By Brendan B. Read
One of the key issues inhibiting adoption and widespread use of unified communications (UC) solutions including presence, videoconferencing and high-end telepresence systems, and which are impeding companies (and society) from realizing the full benefits from them is the lack of interoperability between these products.
The inability of many such UC tools to talk to each other cripples organizations from efficiently interacting each other without in many cases costly application and customization work. That limits for example telepresence from being used as a greener, more productive and safer option to travel. It also causes costly headaches when firms merge and have to choose and rip and replace systems.
The suppliers have now bandied together to resolve such issues by creating the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF), a non-profit alliance aimed it says to "realize the potential of UC by increasing efficiency, decreasing implementation costs and improving the interoperability experience for UC customers." These founding companies include HP, Juniper Networks, Logitech / LifeSize, Microsoft and Polycom along with Acme Packet, Aspect (News - Alert), AudioCodes, Broadcom, Broadsoft, Brocade, ClearOne, Jabra, Plantronics, Radvision, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Teliris.
The UCIF's vision is to enable interoperability of open, standards-based UC hardware and software across enterprises, service providers, and consumer clouds. This will act as a means to generate incremental business opportunity for all stakeholders in the ecosystem and of increasing the business use of UC technologies and services.
The UCIF creates and tests interoperability profiles, implementation guidelines and best practices for interoperability between UC products and existing communications and business applications. The UCIF will utilize existing industry standards and define new standards to eliminate the gaps between current protocols and broad-based interoperability. UCIF membership is open to hardware and software solution providers, service providers and network operators.
"UCIF's charter to enable interoperability will pave the way to an optimized user experience and is well aligned with Juniper's 'new network' mission," said Mark Bauhaus, executive vice president and general manager for Juniper's Service Layer Technology Business Group. "The 'new network' is about transforming economics and experience. Unified communications needs a scalable network architecture that removes unnecessary cost while ensuring the convergence of data, voice and video by simplifying network design, automating network orchestration and delivering open APIs upon which partners can develop."
"Logitech (News - Alert) and LifeSize believe in a future where video communication is as easy as making a telephone call, where communicating with someone from across the globe is as effective as sitting across the table in the same room - a future that can only be achieved with seamless interoperability within multi-vendor environments," said Matt Collier, senior vice president of corporate development at LifeSize (News - Alert) Communications. "We are firmly committed to driving innovation and collaborating with fellow UCIF members to establish industry standards that will help realize the true potential of unified communications, and ensure that the experience is effortless and natural for anyone, anywhere."
"Polycom (News - Alert)'s heritage is providing customers with the ability to communicate without boundaries through standards-based, open collaboration solutions," said Andy Miller, Polycom president and CEO. "As the cornerstone of our Polycom Open Collaboration Network strategy, we deliver an innovative portfolio of high-quality, platform-agnostic voice and video solutions that interoperate with the leading UC platforms, providing flexibility and protecting the investments of our customers. The UCIF sole purpose is to drive open, standards-based solutions, and to squelch any efforts to promote proprietary solutions against the interests of our customers. We're delighted to be a founder of UCIF and its noble mission to promote interoperability throughout the UC industry."
"UC vendors have their roots in many different aspects of communications such as telephony, video and audio conferencing, scheduling, desktop sharing, white boarding, presence and instant messaging," said Wiener, CTO for Radvision. "Radvision as always had a strong commitment to enabling interoperability across different networks, protocols, devices and vendors," said. "The UCIF alliance will not only further our interoperability efforts in video conferencing, but also significantly strengthen the overall value and ease of use of our solutions when used with other UC solutions. The collaborative efforts of the UCIF alliance will instill confidence in our customers that their investments will interoperate with the emerging UC environment."
'Interoperability is not only critical to customer success for deploying unified communications but intrinsic to the delivery of legacy, current and next-generation UC tools, services and infrastructure from multiple vendors," said Jonathan Edwards, research analyst, Unified Communications, IDC (News - Alert). "Until now, efforts to achieve interoperability have appeared ad-hoc, which has given customers little assurance that their existing and planned investments are protected and will deliver the value promised. Together, these companies will help drive industrywide adoption of open standards and develop programs that put accountability on the vendors and provide peace of mind and investment protection for end customers -- something that will surely accelerate adoption of UC technologies."
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet's Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Alice Straight