Unified comms players form interoperability forum

Market leaders join forces to set up Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) promoting open standards and interoperability between unified communications systems.

Unified communications (UC) players Polycom, HP, Juniper Networks, Microsoft and Logitech/Lifesize today announced the formation of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) in an effort to drive open standards and interoperability among UC systems.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Nick Hawkins, director of technology consulting group Asia-Pacific at Polycom, said the alliance will benefit enterprises as well as small and midsize businesses (SMBs). It will allow for interoperability between systems from different manufacturers, as well as provide assured user experience.

He noted that UC has become more pervasive and integral to businesses' work flow processes, with companies using a greater breadth of tools such as audio, video, instant messaging and presence.

"In the past, these tools were on separate islands of connectivity, with maybe some levels of connectivity between those islands," he noted. Polycom's vision of UC is for users to have maximum connectivity and reach, but without the need to be overly technical when administrating the tools.

"The more people you can connect to, the better the experience. This will all lead to a quicker return on investments and improved productivity for the end users," he said.

Jonathan Edwards, research analyst, unified communications at IDC, said in a statement that the alliance is expected to accelerate the adoption of UC technologies by driving the adoption of open standards and the development of programs to put accountability on vendors.

"Until now, efforts to achieve interoperability have appeared ad-hoc, [giving] customers little assurance that their existing and planned investments are protected and will deliver the value promised," he said.

To promote interoperability, the UCIF will utilize existing industry standards and define new ones to eliminate gaps between current protocols and broad-based interoperability. Its vision is to enable interoperability of open standards-based UC hardware and software.

Hawkins noted that the company has had ongoing dialogs with some of the key members on interoperability, as well as joint development with members such as Microsoft and Juniper. He sees the alliance as a "logical step" to promote open collaboration.

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