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

IP Communication Group

Plug-In Your UC Today

The concept of a "plug-in" is a universal one that spans both hardware and software. In the world of computers we use cards plugged into our PC's motherboard to add some sort of functionality, such as I/O, graphics, testing/measurement, routing or what have you. 19-inch rackmount computers can have as many as 21 plug-in boards on a passive backplane. And the plug-in boards themselves can accept up to five or so even smaller plugin modules, called mezzanine cards. A fully laden board can be a self-contained system, an "Enterprise on a blade".


To the general public, modularized, plug-in functionality is most often seen in software whereby third-party developers
create new capabilities to extend an application. Once particularly sees this in the case of web browsers where
plug-ins enable them to play video and presentation formats (Flash, QuickTime, etc.). You also come across plug-ins
in email programs to do such things as PGP Encryption, and even in graphics software (Yours Truly uses the "Noise
Ninja" plug-in almost daily to eliminate "grain" in images while working with them in Adobe Photoshop).

In the world of UC and next-gen IP communications, plug-ins are appearing all over the place. CommuniGate Systems
(www.communigate.com), known for their CommuniGate Pro scalable UC platform enabling network operators and
enterprises to provide messaging, VoIP, and customized applications, offers an even more intriguing item, a Rich Media
Unified Communications dashboard called Pronto! which can be delivered through any Flash-enabled browser. Built with
Adobe's Flash, Flex 3 and AIR technologies, Pronto! is constructed to accept various third-party software modules or plugins
that can serve up applications as varied as integrated email, calendaring, contacts management, secure IM, presence,
voicemail management, VoIP phone, RSS Feeds and management, photos, videos, music, and what-not. It's infinitely extensible, so any set of functions from click-to-call and call control to IM, Rich Media, groupware and VoIP can be quickly
plugged into Pronto! and set into motion. Pronto! plug-ins can call upon communications functionality, so they can access
external applications and services and retrieve data and present it via the user interface if necessary.

ShoreTel (www.shoretel.com), a provider of "Pure IP Unified Communications" solutions, recently announced trials of a ShoreTel plug-in for IBM Lotus Sametime, the culmination of work done with IBM since March 2008 to integrate their technologies. Customers will now be able to access ShoreTel's IP UC features from within their Lotus Sametime application, in particular the call control and management features of ShoreTel's ShoreWare Call Manager end-user application suite. The plug-in for Lotus Sametime also enables companies to integrate voice capabilities throughout their IBM Lotus collaboration applications without demanding that users to learn a new program or change their habits. UC capabilities can be integrated with a company's core business processes to increase employee productivity and collaboration throughout the enterprise.

The concept of the plug-in is a powerful one and will dominate UC for a long time to come.


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


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