Unify officials are preparing to take the next steps with its Project Ansible next-generation unified communications platform, which they said is on track to become generally available later this year.
Unify—nee Siemens Enterprise Communications—first unveiled Ansible in June 2013, outlining a solution designed to seamlessly aggregate communications streams—from voice and video to social software, analytics, text, search and business applications—and to enable businesses to centrally manage it all through a single common user interface. Unify officials have argued that current management tools for conferencing, collaboration and content are segmented, which forces users to do a lot of the integration themselves. Ansible will clear that up, they said.
On March 17, the first day of the Enterprise Connect 2014 show in Orlando, Fla., Unify officials gave a timeline for their project and more details about what businesses can expect when it launches in October. The solution has been undergoing pre-beta trial testing with users, and the company will shift to formal beta tests in May. Included in the beta effort will be a trial run by Unify itself, according to the company.
The first version in October will be delivered via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.
Unify CEO Dean Douglas, named to the position in December 2013, said the initial customer reviews of the unified communications (UC) platform have been strong.
“Since joining Unify, Project Ansible has been a central focus in our portfolio reviews, and I am even more excited about its potential to deliver an amazing user experience and tangible benefits to companies of all sizes,” Douglas said in a statement. “Project Ansible is our answer to intensive market research that started over two years ago. Based on what users expect from their communications and collaboration behavior, Project Ansible is the solution to take them there.”
At the event, Douglas and other Unify officials released more details about Ansible, including support for WebRTC—which enables browser-based video communications—as well as desktops and a range of mobile platforms, including apps for Apple smartphones and tablets in the first release, followed soon after by apps for devices running Google’s Android operating system.
There also was a list of other features, including high-definition audio/visual capabilities, one-on-one and group conversations, enterprise social networking, search across persistent conversations, people and files, and cross-device access to messages, files and communication avenues, such as voice, video and screen sharing. There also will be contract integration for LinkedIn and Outlook, the company said.
Unify to Beta Ansible UC Platform in May, Launch It in October
After Ansible is released in October, Unify officials have plans to aggressively build up the UC platform’s capabilities. For example, by the end of 2014, Ansible will include intelligent connectors to on-premises OpenScape Voice environments, enabling businesses to use the Unify products they’ve already invested to reap some of the benefits promised by Ansible. By the middle of next year, Ansible will offer integration into on-premises OpenScape Business and OpenScape 4000 environments.
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, said in a post on the NoJitter blog site that while more details are needed, he is impressed with the direction Unify is taking with Ansible.
“Some of these [upcoming capabilities] such as conferencing and audio/video integration are obvious, but it would be nice to get more detail on items like ‘rich, textual messaging,’ ‘enterprise social networking’ and the ‘outstanding’ user guide,” Kerravala wrote. “These leave a fair bit of room for interpretation, but again, it’s certainly a positive to see these items on the list. The product aims to be a next-generation work tool, and these are the tools that future generations of workers are using.”
He also said that Unify’s decision to call the platform Ansible once it’s released makes sense.
“Initially, I believe Unify wanted to use Ansible as the code-name and then release the product under another name,” Kerravala wrote. “I’m normally a bigger fan of names that actually mean something, but the company (I know, boring) has done such a good job of branding Ansible; I think it makes sense to keep the name around.”
The announcements around Ansible come less than a week after Douglas and other Unify officials at the CeBit 2014 show outlined an evolving work environment that they are calling a “New Way to Work,” driven by the growing numbers of younger people in the workforce and such trends as cloud computing, bring your own device (BYOD) and greater worker mobility.
“No longer are ‘anywhere workers,’ ‘virtual teams’ and ‘consumerization’ buzzwords of interest,” Douglas said in his CeBit keynote. “The ‘New Way to Work’ is here, it’s the reality of global work today, and C-level executives and IT professionals must be ready to address these topics now.”