Thoughts on Enterprise Connect 2015

by Dave Michels

Enterprise Connect is the Super Bowl of enterprise communications – but with just the commercials.

I have a lot I want to share – and I will, but next week is Spring Break. Time off with the family. So, content to follow in April. Just a few quick thoughts below. Also, checkout my  EC15 selfie collection.

  1. Innovation is back. It is hard to realize that a few years ago, the exhibit hall was filled with booths promising ways to save money with SIP.  While SIP remains important, it’s now the means not the ends. Interestingly enough, the same is true for saving money. Saving money is always nice, but not nearly as important as improving competitiveness, innovation, or collaboration. Speaking of collaboration, that too is changing. Collaboration used to be just a new word for old things like IM, video, and audio conferencing. Collaboration tools now include totally new concepts and approaches optimized for distributed work teams.
  2. Rate of change is accelerating. The voice PBX stood alone – its own server, network, and endpoints – updates controlled. Modern enterprise communications occurs over a backdrop of dynamic and moving parts. The servers are now totally separate from the services. Numerous vendors provide a multitude of endpoints connected over a variety of networks. Even core comms software, particularly cloud-delivered solutions, are undergoing updates as frequently as daily. The result is constant change and innovation. On most days now there are comms components in an enterprise environment that are newer than the gas in your tank. Each of these solutions have their own road map and life-cycle. We no longer plan for technology, but plan to adapt.
  3. It’s not about disruption. Disruption referred to totally new technologies from unexpected sources. This was the Internet era. It’s what happened to Kodak and Blockbuster. The larger vendors today have those text books and are now feverishly working to cannibalize their own businesses. This includes new products and services that 1) displace older products and services, 2) utilize new distribution models that may conflict with traditional models, 3) operating at a significant loss while designing and adapting new solutions, and/or 4) accepting of coopetition.
  4. WebRTC is dead. I know these are fighting words, but realistically Tsahi said it right “the only relevant players in this game are the browser vendors” and until all the major browsers embrace, adopt, and implement a common standard – I don’t want to hear about “WebRTC.” That is not the same as saying VP8 is dead (it’s alive and well) or Chrome, OpenH264, or even client-less video in a browser are dead – all are alive and well. These are all important things and we can thank WebRTC or Google or Cisco or Microsoft or whoever for making this possible. Enjoy the fact that barriers are lower than ever and that free codecs exist. But it’s time to drop the WebRTC moniker because it’s meaningless.
  5. Along those lines video is truly pervasive. You couldn’t walk two booths without seeing video integrated into the solution. For the past couple of years, I’ve been saying that audio-only is no longer normal. Yet, many of the old guard UC vendors are still treating video as either the exception or position it for internal only. If you are still doing more audio conferences than video conferences you are in for a rude awakening. While interop is improving, it’s going to take a step backwards with H.265 and VP9. Browser-based video is nice, but still not equal to client-based solutions.

Enterprise Connect 2015 was an incredible vibrant show. There was excitement, true innovation, and differentiation in the exhibit hall. Many of the vendors are firing on all cylinders – esp. visible at Cisco and Microsoft because they have a lot of cylinders. The market place is back with real customers roaming the hall and sessions looking to spend. And, the best part – confusion is high – vendors are truly selling differentiated visions.

I plan to dissect the keynotes and share some thoughts on my briefings (all those selfies). I plan to increase my coverage on Any-Time Communications (which I find significant, important, and intriguing), cloud, and video-based solutions for collaboration.