June 6, 2018
By: Tim Armstrong, VP Product Marketing, Nectar
When you conjure up images of the Wild West, you most likely envision something along the lines of rugged characters, rowdy saloons, wide open spaces and unpredictable challenges. You imagine a place where laws are loose and difficult to enforce because individuality and a non-conforming spirit seem to rule the day. The foundation of this rough-and-tumble environment, however, is built on the promise of limitless opportunity, new beginnings and an optimistic attitude that comes with embracing the new unknown because it surely must be better than the burdens of the past.
To me, this vision of the Wild West, and all the implications that come along with it, is the perfect analogy to what our industry is currently experiencing when it comes to the “Endpoint” environment in a UC network deployment.
At Nectar, we often refer to a very helpful structure for approaching UC management that we call the UC Health Domains. There are three simple management domains associated with every UC environment: Platform, Network and Endpoint. I’ll save a detailed description of these domains for another blog post but, simply put… the Platform encompasses core services, servers and other UC-dedicated infrastructure. The Network represents the shared transport mechanisms, of all types, that move our UC and collaboration traffic around (alongside the rest of the enterprise data traffic). And, finally, the Endpoint represents that part of the deployment where the network hands off traffic to some type of user interface – be that a device, a software application or some hybrid of the two.
Throughout the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000s, the UC industry was primarily focused on the Network domain – this was the era of VoIP. We spent most of our time and effort bringing together or, as we were fond of saying, converging networks so that voice calls travelled across the same networks as the rest of the enterprise traffic. It mostly worked thanks the hero of this chapter, a character named SIP. SIP was a rough one at first and VoIP seemed risky in the beginning. It was prone to issues because that shared Network domain wasn’t always ready for the way our industry wanted to use it. 20 years or so later, we’ve got a pretty good handle on the Network domain. SIP and all its cousins are mature enough that VoIP is barely discussed – it’s overwhelming the default model. While we still struggle with overburdened and misconfigured networks, our industry has mostly moved on to new challenges. Convergence has clearly won the day.
Almost a decade ago, we tiptoed into a new chapter and our collective focus has since decidedly shifted from the Network, to the Endpoint. I’ll spare you a recap of how convergence enabled a new definition of UC that now infers voice, video, messaging, app & file share, etc. but I will point out that our industry has thrown so much capability into the UC bucket that we’ve likely outgrown our own identity – for certain, we’re no longer in the UC industry, we’re now in the Collaboration industry.
Jargon and hyperboles aside, it’s crystal clear to me that the product evolution in our industry over the last decade has introduced a new frontier in the Endpoint environment and, right now, it feels like the Wild West. Even in the glory days of VoIP and convergence, the Endpoint was pretty well controlled; for most people, it was still a phone… the kind we installed on a desk and plugged into the wall. Sure, desk phones are still around but even the most curmudgeon traditionalists are just as likely to grab their mobile phone as their desk phone to ring up a colleague these days. Then, of course, we have countless soft clients, browser clients, mobile clients, team clients, WiFi connections, 4G, 5G, Bluetooth, VR, AR conference room devices, flat screens, touchscreens, curved screens and who-knows-what’s-next screens all competing to control some component of the Endpoint experience. It’s crazy out here!
Alas, the West was tamed… and so it will go for the Endpoint Environment.
Nectar has long been a leader in providing management tools that bridge all three of these domains together but this week’s announcement of our Plantronics integration, represents the first important step in enhancing our toolset to help customers and partners get a better handle on this wild Endpoint environment.
The days of relying on the UC vendor to give you a complete picture of your user’s experience are long-over. The scope of products and the variability of the endpoints is just too broad for the Platform vendor to adequately address; their data is good, it’s just not good enough. If the industry is going to tame this frontier, we need platforms that give us much richer insight into the user experience.
In the case of this week’s announcement, we’re now enabling your front-line and advanced support professionals to diagnose a call in the full context of what type of call it is, the health of the network, the audio devices used and, now, thanks to our integration with Plantronics Manager Pro the health of the Bluetooth connection for a Plantronics Voyager headset.
Nectar’s announced integration with Plantronics is exciting both because of the groundbreaking capability it enables but also because it is a sign of things to come. Today the solution is available for Skype for Business deployments with support to follow for both Avaya and Cisco deployments. We’re pleased to continue our leadership in the industry by enabling our users with actionable insights and correlated diagnostics across the UC Health Domains, including the Wild West of the new Endpoint environment.