With all the buzz around unified communications including new product releases, features, acquisitions and more, it’s easy to forget the why of UC and how it can benefit an organization. In this series of posts we will examine some of the key areas of UC and what the business benefit can be. For part one click here.

Now that we have examined what some of the key features of UC solutions are, it’s important to understand who are the major players in the market and what solutions they offer. While many of these solutions have been on the market for some time; others are new and constantly evolving.

Microsoft
Microsoft has been providing UC solutions in some form for over ten years. Microsoft’s Exchange platform (which powers around 65% of corporate email systems) has had messaging capabilities since the early versions. In 2003, Microsoft released Office Communications Server which has since evolved into Microsoft Lync. Lync has shown strong growth and interest from customers, and Microsoft recently announced that the Lync business unit has seen 40%+ growth. The solution offers what you would expect from a UC platform: presence, instant messaging, screen sharing and conferencing, video, voice, and more. In addition, Lync integrates closely with Outlook and Exchange to allow for unified messaging. Essentially email, voicemail, chat, and other communications all live within your Outlook desktop.

As part of Microsoft’s video strategy, Lync is heavily integrated with the Polycom video conferencing portfolio. From the Lync client, a user can seamlessly connect to a Polycom video system or join a multi-party conference via a Polycom bridge.

Cisco
Cisco has been offering unified communications solutions for quite some time. Jabber is the most recent and robust UC offering and integrates technology from WebEx, its voice products, Cisco Unified Presence and more. As with other offerings in the marketplace, Jabber has functionality around instant messaging and presence, voice, video conferencing and more. Of particular note with Jabber is that Cisco offers clients across multiple devices, including PC and Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices.

For customers who previously used Movi video conferencing from Cisco, this product has been renamed Cisco Jabber Video for TelePresence.

IBM
IBM offers Sametime as its UC offering. Sametime provides the same features previously mentioned in other solutions: instant messaging, presence, online meetings (think WebEx), mobile, and voice. Sametime makes the UC experience more social by integrating with IBM’s social collaboration tools such as IBM WebSpere and IBM Connections. With this integration, users are able to initiate collaboration sessions within the context of their current project or assignment. For example, when reviewing documents hosted on an IBM social product for a particular project, a user can initiate a chat with an assigned team member to discuss that particular deliverable.

Avaya
Avaya offers multiple UC solutions including best-of-breed solutions that integrate with many of the tools currently available in the marketplace. Avaya’s most integrated option is Avaya Flare. Flare integrates conferencing, web collaboration, social media, presence, IM, video and more into a single interface. Perhaps one of the most compelling features of Flare is that the interface is identical across PCs, iPads, or even an Avaya Desktop Video Device (a result of Avaya’s acquisition of video conferencing manufacturer Radvision).

The Unified Communications market continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. There are clearly a number of strong offerings available for any size organization. When evaluating these solutions it is important to look not only at the key features but also how it can integrate into your current environment.

 This post is part of a series on unified communications solutions.

Part One: What’s in the Box?