Making the Case for UC Federation Services

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Today’s knowledge workers need the ability to communicate with all business partners—including those outside company walls—in real time, writes Farzin Shahidi, CEO, Nextplane. To this end, particularly as employees are becoming increasingly mobile, traditional email accounts and desk phones are no longer cutting it. Instead, presence and instant messaging tools are replacing email, and UC-to-UC voice and video calls are similarly displacing desk phones.
As B2B collaboration continues to become more important to success—according to the Aberdeen Group, at least 83 percent of industry leaders have B2B collaboration plans in place—employees can no longer get by with UC tools that only connect them to their internal coworkers. Rather, they need the ability to leverage the power of UC with their external business partners, too.
Unfortunately, the process of federating UC platforms across corporate domains can be tricky for a number of reasons. For starters, most UC administrators usually choose one of the following options for like-to-like federations:
1. Open federation, which enables any UC-powered businesses to find and federate with other organizations that are similarly configured for open federation. It’s important to remember, however, that open federation allows all entities to send traffic your way—including ill-intentioned individuals who wish to prey on unsuspecting vulnerable end users. While open federation might make it easy and convenient for relevant organizations to discover your UC domain and federate with your users, it also opens your end-users to phishing attacks. Keep in mind that all it takes is for a few users to click on a URL to cripple a network and systems with nasty malware.

2. Direct federation, which enables companies to federate with their business partners directly. This closed approach to federation requires participating organizations to establish unique one-to-one relationships with each partner they want to connect with. Prior to moving forward with direct federation, UC administrators must first locate their counterparts at partner organizations—something that can be challenging enough on its own. Once those folks are located, they then have to agree to federate. This process takes a lot of time, as business justifications have to be drafted and managers have to sign off on them. Generally speaking, because of its complications, direct federation results in few if any federated relationships.
Due to recent high-profile cyberattacks at companies like Target, Sony and Anthem, many businesses are turning their backs on open federation. Remember, it only takes one or two end users to curiously click on a link before malware or viruses invade a network. As a result, when it comes to like-to-like UC federation, most enterprises are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they continue with open federation, they risk getting hacked. And if they try direct federation, they can only enjoy a handful of federations.
Then there’s also the problem of federating with partner organizations that have different, incompatible UC platforms. According to Nemertes’ most recent UC benchmark, more than half of IT leaders believe interoperability problems are the chief barrier of success, as they add expenses, time and complexity to UC deployments.
Keep in mind that some UC platforms are XMPP-based while others are SIP-based. On top of that, UC vendors use their own proprietary extensions (e.g., different UC clients will have different default presence statuses), making federation that much harder to achieve.
These problems highlight the need for UC federation services that remove all the headaches and complexities traditionally associated with federation while giving employees the tools they need to succeed. Such services allow businesses to federate with their partners who are on the same platforms as well as those who are on different ones. Beyond that, UC federation services ensure that business communications remain protected and systems remain secure.

Farzin Shahidi, CEO, Nextplane

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