Let’s start off with a quick definition of UC (from iData Labs):
Unified Communications (UC) refers to the integration of real-time, enterprise, communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, voice (including IP telephony), audio, web & video conferencing, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), desktop sharing, data sharing (including web connected electronic interactive whiteboards), call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). UC is not necessarily a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user-interface and user-experience across multiple devices and media-types.
Just for the record, I still believe Unified Communications is the future for the way the enterprise will choose to communicate. The reason I mention this is that the meteoric rise has slowed a bit and I think there are several reasons for this:
- The moves by Microsoft to Skype for Business and Office 365 has prompted some companies to apply the brakes to rethink their deployment strategies.
- There is still a wide number of UC “players” in the market with no clear leader making integration more difficult.
- The lack of full interoperability inside and outside the organization.
- A lack of standards to better allow the enterprise to justify the cost and time outlay in implementing their UC strategy.
There is a “utopian” view of Unified Communications, the thing is, it just isn’t here yet. That would have the same look and feel of IP video calls, whereas you only need the IP number of the “far end” person to connect via video. Then you are able to add subsequent locations (based on your system’s ability) and enjoy an ad hoc conference. Outside of your organization you are constrained in your ability to communicate quickly and easily.
iData Labs has issued some interesting statistics on UC deployment. Some of the highlights are that the premise-based systems (Skype, Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber, Avaya Aura, etc.) make up just about 50% of the market. Remaining are systems where both parties are joined via a 3rd party cloud or premise solutions (WebEx, Citrix, Vidyo, etc.).
Here is an excerpt from TechTarget that helps explain the roadblocks:
For example, there is a Sametime gateway that allows you to share presence and IM with Yahoo, AOL, Google and XMPP, but it cannot share it with Microsoft users. Microsoft has federation capability with MSN, AOL and Yahoo, but not with Google. To help companies integrate presence into other areas, Microsoft also has the Open Interoperability Program to provide support for PBX manufacturers and gateways to link seamlessly with OCS.
Although this has slowed the progress of Unified Communications down it is just a small hurdle, as most emerging technologies have to overcome!