Sonus Networks Looks to Unify UC Via Its Harmony Architecture

Sonus officials are aiming the cloud-based UC interoperability platform at both enterprises and cloud service providers.

Sonus Networks is rolling out its Harmony Architecture, a cloud-based platform aimed at helping businesses tackle the thorny issue of interoperability among disparate unified communications offerings.

Sonus officials introduced the Harmony Architecture at the ITExpo 2012 conference Oct. 2, aiming the solution both at enterprises that are looking to bring greater UC capabilities to their increasingly distributed and mobile workforces, and service providers that want to offer a greater range of cloud-based communications services.

The biggest problem businesses are facing in UC application deployments is that doing so “is very difficult, because it’s not so unified,” Nancy Maluso, vice president and general manager of communication applications at Sonus, told eWEEK.

There are a number of challenges, Maluso said. There are myriad communications avenues at work, from mobile phones and video applications to line-of-business and office applications to multiple offerings from various vendors. There also are a number of trends in the market that are driving the need for greater interoperability among communications solutions, including the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) push as employees use their personal smartphones and tablets for work.

In addition, a growing number of workers—about 66 percent of the workforce, according to Sonus—are mobile at least part of the time, with 13 percent mobile all of the time, Maluso said. And as many as 66 percent of businesses have multiple network technology vendors, with 29 percent having five or more vendors.

Sonus officials also said that businesses are seeing as many as 18 percent of projects being delayed because participants can’t collaborate effectively with their current UC tools. A recent Sonus-commissioned study found that due to a lack of UC capabilities, mobile workers are losing at least 2.5 hours of work time a week.

It’s an issue that a number of UC vendors, including such established companies like Cisco Systems, are trying to address. As far back as 2010, a number of vendors—including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Polycom—created the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum. More recently, Thrupoint officials in March said they wanted to leverage their Thrupoint Application Server and Fusion framework to offer ways to manage UC applications across multiple platforms.

Sonus officials are aiming to do this with its Harmony Architecture, which aims to integrate equipment and applications from a variety of vendors, including Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft. The goal is to create a consistent UC environment across multiple devices and locations, according to company officials.

The solution comes with several parts, including the Sonus Session Manager, a session management platform based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Through this platform, businesses can integrate the various parts of their UC environments to employees and partners through the cloud. The platform orchestrates a variety of UC elements, including PBX phones, applications, collaboration tools and multiple endpoints—including PBXes and endpoints businesses already are using.

Enterprises can either purchase the product directly, or access it from cloud service providers as a service. The cloud element is an increasingly important one as companies are growing increasingly comfortable with cloud computing, according to Maluso. As many as 70 percent of companies prefer to deliver software and services over the cloud, she said.

The Sonus Composer Software Development Kit (SDK) enables programmers to create and deploy applications through the Sonus Session Manager, using a variety of scripts, adapters and APIs. Sonus Plus offers partners a way to create applications that can be tested and pre-integrated with Sonus Session Manager.

The Sonus Collaboration Lab is a facility that can be used for integration testing, and where Sonus Plus partners can test and verify the integration of their applications.