger mobile infrastructure play makes sense -- Internet of Things (IoT) was the one that the companies called out most prominently in their partnership announcement. But what I found encouraging is the potential for enterprise communications to tie more directly into mobility networks, which could help companies mobile-enable their workforces in ways that keep those implementations more closely integrated with the rest of enterprise communications.

That's also why I was never that baffled by Mitel's acquisition of Mavenir. It might have been a little unorthodox for a company whose legacy was in PBXs to buy a maker of cellular network software. But since enterprise communications is so heavily dependent on cellular networks these days, why wouldn't a vendor try to bring the two technologies together more closely? And indeed, Mitel seems to be following through on this vision with its recent announcement of its mobile enablement strategy and the first product manifestations of the effort.

We actually have another recent No Jitter post that illustrates an example of a smaller company, with a much more discrete functionality, moving to integrate the world of the mobile carriers with enterprise systems -- in this case using the session border controller (SBC) as the center of gravity. The SBC is where much of the integration and control functionality seems to be migrating as enterprises try to blur the lines between diverse internal networks, WANs, and the cellular services that their end users rely on so heavily.

In this piece, Andrew Prokop of Arrow SI writes about Tango Networks, which has an application server within its SBC that talks to the cellular network's Call Session Control Function to provide more efficient enterprise-grade call handling for traffic that crosses the public cellular networks. This feature, or something like it, seems like it should be a standard option on SBCs, and given that the cellular carriers have traditionally been big customers of the SBC manufacturers, it shouldn't be a huge leap for the SBC folks to implement.

The Mitel and Tango offerings focus on the flow of human-to-human communications, be it voice calls, texts, or video, but as I mentioned, Cisco leaned heavily on IoT in its announcement of the Ericsson partnership -- as indeed Cisco will be leaning heavily on IoT for lots of things going forward. In the Cisco world, IoT is to this generation what video was to the previous one, and voice was to the one before that: It's the application that Cisco hopes will generate all the traffic that's going to load up networks built on Cisco switches and routers, so that Cisco can sell more and bigger switches and routers. Maybe software-defined networking (SDN) architectures will alter this calculus to some degree, but Cisco will certainly fight to maintain its incumbency advantage at the infrastructure level and will at least make a bid to adapt itself to mega-trends where it can't actually control the direction of things. In the meantime, IoT -- much of it carried over cellular networks -- will certainly become more entwined with enterprise communications. Cisco itself seems to have acknowledged this likelihood when it added responsibility for IoT to its Collaboration business unit under the direction of Rowan Trollope.

All in all, the combination of end users' never-ending desire to be more mobile, and the IoT's growth in the enterprise, will likely drive a greater convergence between enterprise networks and public cellular carrier infrastructures. Enterprise decision-makers should be ready for this potential evolution.

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