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Voicecon: Partnerships VS Open Standards

Microsoft is certainly gaining a number of important partnerships around their Office Communication Server with integration and partnership announcements from Audiocodes, Aastra, HP,  Polycom and Verizon. Taken individually, none of these announcements is earth-shattering, but taken together it shows there is momentum growing behind OCS and also highlights the growing tension between open standards and practical interoperability.

  • Audiocodes announced the Mediant 1000 and 2000 Survivable Branch appliances that perform SIP and DSP functions and incorporate Microsoft Survivable Branch Appliance features that enable local back-up telecom functions. In distributed enterprises where UC functions are centralized in a data center, WAN downtime can disable communications. Survivable branch solutions provide temporary dial-out capabilities.
  • Aastra announced two VoIP phones that integrate with Microsoft's OCS. The phones can operate independently, or when tethered to a PC via a USB cable, they can be integrated with Microsoft Communicator, such as click-to-dial and integrated presence.
  • HP announced support for Microsoft Communications Server  "14" on their zl Module, which provides a server blade inside a Procurve 5400zl and 8400zl chassis switch. In the event of the WAN failure, the communications module can temporarily continue to provide telephone services internally as well as route to the PSTN.
  • Polycom introduced three new phones that integrate with Communications Server, Outlook and Exchange by adding conferencing into the Outlook workflow, making video and audio conferencing an integrated experience.
  • Verizon's SIP trunking service, IP Trunking, is certified by Microsoft allowing companies who use Verizon's service to get technical support from Microsoft.

That momentum is good for Microsoft and Microsoft's customers, but it also furthers the UC markets continuation of approved equipment lists and reduced vendor selection.  In conversations with vendors, a common theme is using open standards, and in some cases, frustration that enterprise customers perceive VoIP, video and UC as proprietary, or at the very least, closed. Darren Podrabsky, Marketing Manager for HP's Halo, HP's immersive telepresence product and service suite, reiterated HP's line that they are dedicated to supporting and using open standards. Podrabsky also said that he has to spend time getting enterprise IT to understand that UC, at least HP's implementation of UC, is built on open standards.

Is it any wonder that enterprise IT believes that UC products are proprietary and don't interoperate? They don't. At least not well. If you want a UC system, then you buy from your vendors, VAR or system integrators approved-equipment list. If you go off the menu, you don't get support. Whether or not the system is proprietary or not doesn't matter, it might as well be.

An attendee from a services reseller was lamenting this very fact after a session on video-conferencing. "My CIO is getting pressure to use video-conferencing to reach out to new and existing customers. He's is being told by vendors that they use open standards, and I have to be the guy that says no, that won't work the way you want." Interoperability is a problem that all the vendors and VARs at Voicecon acknowledge, and we have received assurances that it is coming around the corner. If you are going to purchase a UC system today, make sure you select one that has the broadest set of partnerships.