The almost-170-year-old-business most recently known as Siemens Enterprise Communications (telegraph, smoke signals?) will start 2014 off with a new president to go along with its newish name, Unify. Currently President and CEO of enterprise technology distributor Westcon Group Inc., Dean Douglas will succeed Hamid Akhavan as CEO as of January 16.
A provider of unified communications solutions to 75% of the Global 500, Unify is a joint venture of The Gores Group and Siemens AG. The company also made news last week with the unveiling of a new licensing model intended to make UC acquisition, including Unify’s OpenScape Enterprise and OpenScape Contact Center solutions, simpler.
Unify was officially launched on October 15, 2013, following the June unveiling of Project Ansible, a communications and collaboration platform. To be available initially (July 2014) as a cloud-based, SaaS offering, the platform’s first version will support four communication channels simultaneously – voice, video, text and remote screen sharing, and will also enable users to move multichannel conversations intact from device to device using a simple gesture or “call swipe.”
Commenting on the new name, Frost & Sullivan analyst Michael Brandenburg said the success of Ansible will ultimately prove if all of the effort to re-launch was worth it. “What started as a redesign of the user interface has the entire market talking about the overall user experience. To capitalize on that conversation, Ansible has to ship and ship soon.”
Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, said Unify has an opportunity to do more than just look different. “Siemens Enterprise and the rest of the UC industry has been steeped in legacy telecom issues that frankly few people care about anymore. I challenge Unify to be the UC vendor that throws stuff at the wall and see what sticks, rather than having to cross every t and dot every i before rolling out a product. Experiment with stuff, let customers do cool things.
In short, don’t just look different, be different.”
Unify’s Patrick Kehoe, SVP, North America Business Partners and Marketing, recently spoke with IT Trends & Analysis about the new name and what we can expect from the company going forward. Coming up with a new name has been underway for the last two years, but he said the Siemens name was history once The Gores Group, a U.S.-based private equity firm, acquired a 51% stake in the group back in 2008, with Siemens holding the remainder.
Ansible puts Unify in a position to talk about a whole new way to work, said Kehoe. “It is a solution that integrates what typically today are disparate telecommunications systems, devices and solutions into one integrated solution.” Today’s systems are very stove-piped and this has led to a high-degree of frustration, he said.
According to market research, 79% of people in business today are working in virtual teams, but 75% are distracted in virtual meetings, and 59% find they are less productive than in the past, said Kehoe. “The bigger problem, at the end of the day, is that the various communication systems haven’t been well-integrated into business processes.”
The solution, at least from Unify’s perspective, is its new platform. “Ansible is really focused on enabling teams and the productivity of teams.”
Video and cloud are driving the enterprise unified communications market, but while Gartner states the market is maturing, enterprises continue to struggle to define UC road maps that accommodate conflicting goals, including UC portfolio consolidation, best-of-breed functionality, vendor lock-in avoidance, legacy investment optimization and user demand for advanced functionality. According to a recent survey from Infonetics Research companies are adopting unified communications to improve response times, increase employee productivity, and reduce operational costs. While Cisco and Microsoft dominate, other significant players include Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Avaya, IBM, Mitel, NEC, ShoreTel, Unify and Verizon.
The US UC market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.19% over the period 2012–2016, according to one study, while another reported worldwide revenue was up 34% in the second quarter from the year-ago quarter. Gartner’s forecast sat somewhere between the two, with a CAGR of 15.7%, reaching $61.9 billion by 2018.
As to why UC continues to struggle to gain wider adoption, Kehoe largely attributes that to the failure of vendors to crack the code between communications and business processes. “The reality is there’s still a big divide between people driving the business and the people focused on delivering communications solutions to their organization.”
With something like Ansible, the buyer will be the chief transformation officer, as opposed to going to the head of communications, or the CIO, he said. As we pull the business processes and communications together, that will be the driving part that will tip us to a whole new audience because what we will have will be so core to their business.
However that’s still in the future, said Kehoe. “We see the trend shifting… it’s a huge opportunity… and a huge challenge for companies like us…”
SDN – Its Defining Moment
In 2014, customers will want vendors to bring order to the chaos and show the industry how SDN should be implemented. In a fragmenting market with numerous open source and open standards efforts, and competing with vendor strategies, customers will vote with their wallets. Smart vendors will follow. Customers will force networking vendors to agree on a more co-operative, open approach that will make SDN practical and real.
40 Is The New 10
The economics have changed and they are not changing back. The value in networking is no longer in the boxes – it is in software. Year after year, fixed-form switches prove to be more power and space efficient than chassis platforms. In 2014, fixed form factor switches will continue to out-innovate the legacy chassis, providing server-like customization, upgrades and economics.
40GbE will go mainstream as right-sizing of data centers continues. Customers can get more throughput today for half the cost that they paid just a few years ago. 40GbE holds the key to improved capacity and can provide a smooth upgrade path as the need for speedy network connections increases.
Hardware Silos Crumble for Good
Innovation has broken the 20 year old boundaries between server, storage and networking. Next-generation converged systems – both smaller and bigger and more targeted, to mainstream and mid-market – will continue to push the old silos aside. 2014 is the year of the data center, not the year of server, storage or networking.
Lose the Wire – Campus Networks Get Turned Inside-Out
Wired switches in networking closets are in trouble. Businesses, schools, hospitals and individuals can’t survive on wired access alone. In 2014 will see a dramatic increase in next-generation WLAN innovation. It is all about wireless now.
Shared network resources means policies will become significantly more important
It is becoming an increasingly shared-resource, time-sharing-like world, so the industry will start to recognize all of the implications in the networking and application realms. Wheel of Reincarnation was a phrase used in computer graphics where systems designs swing back and forth like a pendulum. A similar turn of the wheel is happening today due to cloud computing where people share computer resources, much like in the time-sharing days, when people logged into multi-user operating systems from terminals. Instead of terminals, people now use web browsers, RESTful API clients, or whatever fits their needs, but the fundamental issue is the same: more sharing.
Applications will matter more
Due to the increasing level of sharing, notions such as Quality of Service and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) will become even more important in shared infrastructure environments. This has always been a concern in networking, but in 2014, people will realize that tying application performance policy to networking becomes very important. Initiatives such as Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure will bring these issues to top of mind for IT managers. Since networking is the key element that ties modern application workloads, people will look at the infrastructure from the viewpoint of applications, and notions such as an Application Controlled Network, will arise.
2013 was the year of Software-Defined-Everything. This includes the Software-Defined Data Center, Software-Defined Storage and Software-Defined Networking. In the networking arena, this became muddied as any equipment that has some form of programmability and control was considered a form of software-defined networking. Meanwhile, virtualized networks also got lumped into software-defined networking. In 2014, there will be a clearer definition – to separate network virtualization (mostly overlay networks) vs. automation of physical devices and people will stop mixing them up. This swing of the pendulum has occurred in the past, and will affect the use of catch phrases such as SDN or NFV, and people will start being more specific.
Network virtualization will move beyond POC and pilot stages
IT groups spent 2013 examining network virtualization in a test-phase, but they will start to put serious effort into putting it into production class environments in the new year. This is a simple prediction – and it’s hard to put numbers on the level of adoption, but the same cycle of curiosity, skepticism, “show me”, and “put into production” has occurred with adoption of compute virtualization, and will occur in network virtualization in 2014.