The recent 2005 Interop show in Las Vegas reflected the shift in IT data networking market activity as attendance started recovering from the industry downturn of the past few years. The enterprise IT market has obviously started planning the migration of telephony to VoIP and premise-based based wireless network infrastructures, both from a security perspective as well from a wireless network approach. This market upturn has prompted show producers MediaLive to have a second network show on the East Coast at the end of the year.
Technology Providers – Applications vs. Network Infrastructures
Keynoters representing the leading network technology providers laid out different market strategies for converged network implementations. While it will be necessary to have “open” interoperability at all levels of the infrastructure, i.e., wired and wireless networks, between application servers, and a variety of wired and wireless end user devices, it is also becoming painfully obvious that one provider will not always be the best at all levels nor in all markets. CEO John Chambers espoused Cisco’s strategy for supporting “verticalized” markets like healthcare beyond basic network routers and associated transport infrastructure. Competitor Juniper Networks CEO, Scott Kriens, stressed their strategy of “joining, not fighting” other technologies to partner with leading communication application providers, like Avaya, to deliver the “best” solutions to an enterprise.
The hallmark of IP has been its open standards for software-based cross-network accessibility to people and information through interworking application servers. With SIP, this concept is being extended into the converged devices that people will use to communicate more flexibly with other people and with a variety of network applications. It is at the software application level that there will be “divergence” between provider offerings, rather than the hardware convergence of network transport and endpoint devices. This suggests that the flexibility of standards-based application software will futureproof the initial migrations to IP convergence and also encourage the “best of breed” approach to both enterprise CPE implementations and hosted service provider offerings.
Notes from the Floor
- Most of the sessions and the exhibits were focused on the piece parts of network management issues of traffic, reliability, interoperability, and security. There were a few sessions that touched on what end user “applications” and wireless devices will need in a multi-modal environment.
- Lumped under the label of “VoIP and Collaboration,” a sub-conference of the show dealt with IP Telephony applications and messaging. Those sessions discussed the evolving convergence of enterprise communication applications such as customer contacts, “instant” voice conferencing, and multi-modal messaging. Particular attention was given to the rise of Instant Messaging and the future of presence management in the business communications environment.
- Siemens Communications CEO Andy Mattes keynote focused on communications mobility in all its flavors, ranging from handheld devices with 3G connectivity to Wi-Fi laptops. Siemens has been very aggressive in its exploitation of SIP and presence management for converging desktop communications through its Openscape” application; now they are pushing further to include interoperability with mobile services under the label of “LifeWorks.”
- The traditional voice-only telephone is becoming an “always-on” device for both information delivery (from business applications), as well as person-to-person contacts. This is happening at both wired and wireless device level. A presentation by Bitstream showed their new technology that could compress PC information displays into the small screens of handheld devices in order to maintain consistency with the same visual experience at a desktop display.
- Another provider, LiteScape Technologies, demonstrated how an “always on,” converged IP screenphone can become a convenient “converged” communication and information “kiosk” in various environments where users need to use shared, premise-based equipment (e.g., retail stores, schools, banks, hospitals, etc.). Such a shared, public device can become immediately personalized by entering a user identifier, and enable visual information and transactions, along with live voice assistance. In effect, application-based IP smartphones can start replacing the combination of PCs and traditional telephone sets to provide the capabilities of both in “verticalized” environments.
The Voice of the User
- Although the Interop conference has primarily been infrastructure oriented, rather than end-user and applications, we keep wondering what kind of attendee really represents the end user application needs at such a conference. Although many point to the CIO as the focal point for coordinating all end user communication needs, including customer contacts, I looked over the agenda for their special one-day “CIO Bootcamp,” but it was focused primarily on educating them about new technologies and implementation management.
- The thinking is that the CIO will, in turn, educate business management about the potential of new operational benefits, and let them define their new end user requirements. However, this year’s enterprise survey by CIO Insight magazine shows that only half of CIOs are responsible for aligning IT with business needs or improving business processes and less than a third are involved with strategic planning, improving customer service, uncovering new technologies, or maintaining day-to-day operations and telecommunications. Clearly, the disruptive impact of mobile communications and multi-modal devices needs more attention.
- As has happened in the past with the PC penetration of the enterprise, the technology for handheld communications mobility and multi-modal messaging (email, voice mail, Instant Messaging, fax, SMS, etc.) has already taken root in the consumer services markets. The challenge now is to effectively integrate such functional capabilities with enterprise group communication activities and various individual job responsibilities. This also has to include communications between people both inside and outside of the organization (employees, business partners, and, of course, customers).
- Because Interop was in Las Vegas, it was an opportunity for Avaya to showcase the opening of Steve Wynn’s new hotel and its state of the art IP telephony system. In an exclusive industry reception, an excited Steve Wynn (see photo) enthusiastically talked about his vision for delighting his users (hotel guests) and how VoIP technology provided by Avaya was helping him do that. Although the new guest IP phones highlighted only initial “Phase 1” features, including easy concierge information functions through a desktop screen phone, the IP telephony system is inherently going to facilitate and support new multi-modal, personalized communication functions for transient guests, as well as for a variety of internal hotel applications in the future.
- The producers of Interop, MediaLive International, have recognized the need for a greater focus on enterprise end user communication needs and have announced a new show for that topic, called “Collaborative Technologies Conference” (CTC), to be held in New York June 19-24. Although the topics will address new enterprise business communications, the question is who will be in the audience. This is particularly pertinent because of the shift of voice communications to data server infrastructures and the convergence of voice and visual interfaces at the device levels (wired and wireless).
What Do You Think?
What role should the enterprise CIO have in migrating communications to IP infrastructures? What information will the CIO need to determine what the various end users in the organization require, and where will that information come from? What metrics will the CIO need to manage effective technology usage for all forms of person-to-person contact (“collaboration”)?
Let us know your opinion by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Rosenberg is a veteran of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. He focuses on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as a consumer and as a member of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.
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