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Start Deploying the UC, Collaboration and Social You Already Own

It is amazing how much UC, Collaboration and Social software (all of which I will just call UC here) is being licensed to enterprises but is not being deployed and used. We constantly find that our large enterprise clients already have license entitlements for a major portion of the UC software they need to create and execute a multi-year, cost-saving, and high-ROI UC roadmap.

It is often the case that the UC roadmap illustrates how to achieve great UC outcomes by re-allocating budgets rather than increasing the spending run rates. Spending is shifted from the cost of a major system replacement or upgrade to specific UC deployment investments. These might include targeted investments in servers, in professional services to install and customize the software, and sometimes in incremental licensing to supplement what is already owned.

Usually, there is even budget available to pay for the discovery and deployment of a series of advanced UC applications (which we refer to as UC-B for Business Process and CEBP for Communications Enabled Business Processes). These UC-B and CEBP applications can return even higher ROI than the general purpose UC rollouts, since they often solve major business process problems.

So, where is all this hidden software licensing value? It is usually buried in the licensing for the mainstream communications platforms which have been purchased, maintained and upgraded (again and again) over the past 5 years. Below are two examples that are representative of what's happening in the marketplace:

1. If your company has a Microsoft Enterprise CAL (Client Access License) Suite agreement with Microsoft, you are already licensed for Microsoft Lync 2010 Standard and Enterprise CALs. These two licenses provide presence, IM and click-to-communicate between two parties (peer-to-peer) via voice, video or desktop sharing, IM/Presence federation, and complete ad hoc or scheduled conferencing via voice or video with application sharing.

To access all this software requires the Lync 2010 Client; but if you have licenses for Microsoft Office Professional Plus, the Lync 2010 client is already included. The Lync 2010 client can run on Windows or Apple PCs, on iPads, and on most smartphones including BlackBerry, iPhone, Android and Windows phone.

Also, this includes integration of Lync into other office tools, especially into Microsoft Outlook so the Outlook client can, essentially, become a communication dashboard, and into Microsoft SharePoint so that SharePoint users who may be using personal portals, profiles, blogs, activity feeds and similar tools for social networking, can have their communications included directly in to those portals and social feeds. Application program interfaces (APIs) and toolkits to use Microsoft Lync UC features as part of CEBP applications, web portals, and client application interfaces are also included.

At a minimum, all of this can run on a single Standard Edition Lync Server for up to about 1,000 users. For larger enterprises or for redundancy, the software will have to run on the Enterprise Edition Lync Servers, and may require 8 or more servers, but all of those can run on virtual machines for rapid deployment and flexible scalability.

Enterprise telephony features, including calls to and from your PBXs and the PSTN, will require purchase of the "Plus CAL" for each user.

2. If your company has purchased Cisco Unified Workplace Licenses (CUWL) during the past five years, then you are also likely to have a rich UC portfolio at your fingertips. Even if you purchased the lower priced Standard Edition CUWL license, you are entitled to presence, instant messaging, a desktop client (including the new Jabber client) that provides for peer-to-peer voice, video and screen sharing, the mobile client, and simultaneous ringing of your desk and mobile phones. The desktop client includes integration to Microsoft Lync, and plug-ins are available for Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Notes. Cisco's platform includes APIs for CEBP and also includes the Cisco Client Services Framework (CSF) to integrate communications into other applications, notably Microsoft SharePoint.

If you purchased the Professional Edition CUWL license, the licenses include all of the above plus audio, video and web (desktop sharing) conferencing and the voice client for mobile devices. A Standard Edition CUWL can be upgraded to a Professional Edition CUWL for a moderate price.

The desktop clients run on Windows and Apple PCs and the mobile clients run on iPads, BlackBerry, iPhones, Nokia and Android devices, in various combinations of features depending on the devices.

To make any of this happen requires only a few servers, e.g., Cisco Unified Presence Server for IM and presence, Cisco Unified Meeting Place for audio and video conferencing (WebEx is used for the web/desktop sharing), and perhaps the Mobility Advantage server, depending on which release of Cisco Unified Communications Manager is currently installed. All of this can run on virtual machines, especially on the Cisco Unified Computing System.

Cisco Quad provides for secure business social networking with access to the UC communications tools from the user profiles and community pages.

As noted above, these two examples are representative of similar leading vendors in each category. IBM has offers for IBM Sametime, IBM Sametime Unified Telephony, and IBM Connections that are very similar to Microsoft's and are usually licensed similarly as part of enterprise agreements for Domino, Notes, WebSphere and similar software. Likewise, Avaya, NEC, Siemens Enterprise Networks, ShoreTel and others have similar licensing as shown above for Cisco.

So, where to start? Of course, first look at your UC requirements as outlined in our methodology. Then, go look at the licenses you already own. In many cases, you are already sitting on an abundance of software capability. If that's the case, get going with the deployments. Do them logically and track the benefits so you can prove the ROI (refer to all the case studies out there)--but get going!