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UC interoperability still a bad joke: Gartner

Analyst blasts vendors for dumping problems on VARs, crimping BYOD

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Unified Communications systems still don’t play together nicely, and Ken Agreess, a Research Director with Gartner IT Professionals Research, says vendors’ attitudes of asking value-added resellers to fix problems they create is a “failure”.

Agress made his assessment in a blog post penned after attending the Enterprise Connect event (formerly VoiceCon) in the USA.

A session at the event titled “Are we in a post-PBX era” raised Agress’ ire, as vendors on the panel “ … all settled on a relatively common statement – the most critical part of interoperability that enterprises will be leveraging in the near future is their value-added reseller. Rather than strong standards for signaling and media, the VAR will become more of a systems integrator that ties these systems together. There were somewhat obligatory noises about SIP, the UCIF, or similar standards, but the message I took away from the session was ‘interoperability will continue to be hard and enterprises shouldn’t expect the vendors to address this directly.’”

Agress goes on to argue that “Enterprises need the flexibility of these platforms to meet the growing demand for “bring your own device” approaches to mobility, leveraging cloud-based services effectively, and connecting directly to business partners, clients, suppliers or other third parties.

But what the ‘Interoperability comes through your VAR’ answer means is that we shouldn’t expect significant developments that make such environments truly possible. Since each vendor’s focus will be on their products, their clients, their services, and their communications channels, how can an enterprise reasonably expect to connect to a carrier service, cloud provider, or external entity that uses solutions from a different vendor?”

“This is ludicrous,”Agress says, especially given that “SIP was approved in 2000 with the goal of providing a standard for signaling in an IMS infrastructure. Standard codecs for voice and video are available for use. SIMPLE and XMPP offer the means needed to support presence and instant messaging. Yet in 2012 we’re still here discussing how hard interoperability is, particularly among some of the largest vendors in the industry.”

Agress feels that vendors are dragging the chain out of sloth, greed, and a desire to replace the PBXs they sold in the past. But he thinks PBC replacement is a poor idea, as UC should “be able to consume cloud services, connect to a wide array of devices and systems, and offer its services to applications that allow communications to become embedded in those applications that support business processes and workflows.”

Would-be UC buyers, if there are any left after Agress’ blast, should he says insist on interoperability and only buy from those who can deliver it. The laggards will eventually get the message.

And the VARs? They’ll still be needed, he says, as these solutions don’t knit themselves together. ®

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