New Omni Client Technology Will Heat Up Unified Communications
Over the past half-decade we’ve finally started to make some real progress simplifying deployment of Unified Communications (UC) and Collaboration. First virtualization and now Cloud technologies have abstracted away much of the complexity of UC server deployments. In the case of the Cloud, the burden has been shifted to third parties that focus on these tools so every organization is not forced to employ UC experts.
Barriers to Unified Communications Server Deployments Continue to be an Issue
I wish we could declare victory since we’ve eliminated a fair number of barriers to UC server deployments but it seems that there are still plenty of “opportunities” to improve UC client deployments. As we acquire and use more communications devices it gets more difficult to create UC clients that support and work consistently across them all. Windows, Mac, Android and iOS all offer different services with different distribution models, running on different hardware.
If you are not convinced it’s a real problem I believe we’ll see the issue, front and center in the coming weeks. On July 29th Microsoft will release Windows 10 and usher in their first ever “click-thru” upgrade process. Existing Windows 7/8/8.1 users can freely and easily upgrade themselves to Windows 10. No more waiting for two years to get a new laptop with a new OS…on July 29th it’s go time.
Unfortunately, it will also be stop time for some apps that have not been updated and/or tested with Windows 10. It’s not bad engineering, it’s just a reality that as things change there are greater chances of application incompatibilities. To be clear, this is not just a Microsoft issue, the same issues are common with major iOS and Android releases. And at least Microsoft doesn’t have an approval process that takes weeks, impeding access to an upgraded application. The same can’t be said for updates in the iTunes store.
Unfortunately, UC clients are particularly susceptible to OS and device changes because their very existence is tied to unifying multiple services and leveraging multiple device functions (speaker, mic, location, etc.). Not to mention that real-time services don’t respond well to performance issues from lagging operating systems or apps.
It might be a rough few weeks for IT staff who get blindsided by Windows 10 issues. However, I expect the short term pain will have an unexpected silver lining. It will raise awareness of new alternatives that simplify application deployment across device platforms and lower the overall cost of UC services. Service providers and enterprises are going to start hearing about the value of container-based applications.
Embracing the Container Concept
At GENBAND we’re very excited by the container concept and are embracing the model for all of our next generation Smart Office UC clients. We call our container implementation, omni client technology. The name omni is a nod to its cross-platform capabilities. Omni technology leverages client container technology as well as HTML5 and WebRTC. Basically, at a high level, our UC services can now be isolated from the OS by a container layer - sort of the way a hypervisor isolates an OS from hardware. The operating system THINKS the omni container is a typical application, but it’s really just a shell that delivers a web page served from our SPiDR WebRTC Gateway. However, unlike a typical WebRTC-based app, running on a browser, the omni container gives us access to the best bits of the OS like push notifications, on-screen pop ups or the ability to start up when the devices start.
With the omni container managing the individual OS integration chores it’s easy to develop a uniform UC app. That means that the omni environment enables one, centrally deployed UC experience for all of the different devices and operating systems. Changing the client experience is as easy as modifying some HTML code on a web page. Add a button to the UI, change client colors or logos in seconds. It really is that easy. As soon as the change is made the user experience changes on all of the user’s devices. No need to download new clients or ask Apple to approve a new app.
Creating a Better Unified Communications User Experience & Lowering Costs
Not only is the user experience better, the overall implementation reduces the cost to deliver a UC experience. Not to mention it’s less expensive to develop applications, maintain them and support them versus their traditional counterparts. As we have seen with virtualization and Cloud, the ability to lower costs and complexity has a direct impact on market acceptance.
Everything points to the UC market getting even more competitive in 2015. We expect our omni client technology to be a hot topic of discussion as service providers increasingly look for ways to preserve margins by reducing the real cost to deliver UC solutions. Likewise, enterprises are also sure to embrace the savings enabled by deploying the technology in our newest Smart Office clients. After all, what IT manager wouldn’t want to simplify UC deployments across all their users’ devices? No matter your role, it seems clear that container technology is going to attract attention this summer.