Recently, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at IT Expo looking at trends in telecommunications. Preparing for the panel gave me a great opportunity to think about some of the industry dynamics that shaped where we are today as well as new things that will influence where are going. I wanted to share some of these thoughts, beginning with the trends that have influenced where we are today.
Unified Communications. It’s clear that UC is no longer a marketing phrase but a real and integral part of the way people communicate. In the old days, it seemed a simply phone call was good enough. Today, we have rich communication options that we can access at any time and from any location making it far easier to get answers and results.
We no longer have to call and hope the person we need is there, because presence tells us before we dial. When someone you are speaking with doesn’t see what you mean, you can show them through Web conferencing. And yes, you can even see face to face on every call using video capabilities, though many of the more modest types are still not comfortable with this.
The thing I like the best is that we can communicate with people. No longer do we reduce everyone to a number associated with a device. Instead we type their name and are connected the way we want.
Open Systems. The openness in today’s solutions is a second key trend that shapes were we are today.
Initially, there were large main-frame like PBXs. Then businesses wanted to integrate systems, so hardware interfaces were thrown into the mix and the budget-rich could look at simple integrations like screen pops, but typically only in a contact center where every second could be counted measured, and monetized.
Now, with the integration of voice into the IP network, integration is brilliantly simple. Open APIs and interfaces let you tap into databases so people reach the right destination, automate everyone’s activities from the contact center agent to the front desk operator, and integrate disparate systems together quickly and easily.
Distributed Systems. The final major trend in the industry today comes from distributed computing.
Mainframe PBXs were essentially big computers with lots of inputs and outputs. Like traditional mainframes, they performed lots of different functions and each function worked with the others on the same machine.
This meant that you had to build big, monolithic systems for large organizations and wire in all of your users directly to the system. There is certainly not a lot of flexibility in that model!
Distributed computing turned that concept upside down and said you can take a function and run that one function on lots of computers at one time. The key is that you have to take all the different parts of the function and make sure they can communicate effectively. You take this one part, communications, add a high-speed IP network and suddenly you have a new paradigm for communications.
You can distribute your communication functions to lots of different processing boxes – each located at the far reaches of your enterprise - and then connect the users over the network.
The result is one system that runs its communications services on various hosts providing reliable services at every location to phones that are also located anywhere in the network. Brilliantly simple.
What about the trends shaping the directions of tomorrow? I'll visit those in my next post, coming soon.