Friday, April 15, 2011

Unified Communications Forum in Moscow

The UC Forum took place March 22-23, 2011 in Moscow, and was the first industry event of this kind in the Russian Federation. The Forum was very well organized and piggybacked on an well-established Call Center conference that has been running for 10+ years and provided great facilities, registration desk, audio-video support, etc. The venue Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel and Business Center was excellent, and I did appreciate having the conference center, the hotel, and the restaurants under one roof when the weather outside is not quite spring-like. The event organizers would like to establish the UC Forum as an annual event and stay at the same location, so that over time participants have the option to gradually shift from call center sessions to UCF sessions. Having seen the struggles of many new industry events, I think this is a smart approach.

Polycom's partner CROC Inc. had a booth showing Microsoft-Polycom integration, and a range of Polycom products. The booth was centrally located and quickly became a convenient meeting point.

The conference was moderated by Denis Klementiev who did an excellent job introducing the speakers and managing questions from the audience. I counted about 80 people in the room (there were 150 registered participants but people are coming in for a particular session and then moving on). Almost all presentations, including my talk, were in Russian, and this put the audience at ease, led to many questions, side discussions, and introductions.

My speaking slot was on the first day of the conference, and I always sit in the sessions before me so that I do not repeat things and can refer to information already covered by previous speakers. Here are the highlights.

Mikhail Kochergin from Microsoft talked about the business case for UC. One low-hanging fruit is unified directories which eliminate the need to enter the same employee information in multiple directories (PBX, Email, Web, etc.), and save cost and time. Mikhail then focused on cost savings from teleworking (that seems to be very important for Moscow with its horrendous commute traffic) and from lower real estate cost (less office space). He also touched on some vertical applications such as telehealth where UC truly saves lives. It turns out that 8-9 people die every year in the Russian Federation while travelling to a medical facility; these and other lives could have been saved through telehealth applications. Mikhail analyzed how the major players approach UC, and stressed that Microsoft was focusing on ease-of-use and on allowing any device to access UC services.

Stanislav Cherkov from CROC Inc. presented 5 case studies with Microsoft Lync and Exchange but also with audio and video equipment from Polycom. He talked about savings from IP telephony among distributed corporate offices across the Russian Federation and highlighted the tremendous traffic increase once the UC solutions were deployed. Most demand seems to be for integration of voice, instant messaging, presence, email, and calendaring but multipoint video is often required, as is integration with Avaya that has a strong position in the Russian voice communications market.

Next was my presentation that focused on the global developments around UC, as well as on the standardization and interoperability work in international organizations. I included some UC market segmentation information and market forecast that shows robust growth of both 'Basic UC' that enables presence indicators to guide manual user selection of voice, email, or IM from a unified communications client and 'Enhanced UC' that augments basic UC by tying into business processes, supporting mobile workers, and seamlessly integrating videoconferencing to drive business differentiation. I covered the different deployment models – on-premise, hosted, and cloud-based – and focused on the BroadCloud service developed jointly by BroadSoft and Polycom. Finally, I provided a summary of the work in UCIF, IMTC, and other organizations with focus on interoperability. The global perspective was very well received and resulted in a lot of questions, so that the session ran over, and I had to "borrow" time from the next speaker: Pavel Teplov from Cisco (sorry!)

The bottom line is that UC is impacting all areas of communication. Since no one vendor can address all UC areas, vendor ecosystems are gaining momentum, while standards and interoperability are becoming more critical … as are organizations such as UCIF that tests and certify interoperability. The presentation gave me the opportunity to reiterate Polycom's commitment to the Russian market, the agreement with РКСС to manufacture Polycom equipment in the Russian Federation, and the opening of a new demonstration center in Moscow in fall 2011.

I stayed for the rest of the UC Forum, and found all presentations very practical and informative. They provided a great overview of what is happening in the Russian Federation in terms of UC deployments. In particular, I enjoyed the presentation by Andrey German who is responsible for the video communications of the Superior Court of the Russian Federation. Apart from the fact that they are using a lot of Polycom equipment, I found the application very unique and compelling. It turns out the Russian Federation has a law that allows court proceedings to be conducted over video, if the court decides it is appropriate. That is very cost effective in a country that spans over 9 time zones (11 before President Dmitry Medvedev cut the number to 9 last year) and is in fact the largest country in the world - with 17 million square kilometers or 6.56 million square miles.

The Russian trade press was in the audience and a lot of the questions came from journalists. I did a quick search today, and found several articles about the UC Forum, for example, by IKS Media and World Info Comm. Detailed description of the UC Forum in Russian language is here

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