If you take a long walk through lower Manhattan you could very well end up in Greenwich Village, SOHO, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Meatpacking district or any other area of Manhattan bearing an interesting name and unique culture. Indeed, you can notice distinct differences in each of the above neighborhoods. In most cases the people in these different areas even look different.
Although we refer to this little island as the Big Apple, it is really an assortment of small apples of varying varieties. These separate pieces could just as well be located on different continents.
This is exactly how I feel about the communications space. It is a single market but represents so many sectors. There is IPTV, CLECs, IMS, rural service providers, wireless companies, software defined radio players, PBX companies, call center software manufacturers, Metro Ethernet providers, etc.
Perhaps the reason I love my job so much is the fact that it is impossible to be bored writing about just so many different things. This is especially true in recent years as the communications space has become a nonstop whirlwind of change.
It is interesting that even in the enterprise communications market there are vastly different cultures. There are companies providing PBX products such as Mitel, Avaya and Cisco and others providing wireless service such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Talk about Mars and Venus.
Seriously, there is as much cultural difference between Little Italy and Chinatown as there is between your CPE equipment provider and your wireless equipment service company. What is worth noting is while the disparate parts of Manhattan will remain separate, the fixed and mobile communications segments are merging, whether they like it or not. It is an inevitability and there are good reasons for this change to take place.
Perhaps the easiest benefit to grasp is increased productivity due to reduced amounts of phone tag. Another easy one is the ability to take control of wireless voicemail messages and auto-attendant greetings.
I guess I have Manhattan on the mind as I was at Interop New York last week. This is where I caught up with Vivek Khuller, founder and CEO of DiVitas Networks; a company in the business of helping organizations deploy effective fixed-mobile convergence solutions.
Khuller made a point of telling me he sees a difference between convergence and unification. The former is for networks and the latter for applications he says. In addition he tells me it is crucial that employees have access to applications securely regardless of network. This is especially true at hotspots. Another interesting point he made is that IM sessions need to be seamless regardless of device or network.
The company makes an appliance which functions as a packet inspecting router which subsequently allows it to determine the best network to use depending on the situation.
Another benefit of going with the company’s solutions I am told is the benefits of the 3 Cs.
The first is cost which refers to savings which can be as high as 60% due to device consolidation and LCR techniques which reduce cellular bills.
The second is continuity in the form of increase accessibility, productivity and responsiveness.
The last c is control meaning you have access to more features, you can set policies, and finally determine which handset(s) and/or carrier(s) you want to use.
Khuller makes a great point when he explains FMC is a great way for tech companies to penetrate the enterprise. He elaborates by saying Cisco owns layers 0-4 of the OSI model. He says layer 7 or the application layer is the way to go after these customers. You go from 7 on down he emphasizes.
This by the way is similar to how Microsoft is approaching the Unified Communications space as was discussed on my recent article on the matter.
Back to DiVitas, it is not surprising the company is looking to partner with hardware companies, distributors and resellers to get their products into the market. You might imagine that cellular equipment manufacturers would make excellent friends in this regard.
But if there is a downside to the FMC space it may be that the market is not quite here yet. Our ADD-inspired world of technology expects a new acronym like FMC to spark a firestorm of sales overnight. The reality is in my discussions with enterprise decision-makers, they tell me they need these solutions but aren’t sure when they will implement.
This is likely because the complexity of fixed-mobile convergence is still being understood and the sheer number of ways to design a solution are bewildering. For example, you can have your PBX vendor help you or you can go to your service provider. Purchasing a solution from a company like DiVitas Networks is yet another option.
Over time these options will be better understood and I expect 2009-2010 to be the inflection point for FMC technology.
Until then, there are evangelists like Khuller who fly around the world espousing the three Cs and writers like me educating the market about what will be. So while we can expect neighborhoods like Greenwich Village to retain their charm, you might miss the charm of your disparate CPE and mobile solutions as they begin to slowly speak each other’s language.