Surprisingly, with all the market focus and investment in unified communications across the business, carrier and consumer segments, no coalition of willing vendors, providers and developers have stepped forward to help drive customer adoption in what remains a dynamic, but still very much evolving, technology. The Unified Communications Interoperability Forum, or UCIF aims to change that. The name of the game, it’s founder said, is to increase UC’s efficiency, lower implementation costs and improve the “interoperability experience” for end-users.
The forum is a non-profit group of technology leaders from around the world, charged with “working together to fully realize the potential of unified communications.” How? As with most forums of its ilk, the UCIF will work towards defining standards-based cross-vendor interoperability for UC hardware and software, seeing lack of open standards and interoperability testing and benchmarks as the primary hurdles to mass adoption, especially for the global enterprise. First up: defining and testing interoperability profiles, implementation guidelines and best practices for UC product interoperability, as well as for existing communications and business applications.
Founding members include HP, Juniper Networks, Logitech/LifeSize Communications, Microsoft, Polycom , Acme Packet, Aspect, AudioCodes, Broadcom, BroadSoft, Brocade, ClearOne, Jabra, Plantronics, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Teliris.
The diversity of these companies and their technology underscores the wide variety of network and data center elements needed to create a single data switching fabric necessary for unified computing. So far, though, the industry trend has been towards all-in-one vendor solutions, something which prohibits customers from assembling best-of-breed, multivendor solutions. Though some businesses have tried to go this route, efforts have been largely frustrated by the complexity and integration hassles that come with a multisource implementation. The UCIF should spur customer adoption by giving end-users greater choice among vendor products, instead of getting locked in to a mono-vendor approach that may not best match customer business requirements.
“Interoperability is not only critical to customer success for deploying unified communications but intrinsic to the deliver of legacy, current and next-generation UC tools, services and infrastructure from multiple vendors,” said Jonathan Edwards, a research analyst in Unified Communications at telecom consultancy IDC. “Until now, efforts to achieve interoperability have appeared ad hoc, which has given customers little assurance that their existing and planned investments are protected and will deliver the value promised. [The UCIF] will help drive industrywide adoption of open standards and develop programs that put accountability on the vendors and provide peace of mind and investment protection for end-customers—something that will surely accelerate adoption of UC technologies.”