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Levels of Interoperability
Next week, I'm going to a show called Interop. You've probably heard of it; it's the big show in Vegas that doesn't feature Celine Dion, Elton John or water. I chair the VOIP and UC tracks for Interop, and we've got some interesting stuff coming up that I'll be blogging about here. Last fall, at the New York Interop, our outfit did a sub-conference called VoiceCon At Interop, but lately I've been wondering if we shouldn't do something for the event we produce, on the order of Interop At Voicecon.
Next week, I'm going to a show called Interop. You've probably heard of it; it's the big show in Vegas that doesn't feature Celine Dion, Elton John or water. I chair the VOIP and UC tracks for Interop, and we've got some interesting stuff coming up that I'll be blogging about here.
Last fall, at the New York Interop, our outfit did a sub-conference called VoiceCon At Interop, but lately I've been wondering if we shouldn't do something for the event we produce, on the order of Interop At Voicecon.Obviously, I'm not talking about transplanting the Interop show into VoiceCon, but old-timers remember that Interop was originally a show about just what its name suggested: Interoperability. In the broader networking world, interoperability is no longer the hottest issue going; but in the IP-telephony/Unified Communications world, interoperability is suddenly all the rage.
The buzz began at VoiceCon Orlando last month, when Microsoft and IBM representatives shook hands and agreed to test interoperability between OCS and Sametime. We also found that attendee evaluations called out interoperability as a key issue that folks want to see more programming on.
So I've decided to start exploring this issue more deeply by writing an extensive, in-depth feature for No Jitter. I'm hoping to complete the interviews soon and post the feature early next month, but the first challenge has been to define just what we're talking about when it comes to interoperability. What has to interoperate with what?
Marty Parker of Unicomm Consulting and UCStrategies.com gave me a great list as we prepared for a webinar on interoperability that AVST is sponsoring. Here are the areas of an IPT/UC implementation where Marty says interoperability is a critical issue that needs to be resolved:
* Number plans * SIP and QSIG and PRI * Federation * Networking diverse PBXs * Networking diverse voice mail * Unified Messaging * User Interfaces and Client * Mobility voice and data channels * Communications Management and Reporting tools
I also did an interview last week with Mun Yuen Leong, who's CTO at Avaya, during which Mun Yuen broke the interoperability challenge down into three layers:
* The infrastructure layer, where SIP is the key standard; * The presence federation layer, where SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP are the standards; * The application layer, where it's SOA and Web Services standards.
You can (and I expect I will) get down into the weeds of the interoperability standards, but I think the bigger question is what's at stake at each of Mun Yuen's layers, or each of Marty's focal areas. And the question is best posed in the negative: What will happen if we don't have interoperability at the infrastructure, presence federation or application layers? What will be lost if diverse Unified Messaging systems can't exchange messages among themselves, or with certain other types of communications platforms?
Pretty clearly, lack of interoperability is where we're at right now, pretty much across the board. (Note that lack of interoperability doesn't necessarily mean lack of standards.) What we need to understand is what is going to change about the communications world that would make vendors decide to be open instead of being closed. What that comes down to, ultimately, is whether a critical mass of vendors see it as being in their economic interest to be open instead of being closed (or being open in name only).