Bangalore, India, has a unique flair. As you may know, Bangalore is known as the “Silicon Valley of India.” That concept is visible in many ways, with a very attractive new airport and a thriving business community that are set amidst a hospitable and diverse city with many traditional India sights, such as the fully lit wedding grounds along the main avenue on my evening ride into the city.
For the UC Roadshow, customers packed the venue at the Oberoi Hotel, clearly interested in the possibilities of Unified Communications. They represented a broad cross section of the Bangalore business community comprising software firms (both software producers and contract software firms), manufacturing and distribution firms, biological/pharmaceutical research labs, retail chains, systems integrators, and India offices of a major US financial services firm.
These enterprises seemed to be well along the Unified Communications (UC) path. Most of them already had hands-on pilot experience with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) and Exchange were working on the more advanced issues related to broad roll-outs and deployments. Topics of major interest included:
- Finding the best mix of capabilities for desktop deployment. Specifically, there was an interest in positioning conferencing capabilities on the desktop and in determining the extent to which desktop video conferencing should be enabled and then promoted. This was linked to the question of how much bandwidth will be consumed by a desktop video session, to understand the trade-offs, i.e. would voice and desktop sharing/web conferencing be more than sufficient for the business purpose, or would video have enough incremental value to justify the additional bandwidth over the Wide Area Network or out though an Internet Gateway. The sense of the questions on video were still exploratory, indicating that might come in a second or third wave of roll-out for most users.
- Facilitating customer interactions. Since many of the firms worked on major contracts with large enterprises (software, pharmaceuticals), there was interest in the options for links with those customers using UC. Some wanted to include their customers without any technical requirements, such as by inviting them into OCS-based Live Meetings. Others were interested in the details of federation to their customers, since those customers already had UC deployments. Either way, there was interest in more and better links with their clients.
- Enhancing team collaboration. Of course, the software firms were very interested in project speed, but that theme was echoed by the research lab, the systems integrators, and the manufacturing and retail firms. The manufacturing and retail firms were focused on collaboration primarily for supply chain management (e.g. requirements planning, order scheduling, and marketing).
- Improved conferencing at lower cost. Of course, the cost factors were important here, as several firms were looking to lower or eliminate their conferencing service provider costs, but there was also a major cost reduction focus on training retail store and branch office personnel via web or video conferencing tools. One questioner inquired as to how UC conferencing such as provided with OCS compared to high definition or special room-designed “telepresence.” That led to an interesting discussion of whether the 720p high definition mode now supported by OCS and Live Meeting were sufficient for the interpersonal applications of telepresence, at the resulting lower bandwidth, and whether desktop, home office or mobile location uses of a UC HD solution were preferable to specific telepresence room locations. The consensus was in favor of the UC approach, probably reflecting a blend of the audience’s experience with OCS and the pragmatic cost-conscious theme of the road show.
- Options for PBX integration. Several firms were moving or planned to move a portion of their users to OCS and had detailed questions on the options and methods of integrating OCS with their PBX systems to provide seamless links between the two communities of users.
As in Mumbai, the Microsoft IT (MSIT) team from India shared their experiences as part of the global Microsoft roll-out in deploying UC layers or “workloads” to 92,000 users across Microsoft, including (OCS), Microsoft Exchange, and Unified Messaging, with mobility and remote access thrown into the mix. Also, Microsoft federates the OCS systems with their business partners, including presence, IBM and click-to-communicate. For example, all Microsoft Partners in India are required to run their own OCS systems and to federate with Microsoft for ease of communications.
Of course, the same regulations on non-interaction of TDM and IP networks exists in Bangalore as in Mumbai, addressed with similar creative configurations and operational solutions.
In summary, the Bangalore event just underscored the Mumbai conclusion that UC has momentum in India. It will be very interesting to see what case studies show in 2010 as these customers roll out their UC applications.