Third wave of UC will incorporate social media, predict Gartner analysts

Big telecom, IT and social media players are converging on UC market

Orlando, Fla.-- The third wave of unified communications (UC) will incorporate social media, portals and document management, predicted Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Bern Elliot and Research Vice President Jeffrey Mann.

The first wave was the unification of telephony, voice mail, audio and web conferencing and contact center operations, and the current wave is the addition of email, VoIP, instant messaging, presence and video conferencing, the analysts told an audience at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo.

"The next wave we don't see happening just yet. There have been some indications, though, such as the addition of social software, enterprise social networks, document and workflow managers, crowd sourcing and idea management," Mann related.  

"Where is that totally integrated, seamless way to move together between different networks, where I can have high-quality video, tags and search made available no matter what kind of equipment somebody is using, no matter what kind of device? We are not quite there yet, but at least we can see the outlines of what it might look like and what is going to be required to make that possible," Mann said.

Elliot explained there are a number of adjacent markets to enterprise UC where big players dominate. For example, Avaya dominates the premises telecom market, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) is the big fish 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 daddy in social media.

"You have this market with a whole bunch of different vendors and they all see things differently. All of these different segments are seeing unified communications and collaboration as adjacent to some part of their current market," Elliot related.

The analysts explained that in the past, there were two well-established deployment models: products deployed on-premises in the enterprise or those offered on-demand or "in the cloud."

This traditional model is being disaggregated into the elements of location, ownership and operations. "What is happening now is that you can pick and mix and match these elements any way you want," explained Elliot. "There is tremendous flexibility in deployment models."

Additionally, with the advent of SIP trunks and VoIP, communication trunks are becoming virtual, and call set-up is separate from media transfer. As a result, trunk termination can now be separate from the actual location of the server or service provider and also separate from the individuals being supported, Elliot noted.

This flexibility is expanding to other areas, such as business process integration, virtualization of clients and servers and BYOD, to name a few. "This is a really different model and it is going to take a while to work these things through," Elliot concluded.

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