Thursday, October 14, 2010

About Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF)

About Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF)
The UCIF is a non-profit ecosystem of communications technology vendors with a shared goal to bring the promise of truly unified communications to life. Any hardware or software solution providers, service providers, or network operators are encouraged to join the forum. The UCIF's vision is to enable interoperability of UC hardware and software across enterprises, service providers, and consumer clouds, as a means of protecting customer's existing investments, simplifying their transition to more extended UC networks, and generating incremental business opportunity for all stakeholders in the ecosystem.

Unlike existing standards organizations focused on a single media protocol, the UCIF aspires to cross the multiple boundaries of interoperability using existing standards rather than creating new ones. The work of the alliance may include:

  • Publishing specifications and guidelines
  • Defining test methodologies and certification programs
  • Interfacing with other standards groups
  • Liaising with regulatory governmental bodies responsible for UC

To improve interoperability among UC products and services

Today, unified communications is a vibrant, but fragmented, community. Multiple analysts and market makers have pointed to the need for cross-vendor interoperability to move the market forward. The UCIF plans to build upon existing standards and technologies and to ensure that any new guidelines developed are truly standards-based. We are committed to the effort because we believe inter-vendor collaboration based on open standards is THE way to drive interoperability and bring the dream of truly unified communications to life.

The UCIF will meet this need by bringing unified communications hardware and software solutions providers, service providers and network operators together into one global ecosystem with a common goal. UCIF members will collaborate to ensure products and solutions from different manufacturers and service providers work together seamlessly, enabling businesses greater choice and flexibility when deploying UC and a much better end-user experience. 

What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications (UC) enables users to reach and collaborate more timely with remote and mobile co-workers, decision makers, and customers, improving productivity and efficiency, resulting in better communication and faster decision-making. UC creates the opportunity to experience these benefits through the integration of real-time communications services including:

  • Video & Audio Conferencing
  • Scheduling
  • Whiteboards
  • Presence/IM
  • Unified Messaging
  • VoIP providing

    • P2P voice
    • PSTN termination/origination

UC Market Has Strong Market Potential

The communications industry and its customers recognize the potential of UC to revolutionize the way that organizations communicate and collaborate. Most analysts agree that this technology represents a major business opportunity for all participants over the next 5 years and is estimated to reach between $4.2B and $17B by 2015.

The industry stakeholders who share a vested interest in making UC a reality include hardware and software solution providers, service providers ("CaaS") and network operators.

Vibrant Yet Fragmented Ecosystem

Today, seamless company-to-company communications (inter-domain federation), as well as that within a company (intra-domain federation), from one vendor's equipment to another remains an elusive goal. To fully realize the opportunity that exists for UC, inter-vendor interoperability must be addressed within the industry.

The challenges to interoperability are compounded by the UC industry emerging from the communications industry silos that have materialized over the last 50 years. UC vendors have their roots in different aspects of communications (e.g. telephony, video, devices, etc.) and are struggling to remain relevant in the UC era where few vendors provide an end-to-end solution. Even those vendors that offer a full suite of UC products find that their customers have existing investments in a range of vendor equipment within their technology portfolios.


"Nobody offers everything, everybody offers something, so everybody is a UC vendor." - Insight Reports


Various vendors' UC implementations present similar functionality and user experiences yet the underlying technologies are diverse, supporting multiple protocols:

  • H.323, SIP, XMPP/Jingle for Voice & Video
  • Disparate protocols for Data Conferencing
  • Multiple Codecs used for voice and video (e.g. G.711/729, H.263/264, etc.)
  • Proprietary media stack implementations addressing IP packet loss, jitter and latency in different ways

Most UC vendors provide some but not all UC products or services and have expertise
in different areas of the communications . The result is a fragmented UC solution.

Enabling Interoperability among UC Products and Services

The challenge among vendors to enable interoperability is in agreeing about:

  • Which standards to implement
  • How to interpret each section of the agreed standards
  • How to test the implementations for interoperability:

    • What use cases and scenarios will be tested
    • The test cases for each
    • The expected results
    • Definition of test programs that will verify the implementations
    • Definition of test tools will automate the testing

Realizing The UC Opportunity-
The Role of The Unified Communications Interoperability Forum

The Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) was founded as an forum to address the challenges faced by the UC industry today. The UCIF and its members will work together to enable interoperability among UC products and services by:

  • Working with existing standards organizations and initiatives to fill identified gaps between existing protocols and business need
  • Creating test and interoperability profiles, implementation guidelines and best practices for interoperability between disparate UC products and existing communications and business applications
  • Developing specifications to facilitate interoperability by incorporating existing protocols
  • Implementing and managing third-party compliance and certification programs to set a bar and provide greater interoperability assurance across protocols and product/solution providers

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