This week, NextPlane announced federation of their UC Exchange service to Microsoft Office 365. This is a big deal that offers a leap forward for NextPlane, for Microsoft, and for the UC market in general. If you are using Instant Messaging (IM) and Presence in your enterprise, my independent professional advice is that you would be well served by taking a look at this service, either separately or in combination with other federation methods.

As a reminder, “federation” means that users on different UC systems can communicate with each other across a federation channel for signaling and media. The media types are at least IM and Presence and may include peer-to-peer voice and/or video. The different UC systems can be either two different instances of the same brand of product (e.g. Microsoft Lync to Microsoft Lync) or between two systems of different brands (e.g. Microsoft Lync to Cisco Jabber). Enterprise-class federation will preserve and protect the security of the communications streams to the extent possible on each system.

Now, NextPlane has opened a major new market segment for federation, improving the situation in two ways:

  1. Office 365 users, whether large enterprises or small businesses, can federate with users on many other UC platforms (see list here) including Cisco, IBM, Google, and Jive, plus Skype, XMPP group chat, and social networks such as Chatter, Twitter and Yammer. This is done simply by subscribing to the NextPlane UC Exchange service at the appropriate plan level. This is a big expansion of the reach both from Office 365 users to other businesses and from other businesses into the growing Office 365 community.
  2. Federation already exists for Office 365 users who want to federate with users on Microsoft Lync systems at any specific company. However, this does require administrative attention on each of those Lync systems. NextPlane makes this federation easier. The new support of Office 365 means that an enterprise using on premise Lync Servers can subscribe to the NextPlane service and that one-time administrative action enables broad federated access to and from essentially any other enterprise using Lync.

Why is this a big deal? Well, first of all, Office 365 is a rapidly growing service. According to PC World’s post, net seat additions to Office 365 are growing at a 500% rate from calendar Q1 2012 to calendar Q1 2013. Microsoft was saying even then that 25% of the company’s enterprise customers now have Office 365. And this does not include the wide adoption of Office 365 among small businesses. Thus, the NextPlane announcement opens up a major new opportunity for UC federation.

This brings us to the second important factor. UC can transform business operations. UCStrategies has always defined UC as, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes,” and federation fits right in the heart of that definition. Presence is extremely powerful, since it lets two parties know when the other is available and can also enable a search across a team or group to find the best resource for the task at hand who is also available at the moment. Major reductions in time spent, delays incurred, and e-mail or voice mail messages sent with pending replies. Beyond that, IM is much more efficient than voice calls in many business processes; if only a bit of information is needed, there’s no reason to make a call or type a lengthy message. And, when voice or video is needed, it’s better to just click to add the voice or video stream, rather than switching to another device or session.

Federation between enterprises just multiplies the value of UC tools, since the benefits reach beyond the internal employee community, to include clients, customers, vendors and business partners.

Bottom line, the NextPlane announcement is a step forward for UC. If you take a look, please let us know what you think by adding a comment to this article.

View the full article at: UCStrategies

The NextPlane Team