Archive for December 2014

Big and small, unified communications vendors poured it on with new strategies and innovative products this year.

It’s that time of the year again — ’tis the season to be jolly, time to get stuff ready for the tax man, time for “Da Bears” to choke away any shot at the NFL playoffs… and time to take a look back at what happened in the unified communications (UC) industry.

As I have for as long as I can remember, I’ll start this year-end blog by saying, “It was a big year in UC.” The market continues its constant evolution, with traditional vendors shifting strategy and new vendors popping up to challenge the incumbents. Among all the change, here are what I considered to be the most notable events of 2014.

An SBC can play several key roles in securing mobile endpoint devices.

Though typically deployed for managing SIP trunks within a unified communications environment, the session border controller (SBC) can have an important role to play in securing workplaces that have embraced a bring your own device, or BYOD, strategy.

Given the pervasiveness of BYOD today, many organizations ought to be considering the SBC for mobile security purposes. As we learned in the 2014 ZK Research Enterprise Mobility Survey, 82% of businesses now support the use of consumer devices in the workplace. This is quite the about-face from just a few years ago when many IT leaders were still fighting to keep personal smartphones and tablets out of the enterprise.

This week, Polycom announced its video infrastructure has been qualified by Microsoft for Lync 2013.

The concept of unified communications (UC) is still more of a vision than it is a reality. If employees want to collaborate, they need to use a number of different systems to actually pull off a virtual meeting, as “UC” today consists of a bunch of different tools from various vendors. This means that users often have to deal with complex or multiple scheduling systems, disjointed workflows, and numerous dialing methods. Any integration that’s done at a system level is likely custom and cost-prohibitive for most businesses. Despite all the advancements in UC, a tremendous amount of manual integration still needs to be done. If UC is ever to reach its potential, the user needs to stop being the point of integration.

From adding rich sets of configuration templates to building process wizards, UC management vendors are working to address their tool shortcomings.

The promises of UC management platforms are lower operating costs and reduced complexity through a single pane of glass — a theme we hear over and over again when it comes to managing almost any part of the IT ecosystem. However, I’ve heard from many enterprise IT managers who say the more accurate description is “single pain of glass.”

Single pane of glass management solutions rarely fit a company’s operational processes — a situation that only becomes apparent after procurement. Unfortunately, this means the operations team either has to change its management processes to fit the static workflows and features that the management system supports, or, worse, manually support missing but necessary features and processes.

Increase in use of real-time applications is creating problems for the cloud.

The cloud! The cloud! It’s hard to have any kind of conversation with any business or IT executive without the cloud coming up. Drive down 101 between San Francisco and San Jose and there are cloud billboards galore. There are cloud ads in airports, city centers, all over TV and anywhere you would look. And why not? The cloud solves all application problems, correct?

Well, not quite. While the cloud does have an outstanding value proposition and is a better application strategy than packaged applications for mobile workers, it isn’t the right model for real-time applications, such as video. The main problem is that the data centers where the cloud resources are located are generally too far away from the people they serve. When building these mega data centers, the cloud providers don’t really consider how far or close they are to users. Instead, the primary concern is to be close to cheap power or land. The latency moving the packets across the country and back can significantly hamper the performance of real-time applications.

There is one product that can help Avaya rise above the noise of UC.

In the battle for UC leadership, every vendor is looking for a unique go-to-market angle to one-up the competition. Last week, Avaya held an event it called “Avaya Engages Silicon Valley,” where its executives discussed how it was a solution provider to enable businesses to capitalize on this “Era of Engagement.” The point was that competitive advantage is derived from an organization’s ability to “engage” with customers, employees, partners, etc., effortlessly through multi-channel communications.

To support the vision, the company has developed a number of what it calls engagement solutions, including a new UC client called Communicator and a video solution called LiveVideo, among other products. However, there is one product that can help Avaya rise above the noise of UC and be a secret weapon for the company in the battle for UC supremacy.

The fast-growing networking company adapts its platform for software defined networking.

I think it’s fair to say Arista has been one of the fastest-growing network product companies over the past few years. However, it appears the company wants to be more than a manufacturer of high-performance networking devices and is trying to make the shift to a platform company.

Last week, Arista announced EOS+, a set of building blocks that turn the company’s operating system, EOS, into a platform for SDNs at cloud scale or, as Arista calls it, the “software-driven cloud network.” The platform strategy capitalizes on the fact that EOS is a highly programmable operating system.

There are four main components to the EOS+ platform:

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