Enterprise Connect Summarized in Four Words: UCC, Video, Mobile, and Innovation
By Jim Lundy
Last week I was at Enterprise Connect—#EC16—in Orlando. A solid event, it has become one of the announcement vehicles for the industry. This year, many of the announcements centered on Unified Communications and Collaboration (see our recent post UC is Dead, UCC is the Future). Major providers such as Avaya, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Polycom, Oracle and Unify all had a major presence to share news of their new UCC offerings.
If there’s one takeaway from this year’s Enterprise Connect, it’s that the world is shifting to one in which modalities—voice, video and messaging—need to work together. For most of the providers at #EC16, this is still a work in progress. This blog summarizes what we saw and focuses on UCC, Video, Mobile, and Innovation.
UCC Is the Future: Tech Titans vs. Business Applications
Most providers were talking about all of their different ways of enabling communications and collaboration through their offerings. The market has changed, but in some cases it has stayed the same. Major vendors, such as Cisco and Microsoft, among others, announced more capabilities in their Product Suites.
However, there is conflict in the vendor landscape. There are two buyer scenarios. Some vendors are positioning for both, while others are still focusing on Infrastructure. Microsoft wants to own Voice and while it is leveraging carriers to enable it, it is trying to become a Cloud PBX. This puts Microsoft in the gunsights of many others, such as Cisco, who has the resources to battle them.
The Rise of Business Applications: Powered by PaaS
The other issue in the vendor landscape is building Real-time Collaboration into existing applications. This is a new approach and it goes against the one-size fits all mindset.
The Collaboration PaaS providers who were present at Enterprise Connect are starting to make an impact: Agora.io, Kandy.io (part of Genband), Tropo (part of Cisco), Corvisa (owned by Shortel), Twilio, and Unify. Twilio quietly announced that some of its Voice Services would be available via Private Network. Avaya announced a new PaaS platform called Zang for building applications which represents a pivot for them.
What makes PaaS Platforms so powerful are the integration possibilities. New applications can be built quickly and legacy applications can be augmented with UCC.
Video: Shifting to the Enterprise
Video was front and center at this year’s event. Besides the overall shift to video by nearly every vendor, more pure Enterprise Video providers were really visible this year. For example, CafeX showed some great interoperability via its new Chime offering. As a result, they may be one of the new integration answers instead of BlueJeans.
Cisco trumpeted its recent closing of its Acano acquisition, which will give it solid integration with other offerings, including Microsoft Skype for Business. But what Cisco really focused on highlighting was Spark, its new UCC Platform. They gave a compelling demo of interoperability between rooms and mobile devices. Cisco also announced a $150 Million Innovation fund to attract developers to its Spark Platform.
Microsoft‘s Zig Serafin made a number of announcements as part of Project Rigel, which aims to make it easier to deploy Skype Meeting Experience (i.e. Voice and Video) into Conference Rooms. Certified platforms for Project Regal include Polycom RealPresence Trio and CX5100, and certain Logitech ConferenceCam products.
Microsoft also announced it is partnering with Polycom for video. Polycom’s Cloud Video Interop service will be available later this year for Office 365 customers. This represents a major win for Polycom and should open more doors via Microsoft and Polycom’s own sales channel. Additionally, Polycom announced that it will deliver a new line of room solutions purposely built for Skype for Business. These solutions will offer plug-and-play integration with Skype for Business and Office 365.
Mobile: The New Tip of the Spear in UCC
Mobile is still a watchword—in part because so many use cases are emerging that leverage mobile messaging. Cisco captured the vision of Mobile Collaboration via Spark.
Unify, which had a packed booth all week, also was showing off its Circuit Mobile Collaboration Platform that leverages all of the UCC capabilities that they have to offer. Circuit was recently acquired by Atos (see Aragon First Cut).
Cisco and Unify were not alone in this. Atlasssian was also present, RingCentral showcased Glip, and Fuze (formerly ThinkingPhones) made a splash with its new complete UCC portfolio. Qwasi also offers an interesting mobile application leveraging SMS. We see Mobile Collaboration as part of UCC, as still in its infancy. We expect to see a bigger surge of Mobile Collaboration capabilities going forward.
There was plenty of Innovation on display at Enterprise Connect. While Video Resolutions are increasing, cross-platform integration is still a challenge. CafeX gets strong kudos for their Video Interoperability. Agora.io also gets a shout out due to having over 70 data centers as part of their PaaS Platform. Finally, we’d call out AltoCloud for their Predictive Communications capabilities that make customer engagement faster and more tailored due to their built-in machine learning.
The clear take away is the Communication and Collaboration market is changing. UCC is the future; it’s about integrated capabilities with Video and Mobile at the forefront. Buyers need to understand the innovation opportunities that Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings provide. There is big need for quality and reliability in the market. Testing products and services for proof of this is critical before making a buy decision.