Tech Sector Spotlight: UC

Major unified communications (UC) vendors have been expanding their platforms and offerings in the last few months as the market prepares for what participants hope will be strong growth this year.

In a recent report, Bern Elliot, an analyst at research firm Gartner Inc., defined UC's primary function as reducing "human latency" in business processes by improving how individuals, groups and companies interact. Key technologies that come together in UCsolutions include IP-PBX, VoIP, presence, e-mail, audio and Web conferencing, videoconferencing, voice mail, unified messaging and instant messaging.

Writing last year, Elliot characterized the market as being in an early stage with slow adoption of converged solutions. "Gartner expects many barriers to slowly be resolved and that, in 2008, UC will enter an early mainstream adoption phase globally," Elliot wrote.

Doing their part to remove those barriers and usher in mainstream adoption, Microsoft and Nortel rolled out new packaged solutions, Siemens Communications Inc. launched a new UC server, and Avaya Inc. entered a midmarket-focused distribution partnership.

Two years into their partnership, Microsoft and Nortel nearly doubled the number of UC solutions they offer with the announcement in mid-March of four new packages. They include Nortel Converged Office, which combines a Nortel IP-PBX with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007; UC Integrated Branch, combining OCS with a Nortel router and VoIP capabilities; the Nortel and Microsoft Carrier Hosted Unified Communications Solution; and Nortel Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 for OCS. Based on the six previous joint solutions, the Nortel-Microsoft pairing has produced 600 customer wins, according to the companies.

Earlier in March, Siemens announced OpenScape Unified Communications Server, which the company called a significant step in its transformation into a software-oriented company. The initial suite of UC applications in the server includes OpenScape Voice Application, OpenScape Video and OpenScape UC Application V3. Availability is slated for the end of this month.

In an effort to spread UC into the midmarket, Avaya entered a distribution agreement in January with Jenne Distributors, a North American supplier of telephony products and solutions to VARs. The agreement covers Avaya MultiVantage Express, which supports up to 500 phone extensions.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.