By Dave Martin
If we are to believe the industry buzz about unified communications (UC) and any-to-any communications, an organization that does not offer employees the latest communications tools is doomed to fall behind the competition. Indeed, it is hard to imagine getting through the work day without our beloved smart devices. Combined with real-time communications applications such as IM, presence, desktop sharing and unified messaging, the latest mobile devices are, without a doubt, very powerful tools that can boost the efficiency, productivity and agility of an individual, a team or an entire business.
The value proposition for UC — combined with the groundswell of smart devices — is generating huge revenue opportunities for channel partners. However, as is often the case with any major advancement, there are hidden challenges associated with UC that can derail a deal or degrade customer satisfaction.
For channel partners to fully benefit from UC market opportunities, it comes down to understanding how UC will impact existing infrastructures and helping customers avoid potential pitfalls.
The first pitfall relates to interoperability. End-to-end communications touch a broad range of devices including legacy PBXs, IP PBXs, desktop IP soft clients, VoIP handsets, smartphones and video conferencing equipment. The breadth of vendors and differences in implementing industry standards further complicate this complex landscape.
Two additional infrastructure pitfalls also loom. The convergence of real-time applications like voice and video with existing data traffic means that network-wide QoS must be implemented to ensure a high quality end-user experience. While many UC vendors have implemented buffering, dynamic codec selection and other techniques to minimize the impact of jitter, latency and packet loss on UC sessions, these are not a substitute for properly designing and implementing a traffic management policy. Adding UC traffic to networks can overwhelm existing infrastructure and reduce overall network performance if the appropriate call admission control, prioritization and traffic shaping is not put in place.