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Gartner UC Magic Quadrant 2011: Leaders, Challengers and Trends

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications is one of the major scorecards for Unified Communications solution vendors. Published annually since 2003, the UC Magic Quadrant places more than a dozen vendors in a quadrant based on their ability to execute (vertical scale) and their completeness of vision (horizontal scale). Upper right is the "Leaders" quadrant. Upper left shows the Challengers. Lower right shows the Visionaries. Lower left shows Niche Players. Gartner shows the relative positioning in each quadrant, though the overall quadrant placement is the most important.

The 2011 UC Magic Quadrant Leaders quadrant includes Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Microsoft and Siemens Enterprise Communications. Based on placement, Microsoft is the overall leader, with Cisco in close proximity. NEC and IBM are in the Challengers quadrant and only Mitel Networks is in the Visionaries quadrant. Seven others are in the Niche Player quadrant: Aastra Technologies, Digium, Huawei Technologies (!), Interactive Intelligence, ShoreTel, TeleWare, and Toshiba. You can see the report here, courtesy of Microsoft. has commentary on the 2010 UC Magic Quadrant.

Here are highlights and key observations on this year's magic quadrant:

* A main point from Gartner this year is that, "The most visible changes are the appearance of full and integrated UC suites from most vendors and improved client capabilities across a range of devices." Their point, well made, is that with these suites, most vendors can now check all or most UC functionality boxes. Finally, from Gartner’s viewpoint, the vendors have brought together all the components of UC, a point that Gartner has been making since 2003. But there are cautions about suites, as noted in the summary below.

* Microsoft and Cisco are holding and extending their leads in the UC space. The two companies have very different approaches, as you can imagine based on the differences in their core strengths, but they are both very much in the UC game. Microsoft's advances are driven by the release of both Lync 2010 and Office 365 including Lync Online during the past year. Cisco's advances are driven by the acquisition of Tandberg and on their Unified Communications Manager 8.5, which Cisco is also marketing as the platform for hosted IP Telephony and UC.

* The companies who are new to the UC Magic Quadrant this year are very interesting:

Huawei Technologies is a network infrastructure powerhouse ($22 billion in 2010 revenues) in Asia and has now entered the UC space with their Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) product line initially offered to their Asian customer base. Huawei appears to be working both with large enterprises and with the carriers (who serve SME markets) and is offering a number of vertical market UC solutions.

Digium, whose products are based on Asterisk open source software packaged as the Switchvox Phone System, has been gaining share with small and mid-sized businesses. It is somewhat surprising to see them in the UC Magic Quadrant (rather than the Corporate Telephony Magic Quadrant) since their product is so clearly a telephony solution first and foremost. But perhaps the broad support of SIP devices and the availability of the open source developer community is seen by Gartner as "enabling" UC possibilities for Digium via Switchvox.

In summary, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2011 shows the energy of continued innovations and new competitors in the UC space. In parallel with the innovations, the 2011 UC Magic Quadrant highlights the increasing maturity of the product suites and a stabilization in the Leaders quadrant, which are indicators that UC vendors seem be finding the formula for UC success.

As to the trend toward UC product suites, caution is advised. Not all UC suites are the same, even if they have the same high-level functionality checkmarks. The marketing of UC as a suite may mask weaknesses in specific functionality. Gartner highlights this concern, too, in their "‘cautions" on several of the vendors. Our consulting recommendation is that each enterprise needs to evaluate carefully its Unified Communications requirements, converting those requirements into detailed use cases which then drive deployment roadmaps and product selection.

Based on such evaluations, many enterprises are applying one type of UC suite to one part of their enterprise, say for information workers with highly collaborative roles, while applying another type of UC suite to another part of their enterprise, say the production and logistics teams with primarily transaction-based roles.

We trust your enterprise is able to capitalize on the many UC opportunities that are now available.