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UC is Dead, Long Live UC!

There'll be plenty of Unified Communications case studies, discussion and analysis at VoiceCon San Francisco, which convenes in just under three weeks, and UC will be on prominent display on the Exhibition Floor. That's no surprise as UC has become the rallying point for much of what is occurring in enterprise communications, but I can't help but wonder what role UC will play when VoiceCon Orlando 2010 kicks off on next March.Now don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely convinced that UC is, and will remain, vitally important for many years to come. It already has become integrated into the fabric of communications product and service development and, more importantly, into the workforce's expectations of IT and telecom. That's why we have about a dozen sessions at VoiceCon that focus directly on UC issues--technology, services and applications--and I expect that it will be discussed during other sessions as well.

But while UC continues to evolve, many of UC's elements--IM, presence, all manner of conferencing and video--are no longer "new" or "innovative" or "exotic" capabilities. Indeed, their broad deployment and use is beginning to have major spin-off implications for both the technical and cost architectures of enterprise communications. And that's why we created sessions that will examine how much voice mail--and phones--enterprises really need (note: links will take you to discussion forums where you can share feedback on these issues).

It's also why we're devoting a VoiceCon Summit to the question of whether a new, next-generation architecture is needed, one that assumes from the start that not only will the elements of enterprise communications become more tightly integrated, but also enables communications products, services and applications to exploit emerging capabilities like virtualization, social networking/Enterprise 2.0 and Cloud Computing.

While many vendors will argue that their latest release--or their next one--fulfills all those architectural functions, I'm not convinced. As is often the case in IT, there are more "market-tectures" than architectures.

Certainly, the time is right to begin examining what comes next for UC and, more generally, for enterprise communications. It's taken the better part of a decade for IP-PBXs to supplant TDM, and accomplishing that goal required that the vendors ensure that customers wouldn't lose anything by migrating to IP. That job is mostly done, and so it's time for a new generation of products that not only do an excellent job of delivering voice services, but that are built from the ground up to support mobile devices and apps, video and social networking, and which envision an IT environment where there is a new balance between what's provided on-prem vs. the cloud/hosted.

UC will undoubtedly play a significant role in and already embodies many characteristics that are likely to be found in this new regime; in this regard, UC has already fulfilled a vitally important mission for the industry. The next-generation architecture will incorporate UC but extend beyond it, and only one thing is certain: We're all in for an interesting ride.