The Evolution of Unified Communications

Slide Show

The State of Unified Communications Adoption

Survey finds Microsoft and Cisco, followed by Avaya, are driving the majority of the market.

Now that every vendor that matters has shown its unified communications hand, the coming year will be about how IT organizations go about assimilating the various offerings.

The challenge, however, is that from an IT perspective, there really isn't anything particularly unified about communications. Instead, what there are is a series of related communications applications that their company may embrace at different rates of adoption. For example, the company may adopt presence technologies to complement some existing applications, while choosing to roll out videoconferencing in a few select areas.

For these reasons, Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer for Siemens Enterprise Communications , says there will be a lot more emphasis on open unified communications architectures in 2011 simply because customers are unsure how unified communications technologies will be deployed. What they don't want to have happen is to deploy a particular technology only to discover that it's not compatible with some new standard or technology that emerges this year or next, says Hummel.

In addition, many IT organizations are unsure as to what degree they plan to deploy unified communications on premise versus relying on a service. And while there will be plenty of cloud computing options for unified communications in 2011, including, says Hummel, ones from Siemens, many customers are unsure about the level of interoperability between these services.

That interoperability is a critical issue because in order for unified communications to really have value, customers need to be able to readily use the technologies across all the networks of suppliers and customers they do business with.

Nevertheless, interest in these cloud services will be high, says Hummel, because end users are getting frustrated by the current limitation of audio conferencing and collaboration platforms on the Web. What customers are looking for are better ways to collaborate, share documents and interact with each other without having to invoke a lot of effort on the part of the IT department. In short, they will want to replicate the experience they have with unified communications technologies such as Skype and other Web 2.0 services as a consumer in their workplace. That need, says Hummel, will create a lot of opportunities for managed service providers in the unified communications space, which Siemens is trying to enable with the launch this week of OpenScale Service Packages for organizations that want to provide these types of services as a utility.

Furthermore, end users are going to want to extend those services out to mobile computing devices, which Hummel says by definition means the unified communications platform has to be both multi-tenant and carrier-grade. Most existing unified communications offerings in the cloud today are really just hosted instances of single-tenant applications.


The end result, says Hummel, is that while the productivity and cost benefits of unified communications are fairly well understood at this point, it will take more time before unified communications truly gains enterprise momentum.

In the meantime, customers will focus their unified communications efforts on trying to consolidate their efforts around a few select technologies while continuing to deploy limited-scope projects where they can have immediate business value until the sector as a whole hopefully matures by the end of 2011.