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Chapter 1: What Is Unified Communications?

Excerpt from Cisco Unified Presence Fundamentals

By Brian Morgan, Shane Lisenbea, Michael Popovich, Network World
June 30, 2010 07:27 PM ET

Chapter 1: What Is Unified Communications?

The intent of this chapter is to provide a high-level overview of Cisco Unified Communications (UC) as a collaborative solution that enables its users to perform their job functions more efficiently. Increasing efficiency decreases the amount of time required to perform the same job function. Depending on circumstances, these decreases can be dramatic.

The definition of Unified Communications is different based upon the vendor’s solution being defined and how it is implemented. This type of definition is unique and can confuse the topic because each vendor can have their own nomenclatures, so industry terms and definitions are necessary. The industry’s definition of Unified Communications follows:

Unified communications (UC) is the integration of nonreal-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, short message service [SMS], and fax) with real-time communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, IP telephony, video conferencing, call control, and speech control. UC is not a single product but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types.

The root of the preceding definition is that a UC solution is a convergence of real-time and nonreal-time services that are equally usable across multiple means of access.

This chapter briefly covers some basic background information regarding the following:

  • Telephony history

  • Private Branch eXchange (PBX) architecture

  • IP-based call control

Some discussion then follows regarding the user experience as it pertains to legacy telephony technologies then and Cisco UC now and how Cisco is simplifying the means by which companies deploy the various technologies available on a user-by-user basis. By basing the licensing model on the users and their chosen workspace, a more efficient, fluid deployment model can emerge.

Cisco UC is far from simply dial tone. The Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technologies of past decades are quickly becoming architectural fossils. Many of the traditional TDM vendors have made attempts to seize a part of the UC market, but their successes are largely contained to their so-called loyal-at-all-costs clientele.

Before any discussion of UC can really take place, a frame of reference must be established. To accomplish this, a discussion regarding past and present communications is in order.

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