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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘uc’

Cisco held its annual Collaboration Summit this week in Boca Raton, Florida. This year’s event was, in many ways, the coming-out party for the newly appointed GM and SVP for the Collaboration Business Unit, Rowan Trollope. In his opening remarks, Trollope was refreshingly frank about the challenges in the UC industry today and how complexity and a lack of user-friendly solutions have held the industry back from mass adoption. Solving these challenges was the underlying theme of the conference, as the majority of product releases and announcements were focused on extending UC past the traditional corporate walls and making them easier to use.

One of the more interesting products announced was Cisco Expressway, which can be thought of as an edge gateway that makes it possible to extend Cisco UC outside the company boundary securely without the need for VPN concentrators, device level registration, passwords, etc.

Typically, UC is deployed to internal workers, but if someone outside the company network wanted to use Cisco UC applications, they would need to create a VPN tunnel between the remote location and a company location. With Expressway, a Cisco device or application, such as a Jabber client or IP phone, would point to Expressway and handle the secure connection between the outside world and inside network. This is ideal for home workers, small branch offices and B2B connections. No VPNs, no passwords, no device registration – just deploy it and use it.

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Yesterday morning in New York and Munich, the company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications unveiled its new logo, tag line and new vision. The new name is “Unify,” and you can see the logo on the website. The tag line for the company is “Harmonize Your Enterprise.” The colors for the company have changed as well. The all-caps blue Siemens logo has been replaced with a much more current logo with the “I” rendered in almost a glowing green color. Siemens Enterprise made some news earlier this year when it sold the networking division, Enterasys, to Extreme networks, meaning Unify will focus exclusively on unified communications and collaboration.

The anchor product of Unfiy is something called “Ansible,” which the company announced earlier this year and goes into beta in early 2014 and general availability by mid-year. Ansible is designed to be a flexible communications “fabric” (or “canvas,” as it’s been called) where users can collaborate better. This may look like one of the many, almost too many, “unified communication” platforms out there, but Ansible is significantly different that most of them.

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This week is the annual Enterprise Connect (formerly VoiceCon) conference in Orlando, FL.  One of the many panels I’m on and moderating at the conference is titled “UC? Mobility? FMC? BYOD? SIP Trunking? Video? WebRTC? It’s time to take control.”

The theme of taking control of the UC environment is a good one as it’s my belief that Unified Communications is getting more and more complex as the vendor community expands the definition and functionality of UC. 

At one time, telephony was simple: a PBX, a phone and cable.  Connect them up and you’ve got voice.  Troubleshooting meant checking the phone, cable or PBX.  However, that legacy solution was as inflexible as it was simple. 

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IT executives looking to maximize their UC investments or searching for a way to gain budget approval should make UC a core component of a company’s business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

When I interview current or potential deployers of UC, the conversation typically focuses on cost savings and how to measure productivity gains. However, one thing that does not get brought up often enough is how organizations can use UC as a way to ensure continuous communications in the event of a disaster.

Organizations that haven’t been through a disaster tend to only think about the ones that gain national attention such as hurricane Katrina or 9/11. However, the majority of disasters occurs with very little media attention and can be just as harmful. For example, one enterprise I recently dealt with had a chemical truck spill directly in front of the building so workers were not allowed in the building. This meant none of the workers were able to get into the location even though there was no problem with the physical location; it was more of an access problem.

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Earlier this week I was at a CIO conference in Europe and one of the big topics of conversation was Unified Communications. Remote working, collaboration initiatives and cost cutting have all made UC a more important topic over the past twelve months. There was lots of discussion about deployment issues, the ROI of UC, training issues, etc. but the biggest point of discussion was Cisco versus Microsoft and where to use which. Based on the conversations I had at the CIO summit plus others, here is where companies should leverage the respective strengths of each of the two 800 pound gorillas:

• Video. There seemed to be little doubt here that Cisco is the vendor of choice. Between TelePresence, Tandberg, Callway, Show and Share and all the other video solutions Cisco has, the company is, by far, the most dominant vendor in the video space. Additionally, there’s a common belief by people with a Cisco network that Cisco video on a Cisco network will give the best experience. I think you can provision quality video on any network with any end point but I do believe it’s easier with Cisco on Cisco.

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In 2012, look for the Unified Communications (UC) industry to finally evolve away from using terms like “calls” and “trunks” and replace it with the concept of a “session.” I believe this to be an important step on the road to more pervasive UC deployments, particularly mobile UC.

Why do I believe that? The first step in believing this is to understand what a session is. With voice over IP (VoIP) and UC, the industry uses terms like “calls” to discuss the features in a UC solution. However, this term is a throwback to legacy communications and is used to make new UC solutions look like an old PBX. It reminds me of when I was in college taking a software development class and the lab instructor referred to lines of codes as “job cards.” There were no cards, just lines of code. Similarly today, we aren’t making calls in an all IP world.

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