One of the unfolding stories in unified communications is interoperability. The inability of products from different vendors to work together – preferably seamlessly – will be a huge impediment, if not an outright deal breaker, for the success of the business. The industry knows this, and is working to create a consistent set of protocols.
Earlier this year, the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) was formed. As with all such organizations, there is a lot at stake. The vendors who gain control will do quite well, since the final specifications are more likely to be in line with their solutions. In this case, a key area of concern is when and under what conditions Avaya and Cisco will join.
Carriers and service providers aren’t members of UCIF either. It’s encouraging that last week, BT offered a significant interoperability demonstration. The multi-device, multi-vendor, multi-location and multi-network type video conference stretched from New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta and London (multiple sites) and Hawkurst in the UK. The companies involved were UCIF holdout Cisco/Tandberg and members Polycom and Logitech/LifeSize.
This is the kind of demo that pushes interoperability. It helps the companies understand that they can work together under a variety of conditions. It also serves the more subtle purpose of pushing the entire interoperability agenda forward, since the vendors who don’t want to see the group with the more complete solution predominate – and perhaps become a de facto and then actual standard – begin working harder on their plans.