This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Doesn’t it seem like the UC industry has been talking about a world of communications-enabled applications for over a decade now? This is where in-house developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) will drop UC features into business applications to create new business processes and the companies that build them get a significant jump on the competition. Almost everyone I talk to agrees this is what should happen and that the value is there if companies were to adopt it. But, as the old saying goes, if “ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we would all have a very merry Christmas.” So far, we haven’t seen the flood of communications-enabled applications under the old Christmas tree for the UC industry. Oh sure, every company can point to a cool app here and there, but it’s certainly not mainstream.

So why is this? Well, in my opinion, it’s too hard to build these things. For all the talk, the communication industry requires high levels of telephony knowledge and some experience with CTI to be able to build these. That means only the communication-savvy developers can do this, limiting the number of companies that even want to attempt to build these types of applications. A good analogy is the early days of the web. Before all these visual tools, the web was built on sites designed by developers that could code in raw HTML. Want to drop a box on the site? Well, go build one. If you want to bold a word, you don’t highlight it and click bold, but rather <b> bold this way </b>. The hardcore developers who worked with HTML day-in-and-day-out could build websites, but mass adoption really didn’t begin until web development got significantly easier.

Similarly, building communications has been limited to developers who understand the ins and out of telephony. This has limited UC-enabled applications to call centers and a few other vertical markets.

This week, Avaya rolled out its Aura Collaboration Environment (Aura CE), the latest developer-focused tools and software to stimulate the growth of communications-enabled applications. One of the primary principals of Aura CE is that building these communications applications must be so easy that non-telephony developers can learn to build them quickly. I’ve interviewed a few Avaya DevConnect partners (Avaya’s developer environment), and they’ve all raved about how much easier it is to build communications applications now compared to legacy tools. In fact, one partner purposely used developers who have no experience with telephony or communications, and those developers were able to build fully functional applications in under a week. The person I interviewed said that the same application could have been built without Aura CE, but would have likely taken weeks, if not months, to build.

As a point of clarification, I want to point out that Aura CE is a complete multi-modal development tool kit that includes voice, video and a chat/text messaging service, which has become an increasingly popular enterprise communications tool. I used telephony as an example several times because that’s where the industry has been, but multi-modality is certainly the path forward for UC-enabled applications.

The other interesting element of Avaya CE is that it’s offered in a completely virtualized platform and can be used on-premise or delivered from the cloud. This poses some interesting implications for resellers or telco partners that could make Aura CE a PaaS service focused on UC services.

Of all the UC vendors out there today, Avaya has been the most aggressive when it comes to pushing the industry towards developers with its DevConnect community. Aura CE should expand the reach of DevConnect to a broader range of ISVs and corporate developers. It’s certainly a strong release for a company that has been trying to find its place in an overly crowded UC market.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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