Siemens’ Project Ansible – From Sci-Fi to the Enterprise

Siemens’ Project Ansible – From Sci-Fi to the Enterprise

By Marty Parker July 16, 2013 2 Comments
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Siemens’ Project Ansible – From Sci-Fi to the Enterprise by Marty Parker

Today, Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC) announced Project Ansible, code name for a completely integrated communication and, arguably, work experience for users in the enterprise. Here’s a viewpoint on SEC’s major push to expand the solution spaces they seek to address.

The name comes straight out of the Sci-Fi world. According to Wikipedia, an ansible is “a fictitious machine capable of instantaneous or superluminal communication. Typically it is depicted as a lunch-box sized object with some combination of microphone, speaker, keyboard and display. It can send and receive messages to and from a corresponding device over any distance whatsoever with no delay. Ansibles occur as plot devices in science fiction literature.”

Of course, SEC’s ansible is much smaller than a lunch box, since it is all software delivered, as they say, on a single pane of glass which is, of course, a touch-screen tablet or smartphone or a laptop or desktop computer screen. It will qualify as having a microphone, speaker, keyboard and display and even a camera, of course, since those are all components of the devices SEC plans to support.

SEC’s Project Ansible is a major push to expand the solution space they are serving for their customers. The announcement highlights “aggregation across voice, video, email, text, social; … and business process integration.” Their video demo shows integration into business processes in multiple ways:

  • User experiences will be tuned (or customized?) to specific worker roles. SEC mentioned market research on these roles, but details were sparse in yesterday’s briefing.

  • Search functionality will be provided across multiple channels (including e-mail and IM) and across multiple document sources (data based, document management systems, etc.).

  • Workspaces will be ‘automatically’ created for any session so that the communication and documents can persist for the term of that thread, which they call "thought trails."

  • Connectors will be provided for integration with the most popular business software tools; examples were offered only for Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint, Google Docs, and Salesforce.com, so many more will be needed.

  • Developer SDK (software development kit) so that VARs, SIs, and customers can build their own connectors.

All of this is delivered on a UCC-type platform that provides voice, video, IM, and conferencing in a purportedly seamless manner across the range of Apple and Android-based devices. It was not stated, but the inference was that Project Ansible will be based on the SEC OpenScape system.

This is a bold move on SEC’s part, based on extensive market research and incorporating some great design ideas for which they engaged the world-famous, San Francisco-based Frog Design.

However, as Sci-Fi shows us, any adventure into new space has both known and unknown challenges. Here are a few which seem visible at this time:

  • This is not new. SEC’s Project Ansible may be a leap beyond their traditional IP Telephony competitors (though Avaya Flair, Cisco WebEx Social, NEC 3C, and others have elements of the Project Ansible vision), but IBM Connections already does what Project Ansible is described to do and is backed by one of the world’s largest professional services organizations. Meanwhile, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, Oracle and others are also offering an integrated user experience, blending communication with business process integration on a single pane.

  • It will take years. Early customer beta programs come later this year with general availability “later in 2014.” So, this does not reach the market for 18 months and then has to build acceptance and adoption. Project Ansible should be assessed in context of the next releases from the competition, i.e. the products that will be competing for share in 2015 and beyond.

  • It takes on new competition. SEC sees the importance of going beyond just communication (they say "beyond UC") to best serve the customer and the user. But this means that they will enter a new category with customers in which they are touching and storing documents and are offering up information which is subject to regulatory, privacy and security scrutiny. The established vendors in those spaces are already incorporating communications functions into their user experiences. We will watch to see which path enterprises choose.

  • It currently requires an SEC platform. This is just an implication, since the technical specifics have not been shown, but likely Project Ansible needs the SEC OpenScape platform. This is one of the best UCC platforms out there, but will be an addition to most enterprises’ communications infrastructures. SEC may offer a cloud-based version of Project Ansible; that would ease the adoption but complicate the business process integration. Perhaps this is why their announcement includes a number of service providers as Project Ansible partners.

  • It requires channel transformation. Given all of the functionality, SEC will either need to ramp up their current channels or recruit significant numbers of new resellers to have needed integration skills.

My hope is that SEC can be wildly successful with Project Ansible. It is exactly what we have been advocating at UCStrategies for some time: design the user experiences to match the specific “Use Cases” or “User Profiles” in the various business processes of the enterprise. This is what we meant since the beginning with our definition of UC as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” Success by SEC has the potential to transform both the communications industry and the enterprise work environment. Bon Voyage, Ansible, as you “boldly go where none have gone before.”

 

2 Responses to "Siemens’ Project Ansible – From Sci-Fi to the Enterprise" - Add Yours

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Don Leone 7/17/2013 8:37:15 AM

In typical SEC fashion, Siemens will introduce a very robust, yet costly, solution that will impress all. Only to have others deliver a similar solution at a much lower cost to generate true market adoption. See OpenScape UC and Microsoft Lync.... and up and comer UberConference, etc.

Frog Design gives them hope for North America acceptance, another challenge SEC has faced with both phones devices and soft-clients in the past.

Lastly, just as they appear to be on the brink of a name change in the U.S. (a great thing), they announce a product named Ansible. I would hope that changes before GA as well.
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Chris Hummel 7/17/2013 11:00:00 PM

Short clarification, Marty. Project Ansible will not require OpenScape and can be used with any major PBX.

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