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Unified Communications Magazine March 2008
Volume 1 / Number 5
Unified Communications Magazine
Peter Saint-Andre

The Beauty of UC is in the Eye of the Beholder

What is Unified Communications? It's a question that took up the majority of a panel I had occasion to moderate at ITEXPO EAST in Miami in January. Of course, there scores of generic definitions for UC - I find myself going back to Gartner's version, which says "The single largest value of UC is its ability to reduce 'human latency.'" In other words, because UC is independent of time, place, and device, it eliminates the human factor that is introduced by being "away."

By Erik Linask

As for defining UC in terms of features and products, that is considerably more difficult. Vendors, developers, and service providers each have differing definitions of UC, naturally predicated on their own product lines and service offerings. End users, on the other hand, have their own ideas, based upon what they need from a UC solution. Those definitions, it seems, are the ones that matter most, a point with which Clarus Systems’ CTO Richard Whitehead certainly agrees. “Surely, the user is the one to determine what constitutes UC functionality, not the provider?” he told me.

Given that, it would seem the UC solutions that will be most successful will be those that offer the greatest deployment flexibility for users. The idea is that businesses will be able to pick and choose which UC elements they deploy, down to the individual user (see the Q&A with Quintum CEO Cheng T. Chen on page 12 for more).

Businesses, then should quickly embrace UC solutions that offer such flexibility, like Siemens’ Open- Scape Unified Communications Server, which it announced recently, saying it is shifting its focus from being a hardware company to a software and service company.

OpenScape Unified Communications Server is a scalable, SIP session controller that controls a business’ entire communications, and offers carrier-grade resiliency. It provides a variety of communications applications, including voice, video (the new OpenScape video portfolio was also introduced with the UC Server), messaging, UC, mobility, and more, all on a single, converged SOA-based platform. Importantly, explained Siemens’ SVP of Global Marketing Mark Straton — and this is why it will attract businesses quickly — it is not an allor- nothing proposition. Rather, customers will be able to buy the features they want for each user.

“It used to be about voice and mail, but there are now so many other things that can be taken advantage of, and you need a true software application that can being these things together,” explained Straton. Of course, even with IM, presence, identity, and the many other features available today, a platform must still be built on a robust voice foundation, which is why Siemens has based its UC solution on a software version of its HiPath 8000 platform.

Adding to its flexibility is its ability to integrate with any groupware (i.e., IBM, Microsoft, Siebel, Salesforce, etc.), and the fact that it is a standalone, Linux-based platform. It also is designed to operate in any telephony infrastructure (e.g., IP, TDM, Centrex, or hybrid) from any of the many vendors. Siemens has designed it as a true software application designed for today’s multi-vendor environment, allowing customers to pick their own server hardware, call center applications, video technology, gateways, and any other peripheral software and equipment, in order to provide maximum flexibility and value.

Siemens has also priced its UC solution to sell — it is looking to have 150 installs by this time next year, which is quite a lofty goal, but it has priced the solution in a way that can accommodate that target. Currently, the solution is being sold with a one-time cost, though Siemens will eventually look to move to a subscriptionbased model — the personal edition is being sold for $73 per user, and the most advanced package, the enterprise edition, for $202 per user, with intermediate tiers as well (essential and professional editions).

Most importantly, perhaps, is still the fact that the Siemens solution allows businesses to customize the UC features and services they need for each individual user. Communication is a highly personal application, and those vendors that focus on allowing customers the flexibility to customize to the greatest degree are likely to see the greatest uptake in their solutions. Unified Communications is about personalization, and businesses will look for those solutions that allow their end users that flexibility. It is hard to imagine rigid solutions being able to compete, in the long term, with those that are easily adaptable to the changing needs of businesses today.

Unified Communications Communications Magazine Table of Contents

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