With desktops, laptops, PDAs and mobile phones, our communication systems have become fragmented. David Leach, senior public consultant for Siemens Enterprise Networks, explains how unified communications integrates these existing tools and devices into a single platform.
Video Whiteboard: Unified communications
March 3, 2008, 2:32 PM PST | Length:00:04:57
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Hello, my name is David Leach. I'm a senior public consultant with Siemens Enterprise Networks, and I'm here to talk to you today about unified communications.
What is unified communications? Unified communications is a way to bring together all the tools of communications that you use today, in order to streamline the process, in order to make it more productive and eliminate a lot of the cost in your communications environment today.
So, what am I talking about? Well, here's you you live in a fragmented communications world. You've got typical tools of communication: they are your laptop, or PC, and a telephone, an office telephone. Unless of course you're working from home, then you've got another phone there. Or unless you're working from an alternative office, in which case you've got another phone there.
Then, of course, you've got your cell phone and you may have a PDA as well. You've got all these different devices and they have different phone numbers and they're all separate from each other. And then you tie back to your corporate LAN/WAN infrastructure here for telephony services, for voicemail, for email, other applications that you use on a regular basis, maybe video services as well.
And then you've got your conferencing services. They may be part of your LAN/WAN infrastructure for audio, video and web conferencing, or they may be separate services that you subscribe to on a public network. Then of course you have your public networks themselves, right?
So, all of these are connecting together and trying to bring you in a communication way together with the content and the people you need. But the real challenge is, when it gets right down to it, how do you communicate? How do you find the person that you want to reach right now? Or, for that matter, how do they find you with all this different fragmented infrastructure.
The answer is unified communications. Unified communications starts with a unified communications suite that sits on your network. It may include, or may have separately, an instant messaging service.
So, what functionality do you need from a unified communication solution? What are the enablers?
It starts with Rich Presence. Rich Presence allows you to see the aggregate status of the user, so you can understand whether they're in the office, whether they're away from their desk, whether they're on the phone, in a meeting, etc. It also includes telephony presence, so that you can see whether they're one the phone regardless of what that phone is that they're using, and that's really an aspect of a one number service.
The one number service allows you to publish a single telephone number that covers you across all those different devices, so regardless of the device you're using, your calls get routed to you through the one number service. It's got to be SIP based or Session Initiation Protocol so that it can easily share information and move seamlessly from one technology to another, one media to another, and you want it to be SOA based, or Services Oriented Architecture.
What the SOA does for you is allows you to take the functionality from the unified communications solution, and expose key aspects such as a text to speech engine in other business applications that you can you so that you get even more value out of that solution.
Now, from the requirements standpoint, you want your unified communications solution to be open. What I mean by open, is that the system, you want it to be able to work within your existing infrastructure so that you don't have to replace your telephony, your voicemail, your email, your applications, or your conferencing services. You can leverage what your already have in place.
You want it to be complete so that it brings all the tools of communications together, not just the ones from a single vendor, so that from a user's standpoint, you can access everything from a single point. And, you want it to be flexible so that from a user interface standpoint, you can leverage the interfaces that your users are already familiar with. They don't have to learn yet another application and another set of tools in order to do the communications they're already doing.
So, in essence what you end up with here, is your unified communications solution brings everything together for you in a single pane of glass, making you more productive, tighter connected to the people and the content that you need to communicate with on a regular basis, saving a lot of cost and eliminating a lot of frustration. That's the power of unified communications.