One of the more frustrating aspects of unified communications is that, on the whole, it's still not very unified. Theoretically, the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) was supposed to herald a new era of unified communications interoperability, but while things have improved, we're still a long way from anything approaching plug-and-play compatibility.
According to Sajeel Hussain, vice president of product marketing for Thrupoint, a provider of a multi-platform set of unified communications applications, the reason the industry as a whole is making relatively slow progress on unified communications is because most of the major vendors are pursuing proprietary network-centric approaches to unified communications. In contrast, Hussain says Thrupoint has taken an application-centric approach that uses the Ubiquity application server and brokers software developed by Thrupoint to manage unified communications at a higher level of abstraction.
This is important, says Hussain, because it makes it a lot easier for Thrupoint to add support for not only new unified communications environments, but also new HTML5 browsers and entire applications. For example, at the Enterprise Connect conference today, Thrupoint announced Thrupoint Fusion UC, a video and multimedia application for tablets such as the Apple iPad. In addition, the company also announced Thrupoint Fusion, a framework for federating session management across multiple unified communications deployments.
That interoperability capability is critical, argues Hussain, because most IT environments have custom applications that they need to integrate with unified communications systems, but they need to be able to do that without having to dive into specific low-level networking interfaces.
Networking vendors obviously see unified communications as an application that will drive network upgrades. While that's a logical outcome from a practical perspective, unified communications is looking more like an application that by definition needs to be able to run across multiple platforms to support both intra- and inter-company communications. Without that capability, Hussain argues that most customers tend to view unified communications as technologies that wind up doing as much to limit workflow as enhance it.
On the whole, purveyors of unified communications need to decide what they want their offerings to be when they grow up. Environments that were created to primarily sell additional network hardware tend to be self-limiting. The folks who make unified communications systems, as such, should be thinking a lot more like application developers and less like companies trying to optimize a particular network architecture.