The Gaylord Palms in Orlando — a.k.a. The Biodome — once again hosts the conference that allows attendees an excuse to descend upon the Land of Mega Theme Parks. What better way to spend four days away from the office, in sunny Florida, learning about technologies and services you may (or may not) use, while just a hop away from worlds of magic and make-believe?
Enterprise Connect 2014 is bigger and better, and just as its name evolved from VoiceCon, each year the event aims to bring together the most relevant enterprise communications vendors to demonstrate their latest equipment, software, and services. Long ago it was just about SIP, then video became big, followed by social and collaboration, cloud, and now…?
Everything. Just look at the conference tracks: Cloud Communications, Contact Center, Managing & Securing Converged Networks, SIP Trunking, Social Apps & Networks, Video, Mobility, and Unified Communications.
To get the vibe of any conference it’s always good to see who the top sponsors are: Avaya, BlackBerry, Cisco, Crestron Electronics, Dolby, Microsoft, NEC Corporation, and Unify. The usual suspects are still there… traditional, legacy telecom vendors like Avaya, NEC, and Unify (Siemens Enterprise Communications rebranded) now offering their own UC hardware and software. A few had predicted their extinction as if they were the dinosaurs of enterprise communications (well, historically speaking they are), but these old time PBX vendors continue to adapt and reinvent themselves.
At Enterprise Connect, Cisco presents itself as a communications company. It’s not about the network boxes, but all about its videoconferencing and UC solutions. The company also recently revamped its video portfolio. The company has been pushing hard on video and telepresence for the past few years, and each year at EC the Cisco pavilion is always an impressive display of telepresence rooms and products. Be sure to check it out because it’s unlikely you’ll see the cool stuff at your company. (Right?)
Which is why we see Microsoft at the conference. The Redmond Giant wants to focus on software solutions, namely Lync and Skype. You may not have used a fancy Cisco telepresence system or Microsoft Lync, but I bet you’ve used Skype. Now imagine Skype melded with Lync. Microsoft caught wind of the whole consumerization trend and now look at what it’s planning.
Crestron and Dolby being top sponsors is somewhat unexpected. It’ll be interesting to see what they have to offer at the conference.
And BlackBerry, a diamond sponsor?! Okay, to be fair if the likes of Avaya, NEC, and Unify can still survive in this dog-eat-dog enterprise communications market, then BlackBerry still has a chance to rise. Maybe a slim chance, but still, don’t count them out completely yet.
So get ready for Enterprise Connect… Yes, you will come out of a keynote speech thinking it was an elaborate infomercial. You will witness botched live demos. You will be the target of sales pitches. You will be lured by vendor swag. You will hear buzzwords come out of various orifices.
But don’t be discouraged and keep an open mind. Visit the exhibitors that dominate the market, but also spend extra time at the booths you’ve not heard of. The industry landscape is constantly shifting, and there are no shortage of disruptors in the enterprise communications space.