In our research and consulting interviews with IT architects, we see the rise of five distinct trends in enterprise IP telephony shaping communications going forward:
1. Unified communications: While often a confusing term, we define UC as the joining of various real-time communications applications into a suite of integrated collaboration services. For most, this means tying telephony together with instant messaging, conferencing, unified messaging and video—enabling users to see each other’s presence status and initiate any form of communications via a single application. Over 60% of companies have some UC implementation under way, often starting with IM-telephony-presence integration before moving on to additional applications.
3. Video: Is video the next voice? Perhaps. As quality improves, prices fall, and workers are increasingly distributed, we are seeing an increase in video conferencing adoption. Desktop video is now an inherent feature in most UC platforms, while vendors including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and Polycom enable integration of UC desktop apps with room and immersive telepresence systems. Video hasn’t quite emerged as a replacement for voice, but we do see desktop video conferencing growing, primarily to enable distributed workers to join room-based meetings.
4. Virtualization: In the last few years, VoIP vendors including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel and Siemens have ported their IP PBX software to virtual appliances or general purpose hypervisors, enabling their customers to take advantage of lower infrastructure and operating costs. Now some of those same vendors are working to support voice and video via virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI raises some particular thorny challenges thanks to the need to localize voice/video encapsulation, but it also offers the potential to reduce capital and operational expenses at the desktop.
5. Mobility: One of the most frequent questions I get is, “can I get rid of my desktop phones?” Companies are actively looking at extending telephony and UC capabilities to mobile users across a range of smartphone and tablet devices. While the ab ility to eliminate the expensive desktop phone (and the required Ethernet infrastructure) is attractive, be aware that mobile voice services require careful attention to wireless LAN (WLAN) architecture. For those on public wireless services, voice quality still lags behind that of a hard phone. Still, we see growing use cases, especially for field workers, where simply provisioning an integrated mobile phone makes a great deal of sense.
Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. While the enterprise IP telephony market is indeed maturing, there are still significant opportunities to reduce costs, improve services and drive innovation in your organization.
About the author:
Irwin Lazar is the vice president for communications and collaboration research at Nemertes Research, where he develops and manages research projects, develops cost models, conducts strategic seminars and advises clients. Irwin is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the enterprise in areas including VoIP, unified communications, video conferencing, social computing, collaboration and advanced network services.