Interoperability. This is a broadly used term in the industry, and at Cisco, we often talk about it in the technical context of the IT stack. However, let’s take a step back and focus on what we want to achieve through interoperability—connecting the right collaboration experiences to the right devices and users.
With Cisco Unified Communications (UC) 9.0 we deliver a series of enhancements that bridge systems, resulting in increased interoperability to enable these critical collaboration experiences.
Many of you are familiar with email-style calling, aka URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) dialing, available if you use our current Cisco TelePresence endpoints. With Cisco UC 9.0, you can now use URI dialing beyond video endpoints. Choose whatever you prefer—an email address or phone number—to Read More »
As we kick off this year’s Enterprise Connect conference, one subject I am discussing a lot with customers is interoperability. This topic is always evolving, but our customers’ need for interoperability has remained the same. So what are the customers telling us about their interoperability requirements and concerns within unified communications and collaboration, and what is Cisco’s approach to addressing those?
What customers want:
At its heart, interoperability is about enabling the free flow of communication across boundaries – whether those boundaries are geographical, across firewalls between businesses and their ecosystems or customers. Customers want to be able to share information quickly and easily across different systems from multiple vendors.
Customers also stress the need for protecting their investments in existing systems and extending their capabilities to new types of work scenarios. These systems include infrastructure (such as Active Directory or Exchange or Notes), voice and video systems (such as Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager and TelePresence and competitive products from other vendors), and desktop or enterprise productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office, IBM Lotus, SAP, Salesforce.com and others). They must work within heterogeneous environments and accommodate new solutions as they come to market.
But that two systems work together is not enough. They must come together as seamlessly as possible to ensure an uncompromised user experience
Finally, this all needs to happen across platforms and devices, particularly as we move toward a post-PC era of many different devices -- from smartphones and tablets in the field to desktop computers and immersive room-based systems. These devices need to be blended into customers’ existing collaboration environments while providing a consistent and compelling user experience.
In the past decade video communications has moved out of the realm of science fiction to become commonplace in our homes, at work, and on mobile devices. Yet we remain some distance from the goal of video calls being as easy and ubiquitous as phone calls are today – across any network and between all devices.
Imagine how difficult it would be if you were limited to calling people who only use the same carrier or if your phone could only call certain brands and not others. Cisco wants to avoid this future for video communications, and therefore today appealed the European Commission’s approval of the Microsoft/Skype merger to the General Court of the European Union. Messagenet, a European VoIP service provider, has joined us in the appeal.
We did not take this action lightly. We respect the European Commission, and value Microsoft as a customer, supplier, partner, and competitor. Cisco does not oppose the merger, but believes the European Commission should have placed conditions that would ensure greater standards-based interoperability, to avoid any one company from being able to seek to control the future of video communications.
This appeal is about one thing only: securing standards-based interoperability in the video calling space. Our goal is to make video calling as easy and seamless as email is today. Making a video-to-video call should be as easy as dialing a phone number. Today, however, you can’t make seamless video calls from one platform to another, much to the frustration of consumers and business users alike.
Cisco believes that the right approach for the industry is to rally around open standards. We believe standards-based interoperability will accelerate innovation, create economic value, and increase choice for users of video communications, entertainment, and services.
The video communications industry is at a critical tipping point with far reaching consequences. Just three years from now the world will be home to nearly 3 billion Internet users, the average fixed broadband speed will be 28 Mbps, and 1 million video minutes (the equivalent of 674 days) will traverse the internet every second. As video collaboration becomes increasingly mainstream, multiple vendors will have to work together to enable global scale and broad customer choice.
For the sake of customers, the industry recognizes the need for ubiquitous unified communications interoperability, particularly between Microsoft/Skype and Cisco products, as well as products from other unified communications innovators. Microsoft’s plans to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform could lock-in businesses who want to reach Skype’s 700 million account holders to a Microsoft-only platform.
At the heart of this opportunity is a question about the model for interoperability. One approach allows each vendor to decide how they will interoperate. Another approach aligns the industry around open standards defined by non-partisan governing bodies. The answer will be critical to whether and how quickly video calls become “the next voice.”
When vendors implement their own protocols and selectively interoperate, they push the burden of interoperability to the customer. We respectfully request that the General Court act on our concerns and for the European Commission to ensure the proper protections are put in place to encourage innovation and a competitive marketplace.
Though we often take it for granted, the global data network is one of the wonders of our world. Without that network, users around the world would not be able to surf the web, post video and text, and communicate with each other using voice, chat, and e-mail.
The success of the global data network rests on interoperability standards that were created by standards development organizations like the IETF, IEEE, ITU-T, and W3C. In those organizations, expert technologists meet to create the standards that define how different products made by different vendors will work together. Without standards, the Internet as we know it would not exist.
Cisco is proud that our employees have played leading roles in the creation of interoperability standards, just as they have invented many of the foundational technologies used in the global data network. As a result of their efforts, Cisco has a portfolio of telecom and networking patents, including patents required to implement widely used interoperability standards, that is second to none.
While we have been at the forefront of networking technology, we recognize that our customers want technically excellent products and products that work well together. For example, our unified communications customers often use Cisco products for voice and video, but products from our competitors for e-mail or instant messaging. They are sometimes frustrated when products they purchase from different vendors don’t work well together, or when using products from one vendor forces them to implement proprietary voice or video protocols that do not enjoy broad industry support. In unified communications, as in other areas, collaboratively developed standards are a common language that products made by different vendors can use to make their products work together, creating a better experience for customers.