Posts Tagged ‘unified communications’

One of the more interesting parts of the annual Cisco Live event is the “World of Solutions” exhibit hall. This is where many of Cisco’s vendor partners exhibit their wares and try to sell their products to the massive Cisco install base. Although the Analyst Relations team at Cisco didn’t give me that much time to walk the show floor I did find time to see a few of the vendors, one of which stood out for its unique approach.

ISI Telemanagement Solutions had a booth at the show it shared with VOSS Solutions and demonstrated what they called a UC Business Analytics Solution (UC-BAS). For those who don’t know these two companies, ISI provides cost management software for voice, data, wireless and UC. VOSS is one of the UC “middleware” vendors that provides design, configuration and management solutions for UC solutions, including the red hot Cisco Hosted Collaboration Service (HCS).

The joint solution, UC-BAS, attempts to provide business analytics to try and measure the value of UC, which has historically been a difficult, if not impossible thing to measure. In fact, one of the analyst roundtables I attended was on the ROI of collaboration and the primary take away from that was that the ROI is unique to each company and measuring the value had to be done almost on a case-by-case basis. The UC-BAS solution attempts to measure this by understanding who uses what tools and how often. Companies can use this to determine how the UC applications should be rolled out to its user base.

Enterprise Connect 2012 kicked off in Orlando on Monday the 26th. One of the first press releases I saw cross the wire was Acme Packet’s announcement of its session management solution for Microsoft Lync. The solution from Acme enables full interoperability between Lync and legacy IP PBXs through session management. The solution allows organizations that deploy Lync to simplify the management tasks associated with running a multi-vendor solution.

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.

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.

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.

Amid much speculation that Polycom was on the selling block, with HP being the primary possible acquirer, Polycom made the following announcements this morning:

  • Polycom acquired the Visual Collaboration Unit from HP, which includes all of the Halo products and managed services
  • Polycom and HP inked an agreement where HP would use Polycom as it’s exclusive partner for Telepresence and video UC solutions
  • Polycom announced the creation of the “Open Visual Communications Consortium” with a number of service providers including AT&T, BT conferencing, Global Crossing, Orange Business Services, Telefonica, Verizon and other service providers to drive B2B and B2C adoption of video
  • Polycom and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership that includes two products but at the time of press release did not announce any details on these products

These announcements are an interesting twist in growing saga that is corporate video conferencing.  About a year ago, Cisco closed on the acquisition of Tandberg creating a tremendous amount of speculation that Polycom would be acquired as well.  The logic being that, in an environment where video is becoming a core component of UC, it would be difficult for a video pure play to exist.  Names like Silver Lake (Avaya), Gore Group (Siemens) and Dell were tossed around as possible acquirers, but HP appeared to be the front-runner.  HP made some sense for a couple of reasons:  (1) It had its own niche video unit (Halo) and Polycom would bolster it; and (2) HP could use Polycom to close the product gap with Cisco, who HP appears obsessed with from a competitive standpoint.

This week kicked off Alcatel-Lucent’s Dynamic Enterprise Tour in Barcelona, Spain. The keynote was given by ALU Enterprise President, Tom Burns, and introduced the tag line “Changing the conversation”.  Changing the conversation has many different meanings and includes having customers look at alternatives to the market leaders in voice communications and data networking, changing the way workers collaborate with one another, changing the tools we use to communicate and lastly, changing the way companies converse with customers.

The overall vision that Burns gave wasn’t all that much different from what you might see in an Avaya or Cisco keynote except for one exception — Burns dedicated much of the keynote to using unified communications (which now includes social media) to change the way companies interact with customers and improve the overall customer experience. In fact, the following two keynotes, one by ALU Enterprise Application Group chief, Paul Segre and then an outstanding presentation by Kevin Panozza, CEO of Engagement Mattes an Australian based call center firm focused on this theme. Panozza’s keynote was almost exclusively focused on how to build a better customer experience.



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