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Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | March 25, 2008 |

 
   

VoiceCon 2008 Signals UC Driving Collaboration - Within the Vendor Community

VoiceCon 2008 Signals UC Driving Collaboration - Within the Vendor Community I think right now we've got two different definitions of unified communications. The vendor definition is unifying all the communications tools from one particular vendor. From the user perspective, it's very important to unify the collaboration tools across multiple vendor platforms. This year's VoiceCon in Orlando highlighted a number of vendors that are making concerted efforts to interoperate with other vendor systems, which are a good thing for everyone in the UC ecosystem. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Cisco, Avaya, IBM and Microsoft, and during it, Eric Rossman from Avaya said something to the effect of "When I look at my peers on this stage, I don't see competition, I see money. The more we work together, the more interoperable our systems will be and that will help adoption of all of our solutions. The opportunity here is huge and we can all benefit from it". (Paraphrased so my apologies to Eric if this isn't exactly right).

I think right now we've got two different definitions of unified communications. The vendor definition is unifying all the communications tools from one particular vendor. From the user perspective, it's very important to unify the collaboration tools across multiple vendor platforms. This year's VoiceCon in Orlando highlighted a number of vendors that are making concerted efforts to interoperate with other vendor systems, which are a good thing for everyone in the UC ecosystem. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Cisco, Avaya, IBM and Microsoft, and during it, Eric Rossman from Avaya said something to the effect of "When I look at my peers on this stage, I don't see competition, I see money. The more we work together, the more interoperable our systems will be and that will help adoption of all of our solutions. The opportunity here is huge and we can all benefit from it". (Paraphrased so my apologies to Eric if this isn't exactly right).

I think right now we've got two different definitions of unified communications. The vendor definition is unifying all the communications tools from one particular vendor. From the user perspective, it's very important to unify the collaboration tools across multiple vendor platforms. This year's VoiceCon in Orlando highlighted a number of vendors that are making concerted efforts to interoperate with other vendor systems, which are a good thing for everyone in the UC ecosystem. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Cisco, Avaya, IBM and Microsoft, and during it, Eric Rossman from Avaya said something to the effect of "When I look at my peers on this stage, I don't see competition, I see money. The more we work together, the more interoperable our systems will be and that will help adoption of all of our solutions. The opportunity here is huge and we can all benefit from it". (Paraphrased so my apologies to Eric if this isn't exactly right).The beginning of my last panel also brought about a statement from another esteemed Eric, this being Eric Krapf from VoiceCon, who made an announcement prior to the start of our panel that Microsoft and IBM had agreed to interoperability testing between their UC products and the results would be shared at fall VoiceCon. For Microsoft, this represents both OCS and MSN, which I believe will be the first interoperability done with MSN and another enterprise vendor. Ironically, the panel that followed the announcement was a user forum where all of the users claimed that vendor interoperability was one of the bigger challenges they faced, so the announcement was well placed.

Other interoperability highlights at the show were:

  • IBM's unified telephony announcement makes IBM, in a way, UC middleware by creating a software layer on top of multiple vendor offerings, allowing enterprises to run multiple vendor IP PBXs below it

  • During Avaya's keynote, CEO Lou D'Ambrosio specifically called out the interoperability work Avaya has been doing with Cisco. In fact, much of Lou's keynote, "The democratization of UC" was based on the premise that UC needs to be delivered to the masses, and that requires every vendor to participate, not just Avaya

  • There were a number of other vendor announcements such as ShoreTel - IBM and a number of vendors announcing interoperability with Polycom and Tandberg, etc.

    So, are these announcements significant or just vendor noise? If they're actually followed through on, I think the announcements are very significant. As I stated earlier, vendor interoperability is one of the biggest challenges that deploying organizations face, and it's a much bigger issue today than in the past. Much of the early adopter market had been willing to standardize on a single vendor in an effort to roll out VoIP or UC to its user base, and were willing to "rip and replace" to get the systems up and running as fast as possible. Single vendor was fine and so was having pre-standard technology.

    Well, we're out of the early adopter phase now and the companies that are deploying aren't as aggressive as the early adopters and want to migrate to VoIP and UC at a measured pace. Additionally the concept of "rip and replace" isn't going to fly in that market segment. This means whatever system that gets put in likely needs to work with a combination of legacy PBX vendors, Cisco network, IBM Notes and Sametime, Microsoft Exchange, LCS or OCS, the IP PBX vendor of choice and possibly many of the consumer tools as well. If the interoperability is left up to the end user community, this market will move at a snail's pace, and that's bad for the whole ecosystem. Real interoperability should accelerate the adoption of UC within companies, as much of the custom and integration work would already be done. To me this signals that vendors finally understand that having part of a really big market is better than owning the lion's share of a really small market.

    Realistically though, I really don't expect to see full integration of these systems for a number of years, but I do think this year's VoiceCon was the first time I had heard the vendors actually talk about and think it's significant enough to issue press releases and make a point of calling it out in keynotes. If 2007 was the year of UC, I'm hoping 2008 is the year of UC interoperability and I'm looking forward to VoiceCon Fall in San Francisco to see the results of the Microsoft - IBM testing. See you there!





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