Unified communications was a notable absent In Gartner's top 10 strategic technologies for 2010. For years, the idea of a common platform for seemingly all communications seemed bewildering. Cisco CEO John Chambers said that even CIO's were unsure what unified communications really meant.
But now here it is raising its flag once again with predictions from ABI Research that the unified communications market will jump from $302 million in 2008 to $4.3 billion by 2014. Seems like a big jump? Not really if you compare it to what at least one other analyst group is predicting.
Interestingly, the reason for the growth may be in part due to cloud computing, which not surprising is the number one technology on Gartner's list for 2010.
For years, unified communications has held promise as a product or suite of products that had a unifying user interface that, according to Wikipedia, would integrate real-time communication services "such as as instant messaging (chat); presence information; IP telephony; video conferencing; call control and speech recognition with non real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax)."
Over the years, camps divided as people grappled with the idea of how all these technologies come together. Cisco recently dumped the term "unified communications," in favor of "Cisco Collaboration." They are smart over at Cisco. Collaboration is definitely the new black. There's not a lot new behind the curtain but collaboration has an edge to it that is getting the attention of the enterprise.
But now comes along cloud computing and the vendors seem to be learning that perhaps unified communications should be treated as a service.
Vendors like Cisco are teaming up with SaaS services like Salesforce.com and VOIP providers such as Skype. The potential proves to In-Stat that the market for unified communications will jump to $39 billion by 2013.
It may be easy to poke fun a the hype around cloud computing these days. But there is actual proof that whatever you want to call it, cloud computing is playing a significant part in the growth of unified communications. Services that interconnect across devices and provide the capability for collaboration are emerging in a variety of flavors.
More proof of what is to come? Aire-Spring represents a new breed of telecommunications companies. They are also one of the fastest growing operators. The comany has built an IP network from scratch. The company is processing 4 billion calls annually.
Those are big numbers fitting for a market that is just about to burst.