Unified communication to slowly arrive in enterprises

Unified communication to slowly arrive in enterprises

Twists and turns ensure slow arrival on corporate networks

The company's UC project overlaps three other projects: converting from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft's Exchange, SharePoint Server and other collaboration technologies, a network convergence to move from Frame Relay to MPLS and move voice and video traffic onto the network, and evaluating hardware platforms for voice controls.

Sindaco said UC sits at the intersection of all three of those projects and that the company has been looking at software for nearly two years.

"It's very difficult to sell to the executive board," he says. "There is no ROI unless you talk about soft dollars so they are looking at it as more overhead."

A Gartner study published last week entitled IT Spending Survey: Early look at 2008 showed that VoIP has slipped out of the top 10 list of spending priorities. The research firm said that could signal slowing momentum on such undertakings.

On Tuesday, Microsoft's Gates all but acknowledged that the roll out to UC and integration with voice would be a methodical transition for a number of reasons.

He said voice would move to software over a period of time and work alongside the PBX into the near future, but he said eventually the PBX would disappear.

And clearly there are smaller issues of integration, including the lack of standard IM protocols across consumer and corporate IM platforms, that could hamper integration.

Eric Swift, senior director of Microsoft's unified communications group, says complete unified communications still needs some work.

"We definitely hope long term that the ecosystem of service providers and vendors will break down those barriers so that we can federate not only IM and presence but also document sharing, voice [and] video regardless. That will really change the way things are done."

In Swift's demonstration during this week's event, he used Office Communications Server to contact someone via instant messaging, made a voice call through the IM window and even initiated a video conference via Web cam.

But does it work with AOL's or Yahoo's instant messaging services?

Microsoft supports standards-based "federation" interoperability among different IM platforms, Swift says.

"With AOL, Yahoo and MSN [instant messaging], right now what we have done is federated IM and presence," he says, but not converting an IM into a phone call or Web conference.

He said Microsoft also is working in other areas. An internal Macintosh team has built client software that will be released shortly that offers to users of Apple's Mac platform some of the capabilities of Office Communications Server, including instant messaging, presence and the ability to make a voice phone call.

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