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Enterprise 2.0 Users Want Easy Unified Communications

While integrating voice, fax, e-mail, pictures, and video is a white-hot subject, implementing their related applications has been elusive.

W. David Gardner

June 19, 2007

4 Min Read

Major players in the emerging unified communications phenomenon came to the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston and essentially agreed that while integrating voice, fax, e-mail, pictures, and video is a white-hot subject, implementing their related applications has been elusive.

"IT executives don't care how it [unified communications] happens," said Frost & Sullivan's Melanie Turek, who moderated a UC session. "They just want all their apps to work together, whenever they need them, whatever they are."

Turek, who is principal analyst for information and communications technologies at the market research firm, came armed with a new survey of unified communications -- or UC -- and noted that the buying influence for unified communications is shifting gradually from department purchases to IT central purchasing.

With the federal government and Homeland Security promoting teleworking programs, the rapid growth of unified communications is likely to continue. Turek said the number of U.S. teleworkers increased by 150% from 1999 to 2005 and she believes that percentage continues to increase.

The participants at the "Unified Communications Comparative Analysis" session approached the subject from different perspectives, but agreed the UC phenomenon is represented by a multiplicity of IT and telephony features, products, and services that are being shoehorned and converged into a happening known as Enterprise 2.0.

In an interview, Turek said she believes unified communications' IT will center on Microsoft and IBM, with other companies playing strong supporting roles. And, although still nascent, session initiation protocol, or SIP, is becoming more important. "IT people should be aware that SIP is the standard," she said.

IBM's Akiba Saeedi focused her presentation on IBM Lotus Sametime 7.5, which has been shifting from a single product to a platform. "Some people live in Word, some people live in e-mail, some people live in portals," she said as she explained that Sametime as a platform can accommodate a wider variety of users than a product could.

"The extensibility of the Lotus Sametime 7.5.1 client provides access not just to people, but to information and resources," she said. Saeedi is program director for unified communications and collaboration products in the IBM Software Group.

Microsoft's Paul Haverstock indicated the software provider is centering much of its UC effort on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Haverstock, program management architect at Microsoft, observed that the company also is moving aggressively into voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

Turek said that Microsoft also could be intent on playing a dominant role in the telephony side of UC in addition to the IT side.

Avaya's Allan Mendelsohn said his company's one-X product drive in UC is to create a "seamless experience" for users whether they be "road warriors, campus roamers, desk workers, or remote workers."

"With Avaya one-X mobile, you're carrying your enterprise in your hand," he said referring to the mobile part of the Avaya product offering. "You get full business call control: hold, conference, transfer, assistant support, extension dialing. It's your office phone." Mendelsohn is senior manager of unified communications in product marketing at Avaya.

Nortel scored an early advantage in unified communications because it figured out early on that UC would be important, but the company's effort was slowed when Nortel had to divert resources and management focus because of an accounting scandal, now safely behind the company.

Nortel has been promoting its Multimedia Communication Server as a flagship UC product, according to Gary Cattarin, Nortel senior network architect. Nortel wants to look beyond the UC of today and develop an environment in the advanced unified communications of the future. The 5100 has extensive links and connections to both Microsoft and IBM Lotus products.

Ross Sedgewick of Siemens Enterprise Communications cited the company's OpenScape speech portal product as its bet that voice communications in UC will remain a dominant application. With an emphasis on UC presence -- the feature whereby users can tell the status of other participants on a UC network -- OpenScape users are offered features ranging from placing a simple telephone call to starting an audio conference.

Said Turek, "Presence is fundamental to unified communications."

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