I recently read an interesting post by Matt McGillen. Best of Breed is term that has been banned around by some vendors and analyst as the best approach to UC. Matt makes a great point in his blog about the amount of integration work that is required to make this work and the finger pointing that ensues when something isn’t working. It’s unfortunate but true and sometimes unavoidable when two or three companies are in strong competition with each other. Matt also went on to say the best approach is the platform that is most extensible to suit your company, another point that I agree with.
Unfortunately in reality, Matt’s conclusion is hard to achieve for large scale deployments where multivendor coexistence is more the norm than the exception. How do you magically convert 100,000 handsets to a new system without integration and interoperability? You can’t. In fact Microsoft relies on this fact with their extensive list of third party vendor gateways on offer. Microsoft has certainly provided a rich environment with an extensible platform rich with features which I know is going to hold its place in the market. But when you upgrade and your gateway of choice stops working because they are yet to reach certification or you are held back from upgrading because of this it certainly works in the favor of Cisco. Although for Cisco, this to may mean upgrading a gateway or two when upgrading Communications Manager but if you take the whole hog approach, Cisco more than likely has an IOS image to suit your Cisco gateway of choice already developed.
In the TDM world QSIG, ISDN and other protocols provide the means to interoperability but in the new world where RFC’s are all in the translation how do we reach the interoperability nirvana? Vendors in general have struggled with this universally and with the amount of testing and certification I have completed I am here to tell you they have a long way to go. Not to say they haven’t gone a long way already but it took the telecom industry 100 years to get where they are today.
So where does Microsoft go from here? I think maybe the answer is the mediation server. Do I think Microsoft needs to make their own TDM gateways? No I don’t. Instead I think that the mediation server should be an extensible flexible platform that can be used as an interoperability tool and not a hindrance to the interoperability story similar to what the ISR CUBE product has done for Cisco. I am of course not referring to TDM line cards of any sort but more the flexibility of IP and the protocols that surround it. Why not support H323 or SIP over UDP? The mediation server has the potential to be the interoperability rock star of the OCS platform with out the need for a lot of workarounds or third party solutions. Hopefully the development of the mediation server or what ever role Microsoft chooses to call this intermediate device continues to evolve creating a more flexible solution.
To finish off, this is just my opinion and the Microsoft’s and Cisco’s of the world will continue to do what ever they do to develop and push out their products for us to try and integrate successfully or otherwise. I just hope its gets a little easier:-)
PS. Thanks to Matt for providing such great insight and to the other bloggers on the PointBridge website for great content. It certainly got me thinking.