If two or more people are sitting together in a room, they essentially have total freedom to share the information that they want to share: They can speak, hand each other things that they are reading, watch and discuss a television program or piece of music that is playing and otherwise interact in an intuitive and unfettered manner. They can see the nuance in what the other says: a raised eyebrow, a quick look of disdain. All of these small and large things happen either simultaneously or in a serial fashion.
For years, telecommunications and IT have strived to replicate this scenario. The process was halting and primitive at first. In the modern era, telephone, email and other platforms were continually cobbled together in an effort to make it all seem like folks were in one place, at least logically. The first great melding, so to speak, was unified communications.
A study by Gartner, here described by eWeek, suggests that an integration of social media, cloud computing, mobile technology and the more vague, but equally real “ubiquity of information” are pushing the world beyond UC and toward this higher-level goal. Essentially, the goal is to neutralize space between users and between them and their information as a barrier:
The availability of information, which is increasingly stored in cloud environments where it is accessible by a wide range of devices, is the connective tissue that binds this nexus of forces, as it drives social, mobile and cloud technologies to allow anywhere, any time access to content. Companies that are able to harness the power of ubiquitous information and disseminate that information across social, mobile and cloud platforms will find themselves with an edge over competitors, the report states.
The most elegant machines generally are those that find a means of putting a simple user interface on the massive complexity that lies underneath. This is akin to modern telecommunications and IT: The various wired and wireless technologies and platforms are working in concert to provide what to users will be a smooth and effortless way to harness the ubiquity to which Gartner refers.
The difference is that the complexity is not the circuitry and processors that go into an Android device or an iPad. Instead, it is the various platforms and technologies that people have gradually adopted. They are being upgraded, so to speak, into unified communications platforms and, eventually, to Gartner’s “nexus of forces.” In other words, email is complex, videoconferencing is complex and voice communications is complex. The modern goal is to make them work together in a way that seems simple and natural.
Videoconferencing and unified communications indeed are huge pieces of the puzzle, and vendors still are attempting to perfect them by creating deeper levels of interoperability. But, in a sense, UC only is one step. What Gartner describes goes deeper.
This is where the cloud comes in. In an analogy likening the radical changes of the past few years to the development of a powerful device with a simple interface, the cloud plays the middleware layer role. Middleware enables a variety of different types of often-incompatible software to work together. The analogy is not perfect, but the cloud, according to BusinessCloud9, is the layer that makes the complex interactions occur:
Cloud computing is the “glue” for all the forces of the nexus, according to Gartner. Without cloud computing, social interactions would have no place to happen at scale, mobile access would fail to be able to connect to a wide variety of data and functions, and information still would be stuck inside internal systems.
The point is that replicating over distance something as simple as the communications that can take place when the participants are in one place is monstrously complex. The fact that analysts are implying that it is within our grasp shows how much progress has been made during the past few years.