In the early forms of unified communications solutions we saw many vendors deliver the different functions as discrete products, wired together in some way to create a “unified” communications solution. The realization that this isn’t so unified came later, and buyers & vendors have since then worked on more integrated offerings. The benefits of a fully integrated solution are significant – economics (more functions from each instance), less to manage, lower CPU demands (in theory), and if done right the ability for intelligence of each function to be easier utilized by other functions – creating a more powerful set of end user capabilities
However, it seems that just as we are integrating there are others disaggregating functions again, but this time it’s in the cloud. In fact this time it may be for just the right reasons and may help organizations solve other waning issues with IP-based unified communications – for example, interoperability is still an issue. For decades the solution for interoperability among voice was well defined and this thing called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) still solves this pretty efficiently. However, when it comes to IP-based voice, video calling, video conferences, instant messaging, and even web conferencing there is still a sizable gap in “real” interoperability.
Fortunately there are some organizations that see this lack of interworking as opportunity and have created services in the cloud that specifically address this. One is in the areas of “federation” for sharing Instant Messages and availability (aka “presence”) between two different companies, even if they are using different technologies. Another set of services provides the same for real-time media over IP between two companies (audio and video), brokering the connection or session setup so that people can easily arrange video calls between two companies, again even if they are using different technologies. Another function that is surfacing is the cloud-based video conference bridge, or otherwise known as an MCU (multipoint control unit) allowing people arrange a video meeting in the cloud with several people on it, again even if they are using different technologies.
Now, one might look at the technology and the vendors that develop it and say why don’t the vendors just agree to make their products work together? Well, in theory, or in marketing hype they can or do or will? Let’s be realistic – it’s a competitive marketplace and each vendor is primarily interested in replacing the other. There is little real interest in interoperability – unless of course there is a complimentary relationship and then it is often a unilateral validation of the interoperability.
So, applaud! These emerging cloud providers are solving much needed services. They are the mediators for the competing vendors that are solving real world issues for the end customers. These new services can provide customers with a greater degree of flexibility on reach, scale, and agility to address collaboration among partners.
Who are some of these providers? They include vendors such as Vydio, Bluejeans Networks, VidTel, and Nextplane. Each has it’s own different twist on what it offers and should be considered independently depending on your needs and there will no doubt be others on the scene.