AT&T Federation Services Transform UC
The PSTN has evolved to provide a very fundamental service that we all take for granted – universal dialing. As the PSTN developed, a key goal was the ability for any phone to connect to any other phone through a common set of capabilities. While the core telephony capability of basic voice may not seem that powerful, the underlying concept of the network made it incredibly transformational. A key facet of the value of the PSTN was defined standards for interoperability that enabled any end user, enterprise, or service provider to participate in the network, regardless of how they were connected, so that a consumer and an employee in a company could connect to each other.
As communications services evolved utilizing the Internet, the problem of universal connectivity emerged as a key issue. At the core, the Internet and the World Wide Web are interoperable at the IP packet level, but interoperable connectivity is not defined for the applications above that. As the IM platforms emerged in the early days of the web, it was clear that there needed to be a way to interconnect IM services. Through this, the concept of federation was born, led by AOL IM services initially.
Today, communications options have exploded. New UC platforms, from a range of vendors, provide a rich set of communications services far beyond the basic telephony of the PSTN. These services include IM and Presence, and extend to HD audio, video, and web conferencing. However, for most UC implementations, the ability to communicate ends at the edge of the business or even at the edge of the server within a business. The fact is that most UC implementations are not interoperable, moving users back to simple G711 phone calls when they want to interact outside the organization.
This is a significant issue that hampers companies from realizing the true value of these next generation systems. Many of the communications and collaboration sessions that would deliver value include participants that are outside the organization. While some vendors have implemented federation in their products and tout its value, it is limited to connecting organizations that are on the same platform. Also, the federation process is challenging. For example, the administrator needs to essentially open up federation for all or build individual federation connections based on business needs. This places IT between the users and the parties they need to talk to.
Another option is a federation service. A federation service is a cloud solution that sits between organizations wishing to federate and provides both the interoperability across divergent platforms as well as enhanced security. There have been some start-up services such as NextPlane in the market. AT&T offers a federation service as a global service provider, highlighting interoperability as a key value proposition of their UC services.
The AT&T UC Federation offer connects together companies, or groups within the same company that are on different supported UC platforms, including Microsoft Office 365 Lync Online and Cisco Jabber.
The key advantages for an AT&T federation service are two-fold:
In the longer term, AT&T will evaluate extending their federation services beyond the IM, Presence and calendar capabilities available today, to rich media like Audio, HD audio, data, and video. AT&T experience managing and operating these services across their network places the company in a good position to provide these new federation services as part of their offer, ensuring a path to added value over time. While there are some limitations to this type of service, with the best results being when both parties are subscribers, it is an alternative for organizations looking to extend their solutions reach.
UC Federation is a powerful capability that extends the value of UC and may significantly compound the impact and ROI for an organization. Moving from a UC island or a UC solution that is limited to interoperability with only one vendor to an open federation model is a key value of UC going forward.