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UC Summit Kick-Starts Enterprise Connect, Centers on Transformations

Following up a morning of break-out sessions on topics including UC architecture, contact center market, regulatory compliance, cloud, and SIP, Enterprise Connect officially got underway with the first General Session, our UC Summit. For this first main-stage panel, strategic enterprise communications vendor executives took the seats up under the lights. And actually, four of our five keynoters you'll be seeing on stage tomorrow and Wednesday participated in this panel.

Our Enterprise Connect fearless leader Eric Krapf led the group through a series of questions all revolving around the underlying idea that unified communications is undergoing significant change. In fact, there was even the suggestion from Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM, IoT and Collaboration Technology Group at Cisco, that unified communications in itself is an outdated term and old concept.

"UC feels like a thing of the past," Trollope said. It's true that while much of enterprise communications historically revolved around the idea of unifying every communications component onto a single platform, now it seems that more focus is being placed on openness, development, cloud approaches, and mobility, to name a few.

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Truly, it is a transformative time in our industry, and that message came across loud and clear on stage. To start, more than half the session was devoted to questions around the cloud: How do we define various cloud solutions? Is cloud migration happening as a result of vendor push or customer pull? Each vendor panelist had a slight variation on his answer, illustrating that a hybrid cloud is not a hybrid cloud, is not a hybrid cloud.

Enterprise communications seems to be in such a state of change, that it's true that a lot of the buzzwords thrown around in marketing propaganda and strewn across various products do not mean the same thing to everyone. In fact, that's what makes these times even more challenging for communications and IT department folks to navigate: Everyone seems to be using the same words to talk about different things.

And then, of course, as he's prone to do, Cisco's Trollope chimed in with a question of his own for his fellow panelists: Are you really "cloudy," or is your company's cloud a false cloud?

Watching the Twitter feeds, this was a question that really seemed to resonate with our audience. Attendees commented on a sub-discussion that seemed to go back and forth between Trollope, Microsoft Corporate VP of Skype for Business Zig Serafin, and Adam Swidler, technology evangelist of Google for Work (who is back for the second year with a keynote). At one point -- brace yourselves -- Trollope said the words, "I agree with Zig." (Yes, it really happened!)

Zig had said that enterprises aren't thinking about communications from the aspect of only wanting a phone or only wanting conferencing, but rather, "they are thinking about it as one platform... one communications system that changes how people think about connecting with each other, without having to put us [vendors] in the middle of stitching things together." Further, people expect mobility of that same experience across a variety of devices, he added.

It's true that mobility was the second most discussed topic in the summit, with practically every panelist having a mobile story of some sort to share. Mitel CMO Wes Durow wasted no time chiming in about MiTeam for MiCloud, its mobile-cloud one-two punch of a product. And of course, Unify's VP of Portfolio Management and Marketing, Jan Hickisch, had plenty to add to the conversation around Circuit, which he said changed user perception of the cloud simply by demonstrating how easy it is to work together with teams outside of an organization.

When all was said and done, the audience was left with a lot to chew on, but one thing should have been clear to every person in the room: The enterprise communications landscape of today is not your father's communications landscape. While long-standing issues like interoperability between vendor products continue, there seem to be new technologies, infrastructures, and architectures to consider. I just hope that with the focus shifting to cloud, mobility, app development, and software/services, that maybe, just maybe, we can all stop trying to come up with the next big acronym to hit enterprise communications.

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