An eye on the Unified Communications market in 2009

Unified communications is a rapidly growing and evolving market, with new products and solutions announced on what seems to be a daily basis. The unified communications (UC) market is composed of various elements and components, provided by a variety of vendors. There are several groups of players in the enterprise UC arena, all coming from different directions: the switch, enterprise IM and presence, messaging, mobile devices, conferencing/collaboration, applications and so on.

Check out the table of UC vendors and their products and, below, some of the vendors already profiled to better understand it’s business model and how it may fit into your UC strategy.

Vendor Product Features
Alcatel-Lucent OmniTouch UC Suite
My Instant Communicator
Genesys GETS
User Profiles
Avaya Intelligent Presence Server
One-X versions
4 UC bundles. Also: CEBP
Services: SIP, Speech, Mobility
Cisco Unified Presence Server/Unified Presence Communicator
WebEx, WebEx Connect
Intelligence in network
SaaS
Mitel Mitel Application Suite/Your Assistant
3300 Live Business Gateway
“Presence Everywhere” — contact center, UM, etc.
NEC UC for Business, UC for Enterprise
Business ConneCT — SMB
Unified infrastructure, UC applications, Unified Business
Nortel Converged Office
MCS 5100
ICA w/MSFT; Comm-Enabled Appls (CEA), Agile
Siemens OpenScape UC Application
OpenScape UC Server
Speech-enabled voice portal, multiple PBX integrations; OpenSOA
Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center (CIC) Vonexus Enterprise Interaction Center Standards-based “All-in-One” Platform

Microsoft

Microsoft’s vision for UC brings formerly separate modes or channels of communication and messaging together around a single identity, allowing for streamlined communications for the user and increased operational efficiency for IT. With presence as the backbone, UC makes this set of communications capabilities available from within the business processes and applications that information workers use most.

Microsoft’s core UC offerings are Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and the Microsoft Office Communicator client (referred to as MOC or Communicator). Microsoft OCS is the evolution of Microsoft Live Communication Server (LCS), adding VoIP/telephony and conferencing capabilities to LCS’s enterprise IM and presence features. Office Communications Server 2007 supports federation between organizations using OCS 2007, and with public IM systems (AOL, Yahoo and Windows Live).

Microsoft’s enhanced VoIP feature is a software-based solution that lets information workers initiate voice communications from the context of the application from which they are working. OCS 2007 also works with existing enterprise telephony systems (PBX) either natively over SIP or via a media gateway and public switched telephone networks.

Microsoft insists that OCS is not an IP-PBX, but it is expected that OCS will ultimately be used instead of the PBX in some enterprises, although it is currently lacking some of the functions capabilities offered by most enterprise telephony vendors.

Partnerships with vendors include Genesys, Siemens, Mitel, Nortel, NEC, Avaya, Cisco, BT, Philips, New Step, RIM, Net.com, Sylantro, Broadsoft and Aspect. Other partners include Polycom, Tandberg, Radvision, Arel Anywhere, Dell, Hitachi, Intercall, Premiere Global Services, Sprint, Bell and Global Crossing. Device partners that provide devices to work specifically with OCS and MOC include LG-Nortel, Asus, GN/Jabra, Polycom, Vitelix, Plantronics and Samsung.

Cisco

Cisco defines UC as voice, video, data and mobile applications unified on fixed and mobile networks that enhance business productivity and facilitate agility by accelerating decision time and reducing transaction time. Cisco notes that its UC solutions are architected to be open in order to ensure interoperability from the physical infrastructure to the application layer and to be secure in order to protect users and businesses. The Cisco solution uses the network as the platform to deliver an open and inclusive experience to users across disparate workspaces.

Cisco offers various delivery models for UC services, including on-premises, on-demand, hybrid on-premises/on-demand, and managed. Cisco has an end-to-end UC solution spanning from the network infrastructure to applications, services and devices/endpoints, enabling the company to deliver control of the end-to-end user experience as well as security and reliability at the application, call control, device/endpoint, and network infrastructure levels.

Cisco’s UC offerings include:

  • Cisco Unified Presence, which delivers IM and click-to-call features, serving as an integration point for presence published by other applications, including IBM Sametime and Microsoft LCS/OCS.
  • Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, a software client providing a single user interface for IM, telephony, presence, collaboration, messaging and video.
  • Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator, for a mobile collaboration client with presence.
  • Cisco Unified MeetingPlace and Unified MeetingPlace Express for audio, video and Web conferencing.
  • Cisco Unity and Unity Connection, for unified messaging.

In addition, Cisco offers Web conferencing and collaboration services, based on its acquisition of WebEx. Cisco WebEx provides Software as a Service (SaaS) Web collaboration, and Cisco WebEx Connect provides what Cisco describes as “everything a business needs to securely instant message, share files, collaborate, launch meetings, and manage projects.” Cisco is leveraging the WebEx service and network to get into the SaaS space, focusing on collaboration.

Nortel

Nortel views UC as presence-enabled communications and collaboration systems featuring integrated telephony, instant messaging (IM), conferencing and email, providing a consistent, unified user quality of experience over any device, anywhere, anytime — whether fixed or mobile — and through multimedia applications for a richer collaborative experience. The next step is application convergence, the communications enablement of business applications and processes through UC, which Nortel refers to as communication-enabled applications (CEA).

Nortel leverages service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services to extend UC into business applications. At the heart of Nortel’s SOA solution is the Agile Communication Environment (ACE), extending UC to business applications and exposing key communications capabilities and integrating them into business applications and processes. The Nortel ACE works with switches from Nortel and other vendors and also integrates with video servers. Through an alliance with IBM, Nortel provides communications-enabled applications capabilities fully integrated with IBM’s Lotus Sametime client, providing a single communications-rich graphical user interface. Nortel is also leveraging IBM channels for go-to-market advantages.

Other UC products include the Multimedia Communication Server (MCS) 5100 and the Software Communication Server (SCS). The MCS 5100 integrates IP telephony, multimedia conferencing, IM, presence and other collaboration tools and can be seamlessly integrated into existing Nortel voice environments and other environments. The SCS is an open, SIP-based UC solution for SMBs that provides VoIP and UC capabilities on a single platform, distributed by IBM, Dell and Nortel partners.

Forming a unique partnership, Nortel and Microsoft have joined together in the Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA), bringing to market a single client for mobility, IM, telephony, conferencing, contact center and so on, as well as consistent business-grade telephony and a single presence engine. Converged Office is a software-only solution that integrates the Microsoft UC platform with Nortel telephony.

Nortel has also formed an alliance with IBM that includes joint marketing, product development, and services.

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