A number of vendors, including Microsoft, Polycom and HP, are creating the UCIF to leverage currently available standards to improve interoperability among unified communications products. Juniper and Logitech also are founders of the UCIF, which has about a dozen members. However, absent from the membership rolls are Cisco and Avaya.
Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Polycom are among the founding members of an
alliance created to push interoperability between unified communications
offerings using currently established standards.
Other founding members of the UCIF (Unified Communications
Interoperability Forum) include Juniper Networks and Logitech, which late last
year bought video conferencing vendor LifeSize Communications.
Jeff Rodman, co-founder and CTO
at Polycom, said that demand for UC products will continue to grow as
businesses look to increase productivity while driving down costs. The
technologies have "a lot of potential to help businesses do their business a
lot more efficiently," Rodman said in an interview.
That trend is reflected in analyst predictions for the space.
Forrester Research is predicting that the market for UC inside enterprises in North
America, Europe and Asia Pacific will hit
$14.5 billion in 2015.
However, a key challenge in ramping up adoption is the wide
array of products from different vendors, and of specifications that can be
implemented different from one set of products to the next.
"The mix of vendors and the mix of specifications are a
continuing challenge to organizations," Rodman said.
There's also the issue of mismatched refresh cycles, which can cause
hardware and software to be misaligned and unable to work together.
There are a number of specs for different parts of the UC
landscape-for voice and video alone there is XMPP, SIMPLE for IM/P and H.323,
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), and XMPP/Jingle. There are myriad disparate
protocols for data conferencing as well.
"There are a lot of standards for a lot of [areas] for UC,"
Rodman said. "It's the end of the road. It's not what you can accommodate in a
That's where UCIF is stepping in, Rodman said. The group wants
to leverage existing standards to create more interoperability, which will help
businesses expand their UC efforts and protect investments they've already made
in communications products.
It also will be a benefit to the vendors, who currently spend a
lot of money with ad hoc interoperability testing. With interoperability
standards in place, testing will become less complex and less costly.
The foundation is platform-agnostic, and it is designing a
certification mark that will be used by member vendors to let customers know
when a product meets UCIF interoperability requirements.
The group is open to anyone and already counts about a dozen
members, including Brocade Communications Systems, Broadcom, Siemens Enterprise
Communications, Acme Packet and Radvision.
However, conspicuous by their absence are two key UC players,
Cisco Systems and Avaya, both of which have been invited to join, according to
Bernard Aboba, a principal architect for the Microsoft Office
Communications Server team, said the UCIF is open to anyone and that the group
would like to have those two companies involved, but that such involvement
won't make or break the group's efforts.
Aboba also said that as the UCIF hits its milestones, more
vendors will want to join. And as the UC market grows, the importance of
interoperability will increase.
"UC will be as ubiquitous as the Internet in 10, 20 years," he
Cisco and Polycom have disagreed on the issue of protocols in
recent months. In January, Cisco
officials introduced TIP
(Telepresence Interoperability Protocol), a
proposed interoperability standard for video collaboration and telepresence
Cisco is hoping that other vendors sign on to the TIP push, and
that eventually a standards body will take it over.
While some vendors, including LifeSize and Radvision, are
joining the effort, Polycom officials said they would not, saying they are wary
of protocol effort being directed by such a large vendor as Cisco. They also
said that there are enough standards already in place to increase
interoperability. They questioned whether the TIP effort was needed.
The UCIF is in the process of creating working groups and
prioritizing interoperability scenarios that are most troublesome for
customers. The organization also is developing a list of goals for the next 12
months and a longer-term interoperability road-map for the next three to five
More information about the group can be found here