ALU Dynamic Enterprise Tour and the Unnamed Architecture

25 Oct 2010

A question I often hear asked is: "Is Alcatel-Lucent really committed to the enterprise?" To prove that it is, the company has embarked on a 20-city road show, dubbed The Dynamic Enterprise Tour, featuring information on unified communications and collaboration, IP telephony, contact centers, and network infrastructure for the enterprise. Last week in Paris, a small group of enterprise communication analysts got to hear from ALU execs and subject matter experts about the company's products, direction, and strategy. ALU affirmed that it is indeed committed to the enterprise, not just carriers and service providers, and is even coming out with a new enterprise architecture.

The soon-to-be-announced, -released, and -named new architecture features SIP spanning across different domains, and will be open in terms of infrastructure, terminal, applications, and platform. It is based on a SIP core at the foundation, with three layers comprising the architecture, including an advanced media server, SIP Session Manager, and a user-centric abstraction layer. The value proposition of the new architecture is to shift to a true multimedia, user-centric experience that works in the enterprise premise, cloud, or both. More details about the architecture will be forthcoming, but for now, the basic premise is that it will leverage the Genesys SIP Server as the core, is an open architecture, and it will be massively scalable and support virtualization. ALU expects the new architecture to ship mid-2011, and claims that the company will have something unique to the industry that spans from what Genesys does in the contact center and customer service to IP telephony and UC, leveraging the IMS carrier architecture. Focusing on openness, ALU is committed to "the Genesys model of openness, flexibility, and adapting what they deliver to solve business problems of customers." This has always been Genesys' strength in the market, and it's nice to see ALU leveraging this.

Xavier Martin, VP, Product Marketing for Communication Applications, noted that SIP is the foundation of the next-gen architecture, which takes the best of ALU's different worlds - its enterprise business, Genesys business, and carrier business - and melds them together in a converged architecture with SIP at the core to deliver SIP across applications, devices, and infrastructure. ALU will "Reinforce and deliver on open systems to transform the customer experience and harness innovation on any communication infrastructure."

In addition to the new architecture, much of the conference focused on SaaS and the cloud. During a Q&A session with enterprise executives, Paul Segre, President, Application Group, stated that SaaS is one of the most rapidly growing parts of ALU's business, but believes there are customers who will always want their own premise-based solution, and ALU will continue providing both types of offerings. ALU is committed to supporting both environments, and since it is in both the enterprise and carrier space, the company can leverage its expertise in both camps in terms of both technology and go to market.

The other big topic was video, with several breakout sessions about ALU's new video offerings. According to Lizardo Espinosa, Director of Product Marketing, Communication Applications, "It's about more than just video - it's about visual communications across the enterprise and with partners and remote workers." Video solutions being offered in 2011 include My IC Phone Video, My Teamwork UC Video, workgroup video, boardroom video, interactive collaboration, visual broadcasting, and video customer service. Several room-based systems based on Lifesize products will also be introduced.

Speaking of video, one of the more interesting demos I saw was the Extended Conference Room, a video/whiteboarding application that will be introduced in early 2011. Using a 70" whiteboard with an interactive interface, users can view someone via video and also collaborate via the whiteboard using electronic pens and erasers. The solution integrates My Teamwork, OmniPCX Enterprise or another switch for voice capabilities, and a webcam (HD video can be provided via Lifesize). Remote participants can be connected via My Teamwork UC Desktop and experience being an actual part of the meeting.

Another demo was My Instant Communicator Phone (MyIC Phone). MyIC Phone is "an innovative and open IP phone that delivers the experience of a smartphone to the desk." While the demo was somewhat limited since the phone wasn't connected to a server, I was able to get a feel for the user experience with the device. To be clear, MyIC Phone is not a tablet and is not intended to compete with tablets. It has a 7" touch screen display, which is part of the device and is not removable. The home page, while not as visually appealing in its basic format as Avaya's Flare experience with its "spotlight" for conferencing and communications, provides access to all of the phone's features and applications. ALU also launched an SDK with a full set of tools to simplify development on the My IC Phone device, including the home page skin and navigation, and a development platform to encourage development of new apps. The SDK can be used to enhance and differentiate the user experience. There are a relatively large number of developer partners for MyIC Phone, including universities around the world, working on applications for several verticals.

As an enterprise communication analyst, I was heartened to hear that ALU is still committed to the enterprise. It's way to early to judge the new platform, which doesn't even have a name yet, so I won't even try. If it does all that the ALU folks say it will, then it will be a competitive offering that will make it easier for enterprises to add applications and devices from multiple vendors, providing multimedia capabilities in a truly open environment.


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