What I Gleaned From Enterprise Connect 2016

Enterprise Connect 2016 is now in the books. As always, a number of trends and themes stood out from the noise of the show. Here are the ones I thought were most interesting.

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Video on Display
This year at Enterprise Connect we saw video use cases that demonstrated more than what traditional room-based systems can offer. As an example, Vidyo demonstrated video integration into ATMs with its partner NCR. Another example came from Polycom, which showed its slick RealPresence Centro unit that creates a new, very natural way of collaborating (see a related post, "Polycom Looks to Change Physical Meeting Space Dynamics"). In addition, a number of other vendors, including Smart Technologies, Crestron, InFocus and, of course, Microsoft (with the highly anticipated, late, Surface Hub) showed their multipurpose room displays.

UC Made Easy
Despite the relative old age of the group of technologies called UC, many of the products are still difficult to use. While most of the vendors have created better user interfaces, getting systems to work together remains a significant challenge. Today, the most common point of integration is the user, which is problematic at best.

In their keynote addresses, Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM of the IoT and Collaboration Technology Group at Cisco, and Zig Serafin, corporate VP for Skype Business Services at Microsoft, highlighted how their companies have been working hard to create simple, cross-system experiences. Rowan, for example, talked about creating "magical experiences," such has being able to walk into a room and start a meeting with a single click. And Zig and his team demonstrated interoperability with systems from Polycom, Logitech, and even its archrival Cisco. I certainly hope we see more efforts to make UC easy at future Enterprise Connects.

Workstream Communications and Collaboration (WCC) Rolls On
WCC is the latest wave to hit the UC market. Although Slack snubbed Enterprise Connect, every other WCC vendor of consequence was there. Now that the market is starting to evolve, we should see vendors begin to take different paths. As an example, Cisco has made Spark a platform that includes a client, operating system, and service. Atlassian demonstrated HipChat Connect, which allows developers to build apps inside the client. And, during his keynote, Gary Barnett, senior VP and GM of Avaya Engagement Solutions, debuted a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) company, Zang, and its highly video-centric WCC tool, Zang Spaces.

No Change to UC Management
This is a market that needs to consolidate and evolve. Every year expert panels discussthe importance of UC management, but the market remains fragmented and complex. Vendors like Voss, IR, NetScout, and Unimax do great jobs in their respective subsections of the UC management market, but each of them only solves a piece of the problem. This leaves organizations needing to cobble together a complete (if there is such a thing) UC management strategy. Someone needs to consolidate this market and make it easier for businesses to have the tools they need.

CPaaS Is Top of Mind
As I pointed out in my Cloud Summit preview post, I believe CPaaS is the future for cloud UC. I thought this Enterprise Connect had a distinct developer feel to it, as quite a few solution providers showed off UC functions built into business applications. Genband, for example, exhibited a number of new Kandy wrappers, which are prepackaged, real-time communications applications the deliver UC services from any website. And, as mentioned above, Avaya announced its CPaaS platform, Zang, while Twilio was once again seemingly everywhere and drew enormous crowds to its booth.

WebRTC Is Losing Steam
The promise of WebRTC is to deliver video from any browser to any browser without requiring plug-ins. The problem is, it doesn't deliver. WebRTC only works on some browsers, and is missing support from Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge. The failure of WebRTC to deliver on its promise is a point of agreement between me and my fellow analysts and No Jitter bloggers Dave Michels and Kevin Kieller, and the three of us never really agree on anything. (Also, it should be obvious to anyone that covers the space that Kevin, Dave, and I are probably the three smartest guys in the industry, so if we think that, it's probably correct.) On the positive side, CafeX Communications demonstrated Chime, which delivers any-to-any, browser-based video and earned a Best of Enterprise Connect for its effort.

Internet of Things (IoT) Reared Its Head
The closing day of Enterprise Connect included a disruptor panel on UC/IoT convergence that was absolutely packed. I had more questions about the convergence of IoT and UC at this event than I have had in all my years of coming to Enterprise Connect and its predecessor, VoiceCon, combined. Make no mistake, I see significant value in bringing IoT and UC together, but I know the path will likely be a complicated one. During the panel we talked about many of the issues, including security, standardization of protocols, IT skills, and use cases. On the floor show, I saw at least one vendor trying to simplify the convergence -- V2Plus Technology, which showcased an all-in-one UC + IoT appliance.

That puts a wrap on Enterprise Connect 2016. See you again in 2017!

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