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Irwin Lazar
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Do Standards Really Matter?

Standards such as SIP/SIMPLE and XMPP are often touted as providing significant benefits to enterprises.  But the reality is that many real-time collaboration applications still rely on proprietary protocols, or extensions to existing standards.  Should enterprises demand open standards support from their vendors?

In a Nemertes benchmark released in February of this year, we asked enterprises about their views toward SIP.  The results were startling: 54% of participants said SIP is important, but 29% say it’s not important at all. Another 18% say it’s either somewhat important or will be in the future, but that it isn’t today.  Yet for at least the last two years SIP and SIMPLE (SIP extensions for presence and instant messaging) have received considerable media attention as the basis for next-generation open communications and collaboration applications.  But our research showed that for enterprises, the bottom line is functionality.  People don’t buy open standards for open standards' sake; rather, purchasing decisions are made based on the ability of a product or service to meet current and anticipated future requirements.

So the challenge then is to demonstrate to enterprises that support for open standards provides greater benefit than implementation of proprietary approaches.  We’re starting to see this more and more in the marketplace.

For example:

•    Cisco’s support for SIP in Unified CallManager 5, providing the ability for UCM to integrate into real-time communications dashboard clients such as Lotus SameTime 7.5 to provide users with a unified communications experience, the ability to support SIP trunking for gateway-in-the-cloud services designed to reduce PSTN access fees, and the ability to use SIP for end-points, meaning that enterprises are free to choose low-cost phones.

•    Google’s support for XMPP, meaning that one can use any Jabber client with GoogleTalk, as well as interface with any XMPP-based service provider or chat network.

•    Microsoft’s support for CSTA as a telephony control interface in Live Communications Server 2005, enabling integration with IP-PBXs from Cisco, Avaya, Mitel, Alcatel, Nortel and more.

The growing support for open standards will bring significant benefit to enterprises, primarily by delivering greater opportunities for system integration, an ability to take advantage of third-party services, and the potential for federation of communications and presence systems with public services and/or business partners.

But much remains to be done.  In many systems there is still feature discrepancy between what is available in a proprietary solution versus what is available in standards-based alternatives.  Enterprises should carefully work with their vendors to understand their support for common protocols today, and more importantly, their future support plans.

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