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UC expert: Messaging apps tap into collaboration market

UC expert Irwin Lazar previews Enterprise Connect, saying the messaging apps market is one to watch as chat collaboration becomes a big topic this year.

Enterprise Connect again descends on Orlando, Fla., next week, as the conference marks its 25th anniversary. As always, the conference is teeming with the latest unified communications news, trends, product launches and industry insights.

To get a handle on this year's essential topics, TechTarget chatted with UC expert Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research. Lazar highlighted some of the big topics for this year's conference, including Microsoft's Lync, cloud UC and the "persistent mobile-focused messaging apps" infiltrating the enterprise chat collaboration market.

Lazar is co-chair of a WebRTC panel discussion at this year's conference, and three of his four sessions center on WebRTC topics.

What are the big UC trends this year at Enterprise Connect?

Irwin Lazar: Microsoft is probably still the biggest topic everyone's talking about as more companies start to adopt Lync, and as Lync begins to gain a foothold in the enterprise telephony space and becomes more than just instant messaging and Web conferencing. 

Another topic is WebRTC. We're starting to finally see actual WebRTC solutions that a number of vendors have delivered, whether it's remote desktop application or the ability to imbed controls into other applications.

The cloud is still a big issue. As companies move toward the cloud, they're running into a few different things. One is integration of what they continue to maintain on their premises with their cloud platforms. Second is cloud-to-cloud federation and cloud presence federation. And management of cloud is a big issue, managing things like voice quality in the cloud.

The one area I expect will be a new theme this year is the impact of folks like Slack, the persistent mobile-focused messaging apps that are increasingly becoming a part of enterprise collaboration. Companies are realizing a lot of people are texting, and there are now a slew of apps focused on providing a persistent chat capability.

I expect that's going to be a big topic this year because there's a significant threat to the Microsofts, the Ciscos and the Avayas, as collaboration shifts into those apps. Cisco has countered it with Project Squared. Unify has Circuit. You don't see anything yet out of Avaya or Microsoft to address that market, but I expect you will, or someone's going to get acquired. I think this chat collaboration space is really interesting.

I had a peek at one of the WebRTC sessions, and one of the speakers is making the argument that these apps are going to kill the top-down company-wide UC approach.  … There are a lot of rebuttals to that -- the fact that people still rely on high-quality phone calls, management security and so on.

What companies or products stand out this year?

Lazar: I'm curious what Oracle has to say. And Google is now participating. The products I find interesting are Acano and the video Web conferencing mediation software that allows you to come in with Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya and make them work together. The cloud vendors are doing some interesting things like Twilio, and some of the development platforms like TokBox.

One of the emerging areas of UC, and it's still really early, is how you imbed UC controls into other business applications. We're seeing vendors heading into that space; Avaya's a good example. But there's not a lot of enterprise pickup yet. But it will be interesting to see if those messages from the vendors will resonate.

Will WebRTC expand beyond the contact center use case this year?

Lazar: That's still the low-hanging fruit. When we've talked to companies and asked about WebRTC plans, the biggest use case is click-to-call from a website, click-to-video chat through a mobile app or mobile interface.

The second [use case] is external participants and video conferences. So if I want to invite somebody outside my company to participate in a video conference, I can do that through, say, Acano's WebRTC interface. The third case, and Avaya is heading in this direction, is remote desktop. So if I've got somebody working outside my company, I can give them access to corporate UC through the WebRTC user interface.

What else stands out for you this year at Enterprise Connect?

Lazar: There will be a fair amount of discussion around the underlying management security. Security's becoming a bigger issue, such as 911 services. There are always a lot of high-profile sessions on stuff that's new and exciting. But you'll find when you talk with folks in the audience that they're wrestling with: 'How do I make this work? How do I support it? How do I build business cases around it? How do I train people? How do I market it? How do I manage it?' It's worth spending time making sure people are paying attention to those kinds of topics as well.

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