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UC Interoperation Made Simple

Interoperation. Just the word is enough to stop an exciting new UC project in its tracks. It seems that all the difficult questions lurk in the shadow of interoperation. But when you look more closely, it’s often not that difficult. While past articles or posts have pointed to interoperation points as barriers to the adoption and growth of Unified Communications, those barriers are rapidly being simplified or eliminated to enable the continued acceleration of UC adoption.

We have a great panel on this topic coming up at Interop New York next week, on the afternoon of Thursday, October 21. You'll want to be there. We have expert panelists from IBM, Microsoft, Siemens, NET, Polycom, and RIM, which will cover all the interoperation bases.

In preparing for this panel, the two key questions are, "What are the major points of interoperation in UC?" and “How difficult is it to establish interoperation between systems or devices at those interoperation points?" For this column, let's identify the eight (8) major points of interoperation. We'll answer the second question--regarding difficulty--at Interop, with the help of our distinguished panel.

The good news is that there are not an infinite number of interoperation points. Some UC solutions can be installed with essentially no interoperation requirements. One example is the installation of a software client on personal computers as part of a new UC System installation to provide presence, instant messaging (IM), and click-to-communicate only for the users on that new UC system. This can provide solid productivity benefits for those users. Since the software client is made by the same vendor who provides the UC system, the interoperation is all built into the software. Sure, you will have to document the ports and protocols between the end points and the servers for deployment, but that’s no different than what’s required to install an IP telephone. So, no problem.

Here are the eight major interoperation points we will discuss at Interop NY:

1. Connect a new UC system or new IP PBX to an existing installed (TDM) PBX.
2. Connect a new audio conferencing system to the voice network.
3. Publish or share UC software (e.g. web meetings or conferences) to your enterprise’s clients or partners, or to the public.
4. Interoperate between two or more presence (and IM) systems within the enterprise.
5. Federate (set up a connection) between your company's UC system and other companies’ UC systems.
6. Create and implement Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP).
7. Establish linkages between multiple types of meeting room video systems; or between video on UC desktop clients and meeting room video systems.
8. Extend UC applications to mobile devices, whether just UC clients (see #3 above) or more comprehensive CEBP UC applications (see #6 above).

Clearly, some of these are easier to do in areas where standards are mature and connecting appliances are economically available. Others, such as video interoperation, are more challenging, since the protocols are changing rapidly, often on a vendor-proprietary basis.

Our Interop panel will be assessing and scoring each of these eight interoperation types as to how easy or difficult they might be to incorporate into the typical UC deployments and applications. Maybe you want to do your own scoring--easy, moderate, or difficult--and compare notes when we publish the panel’s conclusions in a few weeks.

Yet, as mentioned above, the good news is that there are not an infinite number of interoperation points. Even more good news is that most of the top UC applications, Use Cases, and Case Studies require very few points of interoperation--usually only one or two--to deliver the benefits. The best way to keep the interoperation complexity to a minimum is to create a UC strategic roadmap. By addressing UC in a step-by-step manner, each roadmap phase will only need to address a few, if any, new points of interoperation; this will deliver the benefits more quickly and with far less cost and risk.

What do you think about this topic? Please offer a comment below, or write to [email protected].