Siemens Enterprise Communication officials are working on a platform called Project Ansible that they say will make unified communications much more unified.
Company executives began talking about Ansible last month during a meeting with analysts, and on July 16 gave the first public glimpse of the platform that is designed to enable organizations to more seamlessly unify voice, video, social communication, search and business applications. Ansible will make it easier and less time-consuming for users to do everything from looking for information in multiple sources to conducting live and virtual meetings to generating transcripts.
The platform is an answer to a unified communications (UC) market that offers multiple ways to collaborate, but makes it difficult to manage, integrate and leverage those collaboration tools, according to Torsten Raak, head of corporate marketing at Siemens.
“The promise of unified communications has been greatly unfulfilled,” Raak told eWEEK. “The collaboration [market] is fragmented and has become a complex mess.”
Ansible will give organizations a central place through which to view and manage their collaboration tools—from video and audio to content, applications and social media—across a company, with workgroups and in the cloud, and to improve the overall user experience, according to officials. Right now, even though there are a lot of collaboration, conferencing, social and content management tools and communications applications, they tend to be segmented and force users to do as much integration as possible on their own.
Zeus Kerravala, principle analyst with ZK Research, has argued in the past that UC is anything but unified. Ansible promises to offer users a more streamlined way to leverage the various communications tools offered to them, and to increase employee productivity and satisfaction.
“Ansible can almost be thought of as ‘unified’ unified communications, as it brings together all collaborative applications under a flexible “canvas’ where each user can customize what’s on their screen,” Kerravala said in a July 16 post on the No Jitter blog site. “The software aggregates any application, including traditional communications tools, social software, business applications and analytic tools. … From what I’ve seen, Ansible provides a highly flexible and customizable collaboration tool where workers have access to all of the data and tools they might need.”
Siemens engineers have been working on Ansible for more than two years, in collaboration with Frog Design, a product strategy and design consultancy. Officials want to give current and potential customers, as well as partners, an early peek at Ansible. Limited customer trials of the platform are planned for the end of 2013 and will be generally available later in 2014.
Siemens Unveils Project Ansible for Improved UC
The goal is to create a seamless UC experience that can run across desktops, tablets and smartphones—enabling even more people to collaborate—and that offers a range of deployment options for organizations, including both private and public clouds. In addition, partners will be able to offer it as a service to customers, according to Jan Hickisch, vice president of portfolio management of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) at Siemens. It also will leverage WebRTC, a standard that enables voice, text, and video communications to be embedded within Web browsers.
Ansible is being designed to make collaborations easier by giving organizations a single place for pulling together and managing communications in an intuitive way, without having to jump between disparate communications applications. It also will be personal, being adaptable to individual users, which company officials said will increase adoption, improve productivity and drive down training costs.
Another area being targeted is persistence. Meetings automatically become shared Ansible Spaces, and associated files, transcripts, conversations and participants are automatically included. In addition, all conversations and content remain available after the meeting is over. It also will make searching for data easier through a feature called Thought Trails, which will give users real-time, searchable access to content by topic and conversation, officials said.
The platform also will come with Connectors, which will offer integration to business applications vendors such as Microsoft, Salesforce and Google, as well as to various media platforms. In addition, Ansible will come with APIs and software development kits (SDKs) that will let in-house and third-party developers build software for the platform.
“We want o build a platform where an organization can build its own software [that] can play nice with Ansible,” Siemens’ Raak said.
Hickisch also said Siemens was making sure to avoid the trap of vendor lock-in. The company already offers other UC solutions, including its HiPath and OpenScape portfolios for small and large enterprises. Through its Connectors and SDKs, as well as the use of WebRTC, Siemens will ensure that all organizations will be able to adopt Ansible.
“Needless to say, it will work best with our [technology], but we won’t lock anyone out,” he told eWEEK.
Siemens officials will unveil more information about Ansible over time. The company has created an Ansible micro-site at www.ProjectAnsible.com where it will post updates.