Circuit by Unify: A Little Less Star Trek, A Lot More to Come
Oct 28, 2014
It has been a little over a year since the world got their first look at Project Ansible. Ansible was ultimately the Unify team’s way of going all in. It was meant to be the next generation interface to enterprise communications: a single pane of glass that users could spend the majority of their working day in. Today, the first fruits of that labor, now known as Circuit, have been released to the public.
Circuit includes much of Ansible’s original design language, including support for mobile clients and WebRTC providing one-to-one and group voice and video communications. What’s missing at launch, however, are the hooks to telephony platforms and ultimately the PSTN. Without this link to the outside world, the product today feels much more like a team collaboration product than the ubiquitous UC client we were promised a year ago. In other words, where Ansible was rooted in science fiction, Circuit is based on the real world.
That is not to say that Circuit is not a useful solution. I had the opportunity to try out a pre-release version of Circuit, along with other members of the analyst community, and what exists in the product today offers a compelling way of thinking about how we work and collaborate.
More importantly, there are also a few lessons to be learned from Ansible’s journey to Circuit:
Unified Communications is Hard. An obvious statement, to be sure, but the level of complexity that exists in enterprise communications today is often understated. Pulling together the loosely integrated applications in the UC stack, including collaboration, telephony, and now social and mobile, is a momentous task, especially for the first version of a client designed to seamlessly pull all of it together.
Pick Your Battles. In taking on this challenge, the Unify team has gone to its customers to help determine the most important features to include into Circuit, and define the development team’s priorities. Likewise, an ongoing customer advisory council will provide a necessary feedback loop as work continues.
The Cloud as an Enabler. At present, Circuit is launching exclusively as a software as a service (SaaS) model, which is actually very important in this stage of development. Clearly a feature gap does exist between the Ansible vision and what is available in Circuit, and as such, it might be a hard sell to convince customers to bring the product in-house. Under a cloud model, Unify can put their ongoing development efforts in front of customers early and often. The cloud model lets Unify bridge the perceived gap at a steady pace, rather than relying on customers to stay current within their own environments. Unify’s current roadmap includes a quarterly release cycle to add features, functionality, and the inevitable big fixes.
Ultimately, Unify will eventually reach a practical version of the vision it laid out for Project Ansible, but couldn’t do it within the confines of their development labs. Getting Circuit, even without some of the bells and whistles, into the hands of users and ecosystem partners, is an important next stage for the product. I, for one, am looking forward to see where it goes from here.
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