Kennedy said the growing acceptance and use of the Session Initiation Protocol to launch voice and video calls and conferences mirrors the rise of TCP/IP, the protocol suite that powers the Internet. And he certainly wasn't the only one talking about SIP, which seemed to be mentioned in almost every session at the conference, often in connection with SIP Trunking services that are beginning to allow enterprises to get integrate Session Initiation Protocol services more tightly with their carriers. Avaya has been one of the biggest commercial proponents of SIP, which, like TCP/IP, is an Internet Engineering Task Force specification.
"It's taken roughly 15 years, in both cases, for these technologies to go from codification and specification to broad embrace, and deployment," Kennedy said. He asked the audience to recall TCP/IP's slow expansion from the academic and government worlds into corporate networks, where it had to displace the incumbent networking protocols -- winning out because of its independence from vendors and operating systems.
The transition to TCP/IP accelerated after the advent of compelling applications such as browsers made Internet connectivity and compatibility essential. Similarly, SIP's adoption and commercial potential will be driven by applications, Kennedy said. Avaya believes one of them is its Flare technology, which it has introduced in the form of a touch screen tablet that allows users to put together a conference call or video session by dragging and dropping people from a list of contacts and grouping them together onscreen.
Presence detection is integral to this process, so Flare users know exactly who is on the call -- eliminating some of the roll call confusion associated with traditional voice conferencing, where the conversation is often interrupted by beeps and chimes as people join and leave the call, Kennedy said. A call organizer can also use finger gestures to reassign participants to a sub-group to carry on a conversation and then report back.
Although Flare was introduced on Avaya hardware, Kennedy said it will also be coming to the iPad, Windows, and other platforms. "The Flare experience is a software experience, so it can exist on virtually any device that's out there," he said. "But in order to do that, you need a strong SIP infrastructure" because it's the centralized collaboration server and directory that makes the interaction possible.
In response to questioning by Fred Knight, conference co-chair and publisher of TechWeb's NoJitter.com blog, Kennedy admitted he doesn't know exactly how this revolution will play out, only that it's coming. "We will discover it, and we'll know it when we see it," he said.