In our last newsletter, we talked about the need for interoperability and promised more coverage on the topic, so today we'd like to discuss federated unified communications services. Reaching out to an expert on UC federation, we spoke with Farzin Shahidi, the founder and CEO of NextPlane. UC Exchange Federation Services provides a rich set of high-fidelity federation capabilities across Microsoft Lync, OCS R2, OCS and LCS, Cisco Jabber XCP, Unified Presence Server (CUPS) and WebEx Messenger (formerly Cisco WebEx Connect), IBM Sametime, Google Apps, Jive OpenFire, Isode M-Link and eJabberd.
We note that federated messaging has its roots in Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP)/Jabber. SMTP has been in use for more 30 years, and XMPP has been around since 2000. These protocols have opened the door for users to chat between different email systems (SMTP) and between instant messaging systems (XMPP). We have since seen federations formed and gateway services offered to also provide directory services and connectivity between VoIP systems, between videoconferencing systems, and (to a lesser extent) between text messaging and chat services. What we haven't seen much of until recently is the federation of all unified communications elements in multi-vendor environments. For example, a Skype or Lync chat user may need to set up a voice or video call with a colleague who uses Google Apps, IBM Sametime or WebEx.
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Federated services can provide more than interoperability. Shahidi observed that federation goes beyond just translating protocols. In the case of UC federation, presence management is also included, as are directory services for federated companies and partners. Another important value-added service of UC federation is that it can, according to Shahidi, "account for differences in enterprise networks such as [scalability] between company systems, mapping features from one UC system to another UC system."
NextPlane's platform is a cloud-based service that uses software to offer federated UC; the platform uses SIP and XMPP as common control protocols for federation and interoperability. NextPlane provides federation capabilities across Microsoft Lync, OCS R2, OCS and LCS, Cisco Jabber XCP, Unified Presence Server (CUPS) and WebEx Messenger (formerly Cisco WebEx Connect), IBM Sametime, Google Apps, Jive OpenFire, Isode M-Link and eJabberd. NextPlane users can, for example use the service to:
- participate in chat sessions, or escalate a chat session with a federated colleague to an HD quality voice or a video call,
- share presence and enhanced presence states with federated colleagues,
- use Microsoft OCS and Lync Access to provide a flexible authorization,
- incorporate social media apps like Yammer or Twitter, and
- tag their colleagues to receive a notification when that colleague becomes available.
We will keep an eye on both UC interoperability issues and solution, along with UC federation as a means to better "unify" users who have different UC platforms -- and continue to cover these topics in future newsletters.