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January 2007
Volume 10 / Number 1

The State of the Unified
Communications Market

By Blair Pleasant


Looking at the state of the market, it’s clear that UC is on the rise, with new products, alliances, and partnerships being announced almost daily. If there can be one word to define the current state of the UC market, it would be “confusion.” Users are confused as to which vendors are providing which elements of a UC solution, how to integrate UC into their existing environments, and how to determine the ROI that UC will provide.

Vendors are approaching UC from various angles and enterprises need to determine which approach makes the most sense for their particular environment. For example, most of the switch vendors view the IP- PBX (News - Alert) as the starting point for UC capabilities. Cisco’s approach is based on the converged IP network, while Microsoft views the desktop as the heart of UC. All of these approaches make sense and have pros and cons, and companies need to determine which fits best with their philosophy.

All of the major switch vendors have announced their UC plans and strategies, with some more advanced than others.

Here’s a brief overview of who’s offering what:

Alcatel (News - Alert) OmniTouch Unified Communication software suite provides IP-based unified communications applications based on four applications: My Teamwork, My Messaging, My Phone and My Assistant. The My Teamwork conferencing and collaboration application includes a SIP and presence server with user-configured telephony presence settings.

Avaya’s (News - Alert) Converged Communication Server offers SIP and Application Enablement Services. Avaya’s SIP Enablement Services provides IM capabilities in softphones, and also provides IM capabilities in its IP Agent. The Avaya one-X family of products provides “one experience” for users regardless of device. one-X products include Avaya clients, Microsoft (News - Alert) LCS/OC integration, IBM Sametime integration, seamless mobility and web conferencing integration.

Cisco provides its own presence server and client, Cisco Unified Presence Server and Unified Personal Communicator (UPC), which also integrate with Microsoft LCS/OC as well as IBM (News - Alert) Sametime. Both the Cisco UPC and Microsoft Office Communicator can act as the controlling client for unified communications with the Cisco applications.

Inter-Tel’s (News - Alert) Communicator is a Linux-based media server that performs media processing, conference bridging, personal assistant, multi-unit bridging and other features. It provides presence and call routing functions as a standard part of the product.

Mitel’s (News - Alert) Live Business Gateway provides integration between the Mitel and other legacy communications solutions and Microsoft LCS 2005 and Office Communicator 2005. In addition, Mitel’s Your Assistant collaboration application provides IM, presence, softphone and conferencing.

NEC’s (News - Alert) OpenWorx Comm Portal offers its own presence capabilities and desktop client. OpenWorx Comm Portal is designed with contact rules to let users designate how they want calls routed based on their availability.

Nortel’s (News - Alert) MCS 5100 provides conferencing, collaboration, presence, call control and IM services. In addition, Nortel’s Converged Office application works with Nortel’s CS 1000 IP switch and rides on an LCS server. Nortel and Microsoft also announced the Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) to create a software interface between Nortel’s Communication Server 1000 IP PBX and Microsoft’s UC server.

Siemens (News - Alert) HiPath OpenScape leverages Microsoft LCS for presence and instant messaging. Rather than introduce a proprietary IM client, OpenScape uses Microsoft’s Office Communicator client for IM, video, and as a telephony soft client. OpenScape’s Personal Portal provides a single, synchronized portal that users can use to manage their communications and conferencing.

The switch vendors aren’t the only ones getting in the game. Companies like Skype (News - Alert), as well as most of the Internet Portal Operators, including Google, AOL, and Yahoo have initiatives to capture business usage and to voice-enable their applications. Application vendors such as Oracle/Siebel, SAP (News - Alert), and others are also partnering with other UC vendors to telephony-enable their applications. Expect to see a battle for the desktop.

It’s important for enterprise users and IT managers to realize that unified communications is a composite of various capabilities and solutions, seamlessly tied together. No one vendor offers all of the necessary components, and any serious UC vendor will have to work cooperatively with other vendors to provide an integrated solution. Partnerships are key, and enterprise customers need to ensure that their respective vendors are all working together to provide a complete UC solution. Hopefully this will eliminate some of the confusion that currently defines the state of the UC market.

Blair Pleasant is President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion LLC, and Co-Founder of Unified Communications Strategies ( COMMfusion provides consulting and market research analysis on voice/data convergence markets and technologies, aimed at helping end-user and vendor clients both strategically and tactically. An industry analyst for 20 years, Ms. Pleasant has focused on convergence applications, unified communications, unified messaging, contact center software, and voice processing.


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