Mobility, Cloud, Video Hold Keys to Future of Unified Communications
Carl Wiese, senior vice president of collaboration sales at Cisco, said the changing workplace—more mobility, more video and more social—is forcing businesses to embrace new ways of communicating and collaborating. People on the road or telecommuting are demanding the ability to communicate with each other from whatever device they want, whether it's a tablet, smartphone or notebook. "The way people work today is different than how they were working even three to four years ago," Wiese told eWEEK. "How we work today in Cisco is different than it was two or three years ago. … Work is what you do, not where you go." Vendors are working to provide platforms that offer whatever communications model a business is looking for, from voice, video, email and messaging to document sharing, scheduling, collaboration tools and presence, and doing so with both on-premises and cloud solutions. Cisco is aggressively expanding the features on its Jabber UC platform and Unified Communications Manager software while IBM adds to its SameTime capabilities. Meanwhile, Microsoft in June will enable voice, chat and presence reporting between Lync and Skype, bridging the UC platform with Skype's massive user base, while also strengthening Lync's integration with Microsoft's Office products.Avaya bolstered its Aura platform in 2012 when it bought video conferencing vendor Radvision, while ShoreTel gained cloud-based UC capabilities when it bought M5 Networks last year. Cloud-based UC is still in its infancy but will grow in the near future, according to IDC's Costello and vendors. At an event in Boston in November 2012, ShoreTel CEO Peter Blackmore said that currently, about 20 percent of the UC deployments leverage the cloud, while the other 80 percent are on-premises solutions. However, by 2015, Blackmore expects the percentage of cloud deployments to grow to 42 percent and to continue climbing. ShoreTel's cloud division is ShoreTel Sky. Pejman Roshan, vice president of product management for ShoreTel, told eWEEK that most of the companies that adopt cloud-based UC already have experience using the cloud in other parts of their businesses, such as with Salesforce.com. They're the early adopters, and eventually more people will embrace UC in the cloud. Still, Roshan said, there will be room for both. "I don't see cloud displacing on-premises," he said. But the discussion is changing, according to Cisco's Wiese. While most of Cisco's UC deployments are on-premises, there is much more customer interest in the cloud, he said. As more people get comfortable with the cloud in terms of security and availability, the idea of UC in the cloud will make more sense. Video also will help fuel interest in UC. "Video is a big deal," not just for face-to-face collaboration, but also in verticals such as engineering, health care, financial services and the law, where users can leverage information gleaned from video. Cisco is aggressively integrating video conferencing technologies into its Jabber and WebEx collaboration platforms. "There is more and more and more demand [for video] from users," Wiese said, noting that because many enterprise LANs and WANs are not yet ready to handle a lot of video traffic, that video may end up helping drive cloud-based UC adoption. However, not all businesses are demanding it right now. Flotek's Seagall said there is not a great need for it right now among oil professionals in the field, though that could change. "That may be something we'll look for later on in sales, but right now, it's not that big," he said.
"We absolutely believe that to have a unified approach from consumers to the enterprise is absolutely critical," Microsoft's Mezgec said.