Enterprise Connect (formerly known as VoiceCon) 2011 took place a few weeks ago in Orlando and spawned a few exciting news, including those coming from RADVISION and Microsoft around our cooperation enabling interoperability between video conferencing infrastructure and Microsoft Lync.
And it’s funny to me that although VoiceCon has changed its title to Enterprise Connect (there was a brief period it was known an VideoCon), that connection is far from being trivial or a reality. In fact, as already mentioned by Tsahi, it seems that the conference only emphasized what we have known all along: interoperability will not just happen, standards won’t do the work for us, and there is no “invisible hand” to make sure vendors play fair and systems work together seamlessly.
It’s the same old routine: Customers say they want interoperability, vendors say they’ve got it, but somehow nothing works with anything else on anything but a superficial level, if that.
There is no “Invisible Hand”
Both Tsahi and I wrote intensively about interoperability in the past: the interoperability ecosystem, the difference between open and interoperable, the unified (now not so unified) communications world, etc. Nevertheless I totally neglected one point that Eric states above quite clearly: Interoperability has turned it yet another piece of public relations fluff. Everybody says they’ve got it, and yet somehow when you connect two systems it just doesn’t work.
And why is everybody talking about interoperability? Because customers today, more than ever, have complex requirements and deployments to take care of, including various systems from various vendors, and the end of the day they want it to work.
Not to interoperate. In fact, most of them probably don’t even know the word. You don’t need to if everything just works. When you buy a mobile phone do you wonder about interoperability? When you connect a laptop to the Internet do you worry some networks won’t support it? It’s when you get to know all about interoperability when trouble begins. And so customers, wise customers, have learned to ask about and demand interoperability, but it shouldn’t really be that way.
I get that question over and over again – why should I prefer a standard-based solution such as yours to some proprietary, closed solution which in some cases already has a proven record and an existing user base? The answer, my friends, is that there is no invisible hand. If service providers, integrators, application developers, UC vendors – if all of those working now to roll out visual communication services to the market won’t come to their senses, and prefer standards to quick-and-dirty solutions, sooner than later we will reach a deadlock where nothing actually works. Then, I assure you, customers will kick us out. All of us.
What made the communication revolution of our time – mobile phone, e-mail, SMS – so big so quickly was seamless connectivity. The fact it worked and with everyone. Take that out of the unified communications story, and the story ends quickly, and not with a happy end.
And now, when visual communications is finally happening, the fact that interoperability is a real barrier in front of adopters is a big problem for the entire industry, one that even tons of PRs and fancy standardization bodies won’t solve.
So no matter what you’re trying to connect – enterprises, consumers, whatever – put interoperability as a must, not as a bullet in your datasheet, and act accordingly. We can’t afford to blow this one up.