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Communications architecture without a network”¦prudent or not?

Post by Joe Burton, Chief Technology Officer, Unified CommunicationsA recent Forrester (May2007) study estimates that about 60% of businesses say that implementing a UC solution is on their agenda for 2007. Many of these businesses, will be faced with making architectural decisions for Unified Communications platform which might include having to choose between a client-software-based-architecture, network-centric architecture, or some combination of both.The question that often comes up is, “How do I bring workspaces together so that I can capitalize on the benefits of Unified Communications while controlling costs and ensuring a quality and consistent user experience”? The standardized desktop of the late 1990′s is quickly being replaced by a largely flexible set of workspaces, commonly represented by functional groups that have common communications and collaborations needs. For example, Knowledge Workers using connected laptops, desk phones, and instant messaging clients have different workspaces than Road Warriors who work mostly outside of the office using”smart phones”, Wi-Fi access, soft phones, text messaging, and continuously variable networks.Both groups give corporate security and compliance officers nightmares as more and more business critical traffic moves off network, and questionable traffic gets invited on to the corporate network. In addition, broader market trends towards the adoption of web 2.0 technologies like Wikis and mash-ups combined with an increasing mobile, virtual, and collaborative workforce leaves technologists struggling with how they can move beyond a”one size fits all” approach and meet the unique and varied needs of their workforce.An inclusive, open approach to Unified Communications architecture is the only way to be successful. And only a network-centric architecture provides the platform to include and unify all workspaces regardless of network type, operating system, device, place, or time.Adopting a transformational strategy to move away from remedial, inefficient architecture towards an network-centric architecture not only delivers the inherent benefits of an IP network (such as high availability and resiliency) to Unified Communications applications but it also leverages intelligent network services (QoS, security, session border control, call control, and survivability) to deliver consistent unified communications experiences to all workspaces anytime, anywhere, an don any device or operating system -reliably and in a manner that is scalable and cost-effective.The open-framework of the network-centric architecture also enables consistent delivery of unified workspace experience across different applications (such as Instant Messaging, Email, or Customer Relationship Management) that organizations depend on. By separating the success of the experience from the device and delivering it through the network, businesses can ensure that as new collaboration and communications technologies are introduced into the workspace, they can be quickly unified on the network and deployed widely.Why would any solutions architect risk the delivery of their competitive advantage only to a client-software-based architecture for unified communications? For those with TDM-centric voice architectures, the evolutionary approach of running Unified Communications applications alongside this infrastructure, extends the limitations of TDM architectures (such as lack of application high availability and scalability due to nodal application deployment, lack of application survivability, and costly inter-site call tandeming) to Unified Communications applications. Such a strategy is inherently exclusionary as it is entirely dependent on the capabilities of the devices and operating system for success-workspaces without the requisite technology cannot be part of the collaborative experience. Additionally, such a strategy needlessly complicates security, QoS, compliance and management complexity by exponentially increasing the number of control points, and replaces strategic asset reinvestment with spiraling variable costs.If deploying a UC solution is on your agenda for 2007, you should be wary of a client-software-based-architecture which offers significant pitfalls that should be avoided. A winning Unified Communications strategy and architecture should be inclusive and based on a network-centric approach to meet your current and future business needs.

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