Now the fun starts.
Debates over the best ways to implement unified communications (UC) and other intensely interactive applications are based on an assumption that is so obvious that it often isn't stated: We have transitioned from the generation when the focus was developing and deploying the underlying electronic plumbing to an era in which creative minds are free to provide services for which the public asks.
This article in eChannel Line about Avaya's UC strategy shows how far we have come, both technically and in terms of what folks talk about when discussing UC. The topic is what UC can do and the services it can provide. Switches, routers, throughput and other technology terms do not see the light of day. "A lot of the discussion is really around productivity," says Allan Mendelsohn, the senior marketing manager of UC for Avaya Canada.
The focus on flexible and malleable software applications is evident in a UC-based agreement last month between IBM and Nortel. ChannelWeb reports that IBM's collaboration software and middleware will be combined with Nortel's voice products to create service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications such as click-to-call, click-to-conference, telephony, presence and shared directory services. The point is that the existence of a robust and standards-based underlying network is the enabler of the ambitious new services.
Microsoft, of course, is a main player in the UC world. The company launched its Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator in October. Last month, it opened the Unified Communications Developer Portal. This Q&A at the company site with Kirt Debique, Microsoft's general manager for the Office Communications Platforms & Solutions Group, generally is interesting.
What comes through very clearly is that modern UC systems are tremendously potent and offer pervasive services. That is a tribute to the massive underlying infrastructure that has been built over the past decade or so. Debique says Microsoft's UC initiatives span three areas: contextual collaboration within applications and process; business process communications and anywhere information access.
Mark Straton, a senior vice president of product marketing at Siemens, discusses the emerging UC battle between the company and Microsoft in this TMCNet piece. Microsoft, as always, is pictured as an organization grasping for control of the companies with which it works. In the context of the evolution of UC, Straton aptly sums up where the industry is. This is a paraphrase of his view by the writer:
"[T]he first generation of VoIP solutions were tied to hardware but now you can overlay the communications software and migrate to a fully software-based approach.
The bottom line is that the bright future has arrived for UC and other applications suites. The underlying plumbing will continually be upgraded and improved -- various wireless and advanced Ethernet approaches seem to be next on the docket -- but a deep and robust platform has been established.