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Top 10 unified communications stories and shakeups of 2011

The top 10 unified communications stories and shakeups of 2011 include the UC innovations and vendor shakeups of the new UC era taking shape.

Go back to part one of the top 10 unified communications stories of 2011.

5. Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications: UC integration improves

To date, the “unified” in unified communications has been a bit of an oxymoron. Most UC products are standalone tools loosely coupled together with inconsistent integration. According to the latest Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications from Gartner Inc., vendors are at last responding to customers who are demanding improved unified communications integration.

"Now what we're seeing from the leading vendors is a set of functions that are all intended to work together and do work together ... so you now have a set of functions that are not just sold together, but really will interoperate in what would be called a seamless way,” said Bern Elliot, vice president and distinguished research analyst at Gartner and co-author of the 2011 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications.

A fully interoperable, plug-and-play UC environment is a pipe dream, according to Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Companies considering a UC deployment should stop waiting for the actualization of UC standards and interoperability, and instead look for specialty middleware to deliver multivendor solutions.

4. Polycom's deal with HP packs a strategic blow to Cisco

 Polycom and Hewlett-Packard (HP) jointly announced Polycom’s acquisition of HP's Visual Collaboration Business Unit, including HP's Halo telepresence solution and related managed services. Polycom effectively transitioned a huge competitor into a systems integrator and gained an installed base ripe for upgrade.

Polycom’s acquisition of HP could help drive momentum in the video collaboration space, though companies like Avaya, Mitel and NEC will likely feel the sting of the deal. In addition to its HP partnership, Polycom announced updates to its UC Everywhere initiative, featuring guest executive speakers from HP, Microsoft and Juniper Networks -- all of which represent companies conspiring to take on Cisco's broad portfolio, particularly Juniper, HP and Polycom.

Cisco did some posturing of its own this year, accusing Juniper of failing to deliver the technological innovations the company has pledged to bring to market for years. Cisco also chastised Juniper for overextending itself between service providers and enterprises. In a more veiled dig, Cisco called HP to the carpet in its demonstration of Cisco versus the “good enough” network. Cisco’s competitive strategy wasn’t all mudslinging and campaign smears; Cisco assuaged concerns from the channel regarding the company’s 2010 acquisition of Tandberg by announcing a partner program and distribution strategy.

3. Consumer apps for business: Just deal with it?

Remember what the workplace was like before iPads, iPods and smartphones? Back when IT departments would provide computers, telephones and applications that workers needed to do their jobs, and when IT was responsible for identifying, managing, securing and maintaining these technologies? When individuals began to demand (or expect) that they could bring their own smartphones into the workplace and access email and other work information, the BYOD revolution exploded, ignited by the consumerization of IT.

Consumerization of IT is here: Deal with it.  Rather than fighting it and holding on to a mostly prohibitive model, organizations need to embrace user choice and flexibility while providing education, policies and guidelines to help ensure the safety of their employees, as well as their company reputation and data.  

Businesses are beginning to recognize the benefits brought about by the consumerization of IT by deploying mobile applications to the workforce and finding ways to re-engineer legacy business processes. Through enterprise app stores, businesses can provide employees with tools to access various mobile unified communications and collaboration apps, back-end systems for CRM, business intelligence, travel expense management and more, though new challenges are cropping up around mobile application management.

2. Microsoft Lync telephony: Ready to be a PBX replacement?

It takes Microsoft three releases to nail a product -- an enduring adage upheld by Lync 2010. The third release of Microsoft's unified communications portfolio, Lync 2010, addresses many of the shortcomings that weakened its predecessors: Live Communications Server (LCS) and Office Communications Server (OCS). In many ways, Lync does for unified communications what Outlook did for email in the 1990s.

According to TechTarget’s annual reader survey, 43% of respondents think Microsoft has the strongest product offering when it comes to a complete end-to-end unified communications and collaboration solution. Yet when it comes to replacing PBXs with Microsoft’s Lync, confidence begins to wax and wane.

Lync is positioned as a PBX replacement and a means for businesses consolidate telephony spending. For organizations with Microsoft infrastructure, Lync pilots are very simple and inexpensive. Inexpensive, yes, but free? Microsoft certainly positions Lync this way, but is Lync really free? Microsoft customers with an Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) can make internal phone calls from a PC for free, but this is where “free” ends.

1. Users won't plug in tablets, but mobile UC via Wi-Fi still dicey

Mobile devices have evolved from supplemental tools to desktop computers and desk phones to multifunctional communication powerhouses. Users have come to expect these anytime-anywhere devices and mobile applications to consistently perform well on the enterprise wireless local area network (LAN) and the wired network, but their preferred access -- Wi-Fi --hasn't kept up. IT cannot rely on users to plug in their tablets or smartphones to an Ethernet port, as in many cases users simply can’t or won’t.

Enterprises lacking a good mobile UC strategy will end up with frustrated users forced to juggle a fragmented collection of mobile and fixed-lined voice and UC applications. By equipping mobile workers with smart mobile devices and mobile unified communications clients, enterprises can improve productivity and exercise more control over how workers communicate and collaborate.

Go back to part one of the top 10 unified communications stories of 2011.





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