Enterprises can ride the UC wave they like

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As I reported previously, Gartner analysts are predicting that unified communications (UC) is heading into its third wave, incorporating social media into the existing mix of functions.

The first wave of UC involved the unification of telephony, voice mail, audio and web conferencing and contact center operations for the enterprise. The second wave expanded those services to include email, VoIP, instant messaging, presence and video conferencing, analysts related.

The third wave is not here yet, but there is evidence that social software, enterprise social networks, document and workflow managers, crowd sourcing and idea management are being added to the UC mix, Gartner said. 

In addition, a cloud-based wave, or should we say wind storm, is underway in the UC area. Cloud-based UC or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provides the same functions as premise-based UC, including voice services, email, messaging, instant messaging and presence, audio and video conferencing, mobile client and contact center functions.

UC touches on many different areas, including the premise-based telecom, network infrastructure, business applications, cloud, and social media markets, each with its own set of major players.

For example, Avaya dominates the premise-based telecom market, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) is the big player in the network infrastructure market, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) dominates the business applications market, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is the strong player in cloud and search and Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) is the big player in social media.

Enterprises have more options than ever to deploy communications functions with vendors available to deploy each of those functions separately, or they can opt to deploy basic UC instead of going with separate services in order to save money and improve efficiency. As a third option, enterprises can go whole hog and deploy the full suite of UC functionality, which could soon include social media options.

Whichever avenue enterprises choose, there will be vendors ready to offer them the solution they need. Vendors that cover the UC waterfront include Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft. They are also leading the way in incorporating social media into the UC mix.

But don't forget the smaller players, such as ShoreTel (Nasdaq: SHOR), Mitel (Nasdaq: MITL), and Interactive Intelligence (Nasdaq: ININ). They can supply many of the UC functions that the big fish provide. -Fred