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The 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications was published on August 27, 2012. You can obtain a vendor-sponsored copy of this UC Magic Quadrant from Microsoft, Cisco or Siemens (Cisco and Siemens require registration information for a download).
The report has three very important messages: UC market maturity; UC market highlights; and UC vendor positions and leadership. For those who just want the bottom line: the Leaders Quadrant shows Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Siemens Enterprise Communications. More on that later.
First, let’s calibrate on Gartner’s definition of UC. Gartner defines UC products as “those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communication methods.” The mandatory communication methods for UC Magic Quadrant inclusion are: Voice and Telephony, Conferencing, Messaging, Presence and IM, Clients, and Communications-Enabled Apps. Gartner goes on to say, “UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.” The value of UC is that, “UC offers the ability to significantly improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform.” Importantly, Gartner also says, “In many cases, UC is deployed to extend and add functionality to established communications investments,” i.e. UC can be installed without replacing existing PBX, e-mail, or collaboration systems (see article).
Now, let’s look at the three important messages:
The Gartner headline says that, “During the past year, UC vendors advanced their increasingly full suites of functionality, with particular progress in the key areas of mobility, video and hybrid deployment options.” Our RFPs at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2012 showed this to be true, in detail, as 16 vendors provided 24 RFP responses across three RFPs for on-premise UC/IP PBX, cloud-based UC/IP PBX (relates to Gartner’s hybrid comment), and UC as an overlay to existing PBX systems (see quote in prior paragraph). Based on this, it seems that UC is mature enough that the IP PBX market should no longer be viewed as a separate market. Since most of the major IP PBX providers are listed in the Magic Quadrant and since Gartner requires Voice/Telephony in their definition of UC, one has to wonder if Gartner will soon stop publishing a Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Telephony? Certainly a contact center Magic Quadrant is still appropriate, but it would seem almost negligent to purchase an IP PBX these days without requiring, or at least assigning significant weight to, the UC functionality. Essentially, it seems that UC is now the main decision criteria for new communication investments for small, mid-sized, and large enterprises. UC comprises the new functionality that is transforming business: Presence, IM, Clients (soft clients for desktop and mobile devices), Conferencing, and Communications-Enabled Apps. The savings from SIP trunking and voice network optimization will have a hard time competing with the UC value propositions, especially since UC values come from the much higher leverage of business improvements and potentially larger cost savings in travel, space and labor.
Perhaps the two most notable sentences in the entire UC Magic Quadrant are, “The stakes for vendors in the enterprise UC market are exceedingly high. The stakes for enterprise decision makers is (sic) also high.” We have been suggesting this for the past six years, as we have highlighted UC as, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” UC is NOT just an embellishment of enterprise telephony. Users have already found out that communications is built in to their mobile device and PC/Mac apps. Enterprises are learning the same thing (whether built into apps such as Salesforce.com or built into desktop software such as Microsoft SharePoint or IBM Connections – see article). Thus, the number and price of pure PBX licenses should be expected to decline. In the report, Gartner emphasizes four risk characteristics related to mobility, openness, cloud, breadth of solution appeal. Here are comments on two these points. Breadth of Solution Appeal: At UniComm Consulting, we are seeing almost exactly the same situation which Gartner describes, where decisions include telecom, data communications (read IP networks), IT (read applications and desktop solutions), audio-visual group (usually the room conferencing systems), and the business unit (or executive) BYOD advocates. Since none of the UC Magic Quadrant vendors score at the top in every one of these categories, the decisions are often driven by the current enterprise priorities and/or the leading incumbent vendors. In our experience, Microsoft is often at the top of the list because their UC Client is so well integrated to the user’s desktops and mobile devices which already use Outlook (e-mail, calendar and contacts) and Office collaboration tools (SharePoint and Word, Excel, PowerPoint). IBM competes in this way, too, but with a smaller footprint and with some roadmap issues as Gartner mentions. Google is not in this year’s Magic Quadrant but is mentioned for their cloud-based entry to the market and is primarily a Microsoft and IBM competitor in this category. Cisco is also often a finalist, since they are the network incumbent, though Cisco has almost no incumbent position with the desktop PC/Mac apps, mobile devices, or collaboration software; clearly, Cisco is pushing hard to gain ground in this regard. Huawei has a similar decision-maker sponsorship as Cisco in Asia, and is building out their UC portfolio, as described. All of the other UC Magic Quadrant participants must try to extend their Telecom incumbency and channel positions. This is a major factor to watch in the UC market; some may be able to succeed through packaged interoperability (e.g. Siemens Fusion adapters), but few would be expected to carve out a major position in desktop and collaboration applications. Openness: It seems that “Interoperation” would be a better title for this risk. Openness implies that the interfaces are available for programmatic access by the enterprise or their systems integrators. However, most enterprises prefer out-of-the-box interoperation. Only when the enterprise wishes to integrate the UC suite with their business applications do they expect openness, in the form of a rich, well-supported suite of Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs) supported by well-trained channel partners. Of course, all the vendors make more of a fuss about openness, since that is something they can claim is built into their products, leaving the proof of interoperation up to their partners or customers. Interoperation takes more work and cooperation between the major vendors, something they are not always ready to do (as evidenced by some vendors’ absence from interoperability consortia or other cooperative groups). Again, Interoperation is a featured session in the UC (Collaboration) track at Interop NY 2012 on October 3. Please join us there, if you can. Russell Bennett and I will be leading that session and we will be posting commentary and reference information later in October. Financial Concerns: Though not one of the four risk characteristics, this year’s UC Magic Quadrant again mentions cautions on several vendors’ financial positions and on other vendors’ development roadmaps (usually a reflection of the financial picture). These financial issues are certainly part of the market risks, though, and should be considered for all vendors, even those whose financial information is not public or those whose UC organizations are not visible in a larger enterprise. Pricing: As a new feature of the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant, vendors were asked to provide estimated pricing. The results are similar to our Enterprise Connect RFP results. Gartner does not call out in the report that it is possible to deploy UC for less than half of the vendors’ estimated prices if the UC solution is deployed in parallel with an existing PBX rather than with enterprise telephony functions, phones, related servers, and associated support fees.
OK, now here’s the news on this year’s rankings, by quadrant: Leaders Quadrant: Cisco and Microsoft remain distinctively in the lead; even within the Leaders quadrant they are far ahead. Cisco is already bragging that they are ahead of Microsoft by a hair breadth (the two dots are almost touching). Cisco certainly deserves credit for their massive investments in their UC product line – Gartner’s list of Cisco products takes a third of a page. However, in our consulting experience, there is still work to be done by Cisco to mature the integration of Jabber with WebEx conferencing with Tandberg video with WebEx Social. Also, reading between the lines, it may be that Cisco inched (or micro-inched) ahead based on two factors: telephony (including contact center) and proprietary product ownership. We’ve commented before that Microsoft is approaching the UC market by integrating communications into their existing Office product line and by continuing to rely on their partner ecosystems. The annual UC Magic Quadrant movement of Cisco and Microsoft will be interesting to watch. Alcatel-Lucent moved out of the Leaders quadrant into the Challengers quadrant, apparently due to combinations of financial concerns, sale of Genesys, and declining market share. Avaya remains in the Leaders Quadrant, in roughly the same position as in 2011, adjacent to the Challengers quadrant. Siemens Enterprise Communications gained slightly on the "Ability to Execute" axis, probably due to their sales successes with OpenScape UC in the past year. Challengers Quadrant: The big news here is that Huawei moved up into the Challengers quadrant this year, building on their enterprise and carrier successes primarily in Asia. This will be a Challenger to watch, noting the Cautions mentioned by Gartner. IBM and NEC held their positions in the Challengers quadrant. Visionaries Quadrant: Mitel is the sole occupant of the Visionaries quadrant. Mitel garnered high marks for their proactive approach to virtual desktop integration (VDI) and virtual server support which will appeal to datacenter decision makers, for their UC as a Service (UCaaS) capabilities, and for their comprehensive administration and mobility capabilities. Brand awareness, channel capabilities and financial cautions are mentioned as Mitel challenge to become a Leader. Niche Players Quadrant: Five companies are positioned as Niche Players in the UC Magic Quadrant: Aastra, Digium, Interactive Intelligence, ShoreTel and Toshiba. In general, Niche Player status was based on the scope or integration of the product offerings, with the description of several Niche Players as still emphasizing telephony functionality, though they had obviously enough UC functionality to serve their target markets (or they would not be in the Magic Quadrant at all).
Hopefully, this article provides valuable commentary and interpretation of this important annual UC market status report. Please post your comments below, or contact Marty Parker directly for a more detailed discussion of this report and its implications.
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