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Unified Communications
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Unified Communications
Richard "Zippy" Grigonis
Executive Editor,

IP Communication Group

More Partnerships, Alliances, Affiliations, Collaborations...

In the old days of "unified messaging" a brave coterie of programmers attempted to build a monolithic piece of software that would serve as a single interface to an inbox holding emails, faxes and voicemail. In today's world of unified communications (particularly mobile unified communications), few companies could possibly re-invent so many wheels and integrate them into a seamless, smoothly functioning whole.


Just as some modern web-based UC systems are starting to take on the form of a mashup - framework applications that corral, integrate and coordinate the data and functions of more than one source into a single integrated tool - so too are disparate companies working together to create new and exciting UC services and applications that were not originally provided in total by either source.


The first great UC Alliance dates from July 18, 2006, when Microsoft Corp. and Nortel announced a strategic four-year alliance agreement, forming the Innovative Communications Alliance, based on a shared vision for unified communications. Both companies have attempted to cooperate on technology, marketing and business levels to drive new growth opportunities, revolutionizing businesses communications, saving money and boosting corporate productivity in the process. Under the alliance, Microsoft and Nortel deploy the other's technologies in their enterprise networks - Nortel's network expertise and Microsoft's software.


UC partner or alliance relationships can be intensive or casual. Sometimes specific projects encourage a customer to bring together two vendors to "fill in the gaps" in terms of the customer's needs. Recently, for example, Québec City's Jean Lesage International Airport reportedly selected Cisco and HP to provide mobility, UC and network infrastructure services. The airport handles a million passengers each year. As part of the plan to upgrade the airport, authorities will introduce mobile networking technology from Cisco and implementation services from HP, updating passenger services at the counter. Communication among mobile airline employees will also be revamped and improved. Retooling the airport will involve calling upon both the UC and mobility aspects of Cisco's Unified Wireless Network to ensure mobile collaboration between users, devices, critical applications and airport systems.


Passengers will doubtless be ecstatic when they encounter the free WiFi that's part of the deal. Other facilities such as self-service check-in kiosks, ground equipment usage and baggage tracking will all be introduced.


Sometimes vendor cooperation occurs in deep technical ways unbeknownst to the customers. For example, VoiceInterop, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cleartronic, Inc., that is a provider of both enterprise and managed UC solutions, has adopted Twisted Pair Solutions' WAVE software as a core component of its AudioMate360 family of IP gateway devices. (Twisted Pair Solutions is company that pioneered UC software written to open standards.)


The companies' combined solution is designed to meet growing demands from transportation, utility, government and other organizations for cost-effective, flexible, easy-to-deploy interoperable communications solutions. Grand UC plans are often stymied by a lack of affordable interoperability when it comes to diverse communications devices and networks, many of which have been previously built on proprietary hardware solutions. Combining VoiceInterop's relatively inexpensive end-to-end family of gateways with Twisted Pair's WAVE software can be used to harness ordinary IP networks as a conduit to seamlessly connect disparate and incompatible communications systems, regardless of device, network or application. The companies' combined solution reduces deployment costs and maximizes ROI by enabling businesses to leverage existing communications infrastructure.


Just as we went to press, Avaya announced that they had worked with IBM to develop seamless integration between the UC apps of both Avaya and IBM. IBM Lotus users can now communicate and collaborate more proficiently by Avaya's impressive range of UC capabilities from within their Lotus software.


Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC's IP Communications Group.


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