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VoiceCon Orlando 2009: The Future is Now

VoiceCon Orlando ended about two weeks ago, and some excellent summaries have been written about its featured themes, issues and announcements here on No Jitter. For what they're worth, here are my two cents.Orlando 2009 was the 19th edition of VoiceCon, and my time in the industry goes back even further (not quite to A.G. Bell's days, but almost!). And for all that time, convergence has been kind of a Holy Grail. Well, VoiceCon Orlando made clear that, finally, it's almost within our grasp.

During the 1980s we started to see the deployment of integrated/converged transport facilities (T1 followed by Frame Relay, ATM and then IP). By the mid/late 1990s, capabilities for integrated/converged switching became available. This year, at VoiceCon Orlando 2009, on both the Exhibition Floor and in the Conference sessions, we saw tangible and meaningful examples of integrated/ converged applications, and that means the troika is finally complete -- converged transport, switching and applications.

It's taken 3+ decades to reach this point and the process hasn't always been pretty. We've seen great companies fall, new ones arise and promising companies go bust, and all this has taken a major toll on IT organizational structures and personnel. But here we are and, in a curious twist of fate, at precisely the time when the economy has gone into the tank. While there's no cause and effect between those two, it's impossible to separate the economic times we re in from the shifts in technology that are changing our expectations for enterprise communications.

The good news is that VoiceCon Orlando showcased the availability of communications and collaboration capabilities that the industry has been talking about for decades, at precisely the moment when almost every company is acknowledging that the old ways of doing business simply won't do. In short, it really is a remarkable point in history: The means to fundamentally change how we communicate are at our disposal, and the incentives to change couldn't be more obvious.

Despite being a relative newcomer on the scene, UC has already played a significant role in getting the industry to this new plateau. The power of UC is that previously separate elements -- voice and voicemail, text and IM, presence and email, conferencing and video -- can be selectively integrated into user interfaces and business applications across both wireless and wireline domains.

So UC presents a framework that enables us to stop thinking about "voice" or "data", "messaging" or "video" and, instead, focus on overall "communications" in a business solutions context--providing our organizations with the ability to streamline results, from the simplest contact to the most complex collaborations or supply chains.

During VoiceCon Orlando, it was clear that the industry had shifted to this new, expanded mindset. Enterprise speakers, consultants and vendors all expressed this change in perspective. However, one key take-away from VoiceCon is that while the proof points and value are visible, a lot of hard work is needed to update architectures, interoperability, integration processes and tools for managing and troubleshooting these converged networks, systems and apps.

My hope is that during the coming months and at future VoiceCons, we'll hear less proselytizing about the virtues of UC and more showcasing of the actual UC software, systems and applications that were so tantalizing at VoiceCon Orlando 2009.