Unified Communications – What does it mean?

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In an earlier entry, Back into the Fray, I listed what has changed and has not changed after I left enterprise networking and I joined Ipswitch. One of the items that changed was VoIP. VoIP seems to have fallen under what is now termed unified communications.

Both Microsoft and Cisco have staked places at the unified communications table. But what does unified communications really mean. Is it VoIP? Is it IM? Is it collaboration? Is it email? Or is it all of these things melded into one?

What ever it is, it means only one thing to network managers. How much effort is it going to take to manage?

From this one question we can deduce a number of other implications to an already saturated infrastructure and the ability to manage yet another cool technology someone just had to have.

If it is server centric, read Microsoft, this means more server focused hardware to manage. How will this server based infrastructure be managed? Not only is there additional server hardware to manage, but also license management (read CALs) to ensure EULA compliance. 4000 IP phones, means 4000 CALs, unless Microsoft is changing their licensing model.

Or networking gear centric, read Cisco, this fits nicely with most existing installed infrastructures and most of the management capabilities are already in place.

QoS management for VoIP is key to the whole effort of unified communications, QoS is network centric not server centric.

I’m not trying to take a slanted view of one company over another, just what make sense for an organization. If it was a network that I was responsible for, I would choose the network centric approach over the application centric approach every time.

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