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UC Friday: Enterprises Need To Look At All the Options
By Jim Burton Earlier this week I posted an article (the 1st part of a 3 part series) on the UCStrategies.com website -- If Microsoft Acquires a PBX Vendor. Part 2 appeared in this week's VoiceCon Unified Communications eWeekly - Vendors Should Reevaluate Their Options.
By Jim Burton Earlier this week I posted an article (the 1st part of a 3 part series) on the UCStrategies.com website -- If Microsoft Acquires a PBX Vendor. Part 2 appeared in this week's VoiceCon Unified Communications eWeekly - Vendors Should Reevaluate Their Options.The first two articles were intended to outline Microsoft's impact on the market. It should be noted that Microsoft in some ways has done a favor for the industry by pushing vendors to change their business models. This is necessary for vendors to do as communications becomes more of a software solution than a hardware solution. Part Two emphasized that vendors have options, notably partnering more closely with IBM (although it is important to note that this assumes IBM doesn't follow Microsoft's lead in getting into the call control space). In Part Three, I encourage enterprise customers to look at all their options when determining their UC direction. Enterprises will have to make decisions about which direction they take when pursuing a UC strategy. There are several options, and there is no one right answer. The options will vary from doing nothing for the time being, to sticking with a single vendor where possible, to embracing a multivendor, heterogeneous environment. Most enterprise customers will require a multivendor approach where interoperability is king. As we've mentioned many times in the past, no vendor today offers all of the UC elements and capabilities needed, making interoperability a necessity. Note, however, that some vendors interoperate and partner better than others. For example, while Cisco and Microsoft claim to have interoperability between their products, the solution is not so clear cut. Customers would need to purchase both the Cisco Unified Presence Server as well as Microsoft Office Communication Server, meaning they have two presence servers instead of one. One of the first places for enterprise to start is by making the IBM vs. Microsoft decision. For companies that are strictly IBM shops or Microsoft shops, the decision as to which "camp" to be in is simple. For companies that have a mixture of IBM and Microsoft offerings, the answer is not so cut and dry. And we do not expect to have interoperability or federation between the IBM and Microsoft UC offerings for quite a while to come (unless a third party comes out with a solution). Both companies integrate with the leading switch providers. However, Microsoft will offer its own call control capabilities (while also integrating with the call control capabilities from partner PBX vendors), while IBM will not provide its own call control ( at least this is their public position to date) and will rely on its partners for the most part. There are pros and cons to both approaches. While Microsoft's call control offerings will not be mature enough, full featured, or robust enough for significant enterprise usage for at least two-to-three years, the company is working hard to provide the basic functionality in an extremely cost effective manner. IBM's approach is to work with partners, which generally means separate servers, separate administration, and so on (although there are single server offerings available on the Series i product with Nortel and 3COM). This issue is discussed in Part 2. Enterprises also need to evaluate their existing switch vendors and their UC strategies and approaches. As I mentioned, while all the switch vendors will interoperate with Microsoft and IBM, there are differences in the level of interoperability. For now, IBM is making it easier to interoperate by opening up its APIs. Part of the issue here is IBM is on rev 8 and Microsoft is on rev 1 and has not had the time to provide an open development environment. Some switch vendors are more open than others as well, with companies like Siemens taking a very open, standards-based approach. The leading vendors, including Cisco, Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, and NEC, have all announced their Software Oriented Architecture (SOA) roadmaps, which will be key going forward. While all of the switch vendors claim to be open, there are degrees of openness. Drill down into how the vendors integrate with each other and with Microsoft and IBM. Is it more than the client level, server level, or there open APIs - do the vendors work closely together? Don't settle for simple answers - in the UC world, openness, interoperability and integration are essential. You have many options - but the hard work is in deciding which option is best for your particular needs.