G Business VoIP Newsletter
April 2017
   New in Business Communications

New Releases

Avaya's Zang Office UCaaS Targets SMBs in the U.S. and Canada
Avaya introduces Zang Office, a multi-tenant cloud-based business phone service available to SMBs in the United States and Canada (European coverage is targeted for September 2017). The Zang Spaces team collaboration application-as-a-service can be added. A third prebuilt app, the Zang Agent cloud call center for SMBs, is targeted for Q4 2017. (more…)

Cisco Introduces Business Edition 4000 for SMBs
Cisco expands its Business Edition family, introducing the new Cisco Business Edition 4000 for SMBs with fewer than 200 devices. BE 4000 is a voice-centric telephony appliance for simple office communications. Notable are the term-based user subscription plans and cloud-based management with new features automatically pushed from the cloud . (more…)

CoreDial Offers BroadWorks Call Control Alternative
CoreDial recently announced support for BroadSoft's BroadWorks as an alternative call control platform. Now, CoreDial resellers can select from CoreDial's in-house call control software (rooted in Asterisk) or BroadWorks which handles higher capacities and has a more advanced set of features and applications. Several bi-modal applications are in development. (more…)

Enterprise Connect 2017 & Industry Changes
During the recent Enterprise Connect event in Orlando, FL, more than 180 vendors showcased their software, services and equipment around the cloud, team and social collaboration, business application integration (APIs), contact center, analytics and other trends. Here we consolidate some of the latest releases. The tide is turning. (more…)

Genesys Aligns Portfolio Following Interactive Intelligence Merger
With a goal toward having "no artifacts" of the merger left by 2018, Genesys has aligned the two company's portfolios into three main offers using Interactive Intelligence's "Pure" branding: PureCloud (InIn multi-tenant cloud service for SMBs), PureConnect (InIn CIC and CaaS all-in-one solutions for SMBs) and PureEngage (Genesys Enterprise Edition). (more…)

Quick Takes

8x8, AWS, CafeX, Fuze, Microsoft, NEC, NVT Phybridge, RingCentral, ShoreTel, Vonage,...

New Releases

Avaya's Zang Office UCaaS Targets SMBs in the U.S. and Canada

About a year ago (in March 2016), Avaya entered into the cloud-based communications platform-as-a-service market, announcing the new Zang subsidiary and new application development environment where developers and end users can build and deploy custom communications-enabled applications for mobile devices, computers or integrated into traditional phone systems. This includes integrations with third party communications solutions, but also some pre-built applications-as-a-service such as the Zang Spaces team collaboration application which was in controlled release since June 2016 and is now generally available. More recently, Zang has developed and introduced a second pre-built service, Zang Office, which delivers a Unified Communications as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs).

In a nutshell, Zang Office is a multi-tenant cloud-based business phone service available to SMBs in the United States and Canada (European coverage is targeted for September 2017 per meeting legal, compliance and interoperability requirements). Zang Office is designed as a 100% cloud-based software-as-a-service offering that is simple to order online through the Zang Store (self-serve), and as such, does not require a partner or any in-house IT resources to assist with set-up and management. The service launched in October 2016 with a per-customer capacity of 250 users and has since expanded that capacity to 1,000 users. Plans to support a higher quantity of users in distributed (multi-site) environments are underway. And, the company is actively working on making the solution HIPPA compliant which will make Zang Office suitable for healthcare-related businesses.

Users choose from three plans:

  • Basic (for lobbies, break rooms or conference rooms; $15.95 per user per month); includes a company main number, extension dialing, , Caller ID, a virtual receptionist, hunt groups, voicemail and essential telephony features such as call hold, transfer, forward, pick-up and park.
  • Standard (for typical office workers; $21.95 per user per month); builds on Basic to add a softphone for desktops, laptops and mobile devices (iOS soon and Android in late May) and a direct phone number for each user, as well as a number of optionally added features such as customized music-on-hold and Caller ID, multi-party audio conferencing, unified messaging (receiving voicemail and fax in an email inbox), hot desking and find me/follow me call forwarding.
  • Power (for more advanced unified communications needs; $31.95 per user per month); includes all Basic and Standard features, with customized music-on-hold and Caller ID, multi-party audio conferencing, unified messaging (receiving voicemail and fax in an email inbox), hot desking and find me/follow me call forwarding as part of the package.

In addition to the freely downloaded softphone, Zang Office also currently supports three pre-configured hard phones, the Avaya E129 and entry-level Avaya J129 SIP desktop phones and the Avaya B179 conference phone. Support for the Avaya Vantage tablet-like desk phone is expected in late May, and the company is considering certifying a number of non-Avaya devices.

Currently, Zang is running a promotion that offers a 50% discount for a one year commitment. This makes the most advanced Power user seat very competitive at only $15.97 per user per month for the first year. Zang Spaces can be added for team collaboration, with a “Free” tier for all users that includes persistent chat, 5-party voice conferencing, file sharing, video calling to other Zang Spaces users and the Spaces API. The “Plus” ($5/user/month) and “Business” ($25/user/month) tiers build on these features to add more capacity, video conferencing, application integrations and more support. The Zang Office Power user seat includes a Zang Spaces Plus license for free, or Power users can opt for a discounted Zang Spaces Business license. 

Single Platform, Single Identity

Zang and Avaya emphasize the “power of Zang” as a single platform that includes APIs and tools to build communication applications (Zang Cloud), a collection of completed applications that integrate communications within cloud applications (Zang Connect) and pre-built applications such as the team collaboration application (Zang Spaces) and the new business phone service (Zang Office), with more to come. Customers will have a single identity to access any of these services, perhaps starting with Zang Office, utilizing Zang Spaces for teamwork and then trying out the Zang Cloud application development environment to create some custom applications.

Mo Nezarati, VP & GM of Zang explains further, “Zang incorporates an innovative identity management system that allows Single Sign On (SSO) with a number of cloud providers today (to be expanded), as well as allowing the creation of a pure Zang account.  Once an account is created, users can jump between all Zang applications using the same identity.  Signing into one Zang Service will allow access to all subscribed services, and signing out of any Zang service will sign the user out of all of them.”

This ease of moving among and trying out the Zang applications and integrations has the potential to create a “stickiness” that will make the Zang Collaboration Cloud a central and (hopefully) irreplaceable part of an organization’s day-to-day business processes.

Zang Office vs. Avaya’s Hosted IP Office

Zang Office is not the first hosted SMB offering from Avaya. Last year, Avaya rolled out cloud services for its IP Office communications platform for SMBs and enterprise branch offices, offering two options for its channel partners: (1) a partner-hosted, partner-branded cloud service available globally (Powered by Avaya IP Office) and (2) an Avaya-hosted, Avaya-branded option available in the U.S. (OnAvaya-Google Cloud) for partners that do not want to host and manage the service or don't have the data center infrastructure to do so.

Both hosted IP Office options require an Avaya partner to manage the sale. Moreover, with these offers, Avaya can leverage its expertise in traditional, on-premises telephony solutions to offer hybrid cloud-premises configurations for flexibility and investment protection. A business can continue using already purchased on-site equipment, while taking advantage of a pay-as-you-go hosted service for some applications or to network a mix of premises-based and cloud-based solutions across geographically dispersed business locations. Because Avaya uses the same IP Office software code base for premises and cloud IP Office solutions, the company can support the deployment (cloud or on-site) that best meets a particular customer’s requirements.

While Zang Office may have less in the way of telephony and UC features and functionality when compared to Avaya’s well-established IP Office, it will be appealing to SMBs looking for an affordable business phone service that is simple to order, install and manage without the need for an outside assistance or any in-house IT personnel. Zang and Avaya also highlight the post-sale customer success team that follows up on every order to ensure that those who purchase any Zang software service are able to adopt the solution successfully within their user body. 

According to the Zang team, several enhancements are already in the works, including a browser-based softphone expected in April that will integrate with Google, Microsoft and Salesforce.com. Zang Agent, a cloud-based call center for SMBs, is targeted for calendar Q4 2017. We’ll learn more about the uptake of Zang Office (and the future of Avaya as it moves through the Chapter 11 process) as the year unfolds. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Cisco Introduces Business Edition 4000 for SMBs

Cisco is expanding its Business Edition family of all-in-one communications platforms with the new Cisco Business Edition 4000 for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) with fewer than 200 devices. Business Edition 4000 joins the portfolio as a voice-centric telephony appliance for simple office communications. For unified communications and collaboration requirements and/or the need for more capacity, Cisco recommends the more advanced Business Edition 6000 that targets mid-size enterprises with up to 1,000 users or the Business Edition 7000 for larger enterprises above 1,000 users. 

We can expect the Business Edition 4000 to replace the earlier Cisco Business Edition 6000”S” introduced in 2015 for SMBs and branch offices in the 25-150 user range. The Business Edition 6000S is based on Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR) 2921 platform which is being discontinued (the last date to order will be December 9, 2017). The new Business Edition 4000 is based on the same platform as one of Cisco’s newer ISR 4000 series routers and promises greater performance at lower price.

Cisco Business Edition 4000 is generally available in April 2017 and will launch first in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, Germany and Australia.

Licensing & Management Simplified

Cisco highlights four easy steps for getting started with the Business Edition 4000. Customers choose the Cisco phones (Cisco SIP 78xx, 88xx or analog phones) and interface cards (FXO, FXS, PRI and BRI interfaces) if required to connect the system to the public switched telephone network or PSTN (SIP trunking is also supported), then add licenses using Cisco’s 1-, 3-, or 5-year prepaid term-based licensing plans. A Cisco partner preconfigures the dial plan and calling features using the cloud-based Business Edition 4000 management portal and the system is automatically configured, enabling the partner to complete the installation within a day, according to Cisco.

Here are some highlights:

  • Cloud Management: The new platform will be deployed on-premises, but managed in the cloud via a new hosted management portal with intuitive menus designed to simplify system deployment and provisioning. The portal is then used for ongoing administration, including adding users, setting up features and providing status monitoring. 
  • Flexible Term-based Licensing: Customers select a 1-, 3-, or 5-year term-based user subscription plan, with one subscription for every device connected to the Business Edition 4000 appliance.  The license provides one voice mailbox and access to the management portal and 24x7 Cisco support. At the end of the term, the customer can renew the license or can choose to migrate to Cisco’s cloud-based Spark service or Cisco’s Business Edition 6000. With either migration option, customers can continue using the same telephones, protecting this portion of their hardware investment.
  • Essential Voice Calling Features: Business Edition 4000 supports popular telephony features, including call park, pick-up, hold, forward, transfer, paging, hunt groups, 3-way audio conferencing, speed dialing, do not disturb, music on hold, intercom, E911, voicemail messaging and auto attendant, as well as ‘single number reach’ that simultaneously routes incoming calls to a cell phone or any other number. Per Cisco, additional features are on the roadmap and will be delivered via the cloud management portal. This includes more telephony features, localization and tools that further simplify management and reporting for both partners and end users.
  • Cisco Spark and WebEx Support: For additional functionality, Business Edition 4000 customers can add-on a Cisco Spark or WebEx subscription service for messaging (group chats) and multi-party online meetings. If customers require a more integrated UC experience, Cisco recommends subscribing to the complete Spark service with Calling, Messaging and Meetings or installing a Business Edition 6000 with Spark Hybrid Services which allows the sharing of calls, calendaring, directories and features among Spark (cloud) users and premises-based Business Edition 6000 users.

Cisco also highlights the affordability of the Business Edition 4000 for smaller businesses. The appliance lists for $4,995 USD, with user licenses at $21 per user per year for a 1-year pre-paid term (there is a maximum of one user device with voicemail per user license; a 15% discount is available for 3- and 5-year pre-paid terms). Phones are purchased separately.

In the coming months, Cisco tells us to expect more features for this new system which will be automatically “pushed from the cloud” via the Business Edition 4000 management portal. Generally, the roadmap includes more telephony features, localization and management and reporting tools. Customers will be able to take advantage of the new functionality without having to install any new software or hardware on-site.

 

 

CoreDial Offers BroadWorks Call Control Alternative

CoreDial, a PA-based cloud software and services solutions provider, continues to report positive momentum with its all-channel business model. The company offers its cloud services, including hosted PBX solutions, VoIP, SIP Trunking and Unified Communication services, to Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Interconnects and Carriers in the Mid-Atlantic and other regions of the U.S. through a private label program. Reseller partners do not have to purchase or install any hardware or software. They simply resell the service under their own brand, but with the flexibility to build their own service plans and bundles (more on this customization below). Partners can also take advantage of CoreDial’s billing solution for credit card or invoice paying.

CoreDial LLC became its own entity in 2005 after it spun off from a hosted PBX/VoIP provider called Service Provider where it had been a VoIP division for three years. Initially, CoreDial sold hosted PBX and other VoIP services directly to end-customers, but the company later transitioned to an all-channel model and currently offers a wholesale reseller program in which resellers leverage CoreDial's infrastructure and engineering team and a private-labeled portal for delivering/managing hosted PBX and VoIP service.

CoreDial currently has about 21,000 customers with 250,000 endpoints in production, serviced by over 600 reseller partners throughout the United States. An additional 4,500 seats and 20 new partners are added each month.

According to CoreDial, gross margins for channel partners can be as high as 40-70% from recurring revenue streams. Recent financial reports indicate that CoreDial’s business model is working well. In the first quarter of 2017, the company’s revenue was up 21.4% compared to the same quarter in 2016. On top of that, the number of CoreDial partners grew 35% year-over-year in 2016, and the churn rate of the CoreDial service now sits below 1% which is further testament to the high level of success partners are experiencing.

Asterisk vs. BroadWorks

CoreDial recently announced support for BroadSoft’s BroadWorks as an alternative call control platform. Now, CoreDial resellers can select from CoreDial’s in-house call control software (rooted in Asterisk) or BroadWorks which handles higher capacities and has a more advanced set of features and applications, opening up sales opportunities for larger size businesses, call and contact centers and additional vertical markets such as government, hospitality and healthcare.

CoreDial partners sell, deliver, manage and invoice for either service (BroadWorks or Asterisk) through CoreDial’s SwitchConnex cloud service delivery ecosystem. CoreDial has two data centers, one located in Philadelphia and another that became generally available this April in Phoenix. The Asterisk and BroadWorks software is hosted at both locations. With the dual data center design, the company can offer geo-redundancy (failover) to the alternate data center, ensuring that communications will continue with minimal or no interruption in the event of a hardware or data center failure.

To our knowledge, CoreDial is unique in offering of two different call control options through a platform such as SwitchConnex, along with several “bi-modal” applications that will work with either platform (Asterisk or BroadWorks). This includes a forthcoming UC client, new Android and iOS mobile applications, voice transcription with redaction and an audio and desktop call recording solution. Common applications across platforms is a significant advantage for channel partners in terms of training, sales and support, as well as to end users that can continue to use the same applications should they migrate to the alternate call control platform.

Throughout 2017, CoreDial is running training programs and workshops to educate channel partners on how and when to sell BroadWorks versus Asterisk. Hundreds of users are already “live” on BroadWorks, including CoreDial that is utilizing the software for its own internal business communications to gain a firsthand assessment of the strengths and benefits.

We spoke with channel partner Dan Cady, President and Owner of Cady Business Technologies who is excited about the new opportunities that the BroadSoft alternative brings to his particular territory, the Minneapolis, MN area. He said, “The BroadWorks product addition brings us the ability to provide a true enterprise solution due to its robust platform design (geo-redundant), as well as the ability to provide separate billing for branch locations. BroadWorks is a name well known in the industry and with many prospects which will help to further enhance our standing in the market.”

Below are some key differentiators for each platform:

Asterisk:

  • Targets the Smaller Business: Micro businesses (under 10 users) and SMBs (10-250 users) looking for cost efficiency and simplicity are the ideal customers for CoreDial’s in-house call control (rooted in Asterisk).
  • Single-site Billing: Single-site and multi-site organizations are supported by the Asterisk-based platform, but multi-site billing is not available (a single bill is sent to the main location).
  • Essential Features: A good complement of essential call control features, including voicemail, is included in a single seat for every user. Add-ons are available for API integration, a receptionist dashboard, fax service and call recording.
  • Call Center: The standard user seat includes support for basic ring groups that join multiple extensions as a group to receive calls routed sequentially or simultaneously. Inbound, voice-only automatic call distribution and call queuing features are also supported and can be included as part of the standard user seat, or sold as a premium (extra cost) feature since, per the CoreDial Asterisk-based model, channel partners have flexibility to choose which CoreDial features they will include and which CoreDial features they will charge extra for.
  • Active-Passive Geo-Redundancy: As noted above, the addition of a second data center means that customers can now be assured of continued communications even during natural disasters and outages. The Asterisk-based call control solution supports business continuity through the company’s OpenStack environment in both data centers; communications can failover to the alternate data center manually or automatically within seconds.

BroadWorks:

  • Scales for the Enterprise: Small and mid-size enterprises (250-1,000 users) and larger enterprises (1,000+ users) looking for productivity features, business application integration and flexibility are the target customers for BroadWorks. Some SMBs with 10-250 users may also have more sophisticated requirements and will be better served by the BroadWorks offering.
  • Multi-site Billing: Organizations with multiple locations will be able to receive specific billing for each site, allowing a business to view a breakdown of expenses per location.
  • Enterprise-level features: Group features like corporate directory, flexible seating (hoteling) and video calling, are sold in one of three user packages (Basic, Professional and UC) for varying feature levels.
  • A La Carte Features: Note that voicemail is only included with more advanced BroadWorks UC seat. Voicemail is sold separately (a la carte) for other seat types, as are ring groups, virtual attendant and any call center features which are included standard with CoreDial’s Asterisk-based user seat.
  • Contact Center and Collaboration: Optionally, customers can add BroadSoft’s call center solution for inbound voice-only call routing or the more advanced CC-One contact center and analytics capability (from the Transera acquisition in 2016) and/or the Team-One virtual workspace for teams (formerly Intellinote also acquired in 2016).
  • Active-Active Geo-Redundancy: For customers that require “always-on” communications, the BroadWorks solution supports a high level of resiliency through native “active-active” or hot-standby configuration that ensures instantaneous failover to a back-up server located in the alternate data center.
  • Brand: CoreDial notes that “brand” may be an important factor in a customer’s business communications decision. The BroadSoft brand is well-known as the company is a leader in the UCaaS market with a global market share above 40%, according to industry analyst firm Frost & Sullivan.

What’s Ahead in 2017?

A lot. The major news, as noted above, is CoreDial’s unique offer of two call control options (Asterisk and BroadSoft BroadWorks), along with several bi-modal applications that will work with either platform. Furthermore, CoreDial hints that additional softswitch integrations may be considered as a means of “future-proofing” CoreDial’s SwitchConnex and keeping the platform in line with emerging technologies as these unfold.

Throughout the year, CoreDial will be revealing a number of other enhancements to address channel partner feedback. These include general availability of the Android mobile client, the introduction of SD-WAN technology (in partnership with VeloCloud), integration to ConnectWise Manage business management software and support for Google’s voice transcription and redaction services, call recording and the new bi-modal UC client. Additionally, CoreDial says it is exploring international expansion, possibly extending coverage into Western Europe and Latin America. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Enterprise Connect 2017 & Industry Changes

The 2017 Enterprise Connect (EC17) Conference and Expo was buzzing as always with opportunities to meet with industry peers and learn about the latest trends and innovations related to enterprise communications. During the recent event in Orlando, FL, more than 180 vendors showcased their software, services and equipment around the cloud, team and social collaboration, contact center, analytics, business application integration (APIs) and the digital forms of communication that are facilitating real-time customer interactions, and ultimately, a higher level of customer service – the end goal for businesses in any vertical market.  

The tide is turning away from traditional, on-premises telephony (the PBX or IP-PBX) and toward cloud-based communications and collaboration as evidenced by the keynote speeches this year from some new players in the enterprise market, including Amazon and Google that highlighted their new cloud-based collaboration and communications solutions for team meetings, virtual room experiences and contact centers.

Several communications providers stood out due to the sheer number of announcements they made before and during EC17 (e.g. 8x8, Cisco and RingCentral). Here we consolidate some of the new releases related to trends in team collaboration, contact center and business application integration. See the Quick Takes section below for a more comprehensive list of the latest industry news.

Team Collaboration

  • 8x8 acquired LeChat, Inc. and its Sameroom interoperability platform that connects disparate team messaging solutions. 8x8 is seeking to solve the problem of fragmented communications or “silos” that often exist in larger organizations with departments or user groups using different collaboration tools. Sameroom bridges various team collaboration services by transferring messages and files among the connected “rooms” in real-time; all data is replicated for each room. Currently, Sameroom integrates with two dozen different messaging and team collaboration apps, including Skype, Slack, Spark, HipChat, Hangouts, and others.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced the new Amazon Chime cloud-based service for team meetings that enables video, voice, chat and screen sharing capabilities. Amazon Chime is available in three versions: the free Basic Edition with voice, video, messaging and chat; the Plus Edition that adds user management and 1GB per user of message storage; and  the Pro Edition that also enables screen sharing and video for up to 100 users, support for mobile devices and laptops, and in-room video. Amazon Chime will also be sold through partners Level 3 and Vonage beginning in the second quarter of 2017 (Vonage will provide Amazon Chime Pro Edition to its Essentials business customers at no additional cost).
  • CafeX unveiled the new Chime Spaces team collaboration cloud-based offering at the recent Enterprise Connect Conference and Expo. Chime Spaces (formerly Vayyoo Rooms acquired in January 2017) is a virtual workspace where team members can collectively collaborate, review and comment on posted documents and multimedia content, and participants are continually notified in real-time about any updates via push notifications and email alerts.
  • Google recently announced the next wave of collaboration and communications tools for the enterprise, including two new services for teams, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Hangouts Meet is a video meeting solution with file sharing for up to 30 people (generally available today for G Suite customers). Hangouts Chat adds a virtual room experience where team members can store, share and discuss files, spreadsheets, slides, calendars and more; integration with other business applications like Box and ZenDesk is possible.
  • Microsoft announced the roll-out of its Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace to Office 365 business users worldwide starting March 14. The more than 85 million active Office 365 business customers will be able to access Teams for no additional cost beyond what they pay for their Office 365 Business or Enterprise subscriptions (Business Essentials, Business Premium and Enterprise E1, E3, and E5). Microsoft Teams is also a free add-on to Office 365 Education users if they have an Education, Education Plus, Education E3 and/or an Education E5 suite plan.
  • ShoreTel entered the team collaboration space with the new ShoreTel Teamwork, a persistent virtual workspace where teams can share and store messages, tasks, and files. Teamwork is accessible from iOS and Android mobile devices and included free for Connect CLOUD customers in the US and Canada; features are consistent across ShoreTel’s Essentials, Standard and Advanced service bundles.

Read more here about several other team apps previously introduced into the market.

Contact Center

  • 8x8 has expanded its contact center portfolio to include the ContactNow informal contact center solution for SMBs and teams in the U.S. (this was previously available in the UK and is from the 8x8 acquisition of DXI in May 2015). ContactNow enables web-based self-service customization and administration, inbound calling, outbound campaigns, visual IVR, call monitoring and recording and performance reporting. ContactNow is available to U.S. businesses as of April 2017 in three editions.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) entered the contact center space with the Amazon Connect self-service, cloud-based contact center service. Amazon Connect is a voice-only solution (e.g. for live calls and IVR), but customers can add channels like email, Web chat and social media by combining Connect with Salesforce, Zendesk or other CRM platforms. Currently, Amazon Connect is available in the U.S. and 18 countries throughout Europe, with expansion to more countries later.
  • Cisco’s new Spark Customer Care service provides internal or external customer support for help desks and small teams (of up to about 20 users). The cloud-based solution enables customer interactions via chat on a website with the ability to request a voice callback and provides the help desk team with a workspace view of incoming contacts, current contacts and contact history along with performance reports and metrics. The new solution is generally available in April 2017.

Business Application Integration

  • 8x8 announces a number of new out-of-the-box integrations, including with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Oracle Sales Cloud, Hubspot, ZOHO, Bond, Bullhorn, Jobscience and TargetRecruit, Zendesk, Freshdesk and ConnectWise, as well as new customer and partner APIs for access to messaging, chat, meetings, IVR, SMS, Fax, analytics, provisioning and administration.
  • Fuze introduces Fuze Connect, an integration solution that ties together enterprise applications such as CRM or customer service applications with the Fuze UCaaS platform. Ten pre-built integrations are currently available, including for Salesforce, Netsuite, MS Dynamics, SugarCRM, ServiceNow, Jira, ZoHo, Zendesk and BullHorn.
  • RingCentral announces 40 new out-of-the-box business application integrations (now over 85 integrations in total) and expanded team messaging APIs to include support for chatbots and artificial intelligence.

Partnerships

There’s a lot of partnering going on. Why reinvent the wheel when the expertise already exists and a partnership can be formed? Here are a few of the latest combined solutions. See the Quick Takes section below for a more comprehensive list.

CoreDial recently announced support for BroadSoft’s BroadWorks as an alternative call control platform. Now, CoreDial resellers can select from CoreDial’s in-house call control software (rooted in Asterisk) or BroadWorks which handles higher capacities and has a more advanced set of features and applications, opening up sales opportunities for larger size businesses, call and contact centers and additional vertical markets. CoreDial is also offering a new option for cloud-based SD-WAN technology in partnership with VeloCloud that provides multi-site and larger customers with better quality-of-service, reliability and improved security and management options.

MegaPath is partnering with VeloCloud to expand its software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) service options and add new capabilities that include bi-directional priority routing, real-time application failover, packet-level application performance monitoring, true bandwidth aggregation and complete network performance visibility. MegaPath is offering two new SD-WAN packages, SD-WAN Pro for SMBs and SD-WAN Enterprise, which add to MegaPath’s existing SD-WAN offering that was introduced in March of 2016.

Vonage Business is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide the new Amazon Chime Pro Edition cloud-based service for team meetings to its Essentials business customers at no additional cost.  The Chime Pro Edition encompasses the Basic and Plus Edition features for voice, video, messaging and chat, user management and message storage and also enables screen sharing and video for up to 100 users, support for mobile devices and laptops, and in-room video. Vonage is also collaborating with Google to offer Rich Communication Services (RCS) business messaging that enhances the standard SMS or MMS experience on Android mobile devices with features like group chat and high-resolution photo sharing.

Shifting Industry, Shifting Players

The number of traditional business telephony vendors continues to shrink as companies merge or disappear altogether in a market that is shifting toward cloud communications and away from on-premises telephony equipment. Below are some of the major happenings with long-time industry telephony equipment providers.

Avaya Inc. filed voluntarily for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 19, 2017, obtaining $725 million in debtor-in-possession (“DIP”) financing which, along with cash from its operations, is expected to allow business operations to continue as usual with minimal disruption. Avaya stresses that this is a decision to restructure the company’s finances and does not reflect upon the strength of their operations or business model. At the time of the filing, Avaya pointed to some positive metrics in its fiscal year 2016 financials, such as a positive cash flow for two consecutive years, an increase of 13% in total Q4 booking from Q3 and a Net Promoter Score of 58 which indicates “solid” customer satisfaction. Since then, Avaya entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell its Networking business to Extreme Networks (transaction to close by June 30, 2017). Stay tuned for more about the future of Avaya as it moves through the Chapter 11 process.

Fonality and its portfolio of business telephony, unified communications and collaboration solutions was recently acquired by NetFortris. The combination of Fonality UC products and services for SMBs augments the NetFortris IT and security products and specialized applications for enterprises, positioning the company as a single IT and UC provider for businesses of all sizes. Fonality was an early leader in offering a hybrid-hosted IP-PBX architecture and among the first to see the benefits in offering a single pay-as-you-go pricing model (subscription-based pricing) for both hosted/cloud UC services and premises-based UC deployments. The combined company will have over 11,000 customers and 300,000 end users in 41 countries, served by operating centers in three countries.

Toshiba Corporation of Japan announced abruptly it would "wind-down" its Telecommunications Systems Division (TSD) starting immediately, including all telecom sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The news came just as TSD was rolling out new software features for its IPedge communications platform and a new compact server for the small business, IPedge ES. The telecom group was also poised to announce some significant developments, including investments in geo-redundancy and survivability for its VIPedge cloud telephony service, additional hybrid cloud options and new pricing models. Per a letter to its dealer network, Vice President and General Manager Brian Metherell emphasized that TSD would “continue to support dealers in all warranty and maintenance obligations to customers” and would “waive early termination charges” for customers of its subscription-based cloud service.

See the Quick Takes section below for a more comprehensive list of recent industry news.

 

 

Genesys Aligns Portfolio Following Interactive Intelligence Merger

Back in August of 2016, Genesys announced its intent to acquire competitor Interactive Intelligence, combining two market leaders in contact center and customer experience solutions. The Interactive Intelligence portfolio brings along products and services in the mid-market business segment (250-750 users), including telephony and unified communications functionality, and adds to the Genesys contact center offerings geared toward larger enterprises (above 750 users). 

The transaction closed in December 2016, and Genesys reports good progress since then in terms of defining a going-forward portfolio of solutions that now spans all market segments, small to large, simple to sophisticated, delivered in the cloud or on-premises. Genesys has been refreshingly open about their strategy and roadmap, continuing to hold briefings and Q&A sessions on a quarterly basis. And while, no financials from the combined company are public as yet, Genesys reports the company is “at plan” or “ahead of plan.”

With the merger now complete, the company has 5,000 employees, 1,000 partners and 10,000 customers.

Covering All Market Segments

Moving quickly, with a goal toward having “no artifacts” of the merger left by 2018, Genesys has already aligned the two company’s portfolios into three main offers using Interactive Intelligence’s “Pure” branding. Genesys further defines each of the three offers in terms of business size (number of user seats), but stresses that the “buyer persona” is more important than seat size in determining which solution fits best.

  • PureCloud by Genesys (20-250 seats): In 2015, Interactive Intelligence introduced the PureCloud multi-tenant suite of contact center and unified communications applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The newly rebranded PureCloud by Genesys is now streamlined into two offers: (1) “PureCloud Communicate” that blends team collaboration functionality (formerly PureCloud Collaborate) with enterprise telephony, speech-enabled auto attendant, audio conferencing, call recording, unified messaging and screen pops, and (2) “PureCloud” (formerly known as PureCloud Engage), an all-in-one cloud contact center and unified communications service that enables omnichannel (voice, chat, email and video) routing, plus the PureCloud Communicate capabilities (available in three pricing tiers).
  • PureConnect (250-750 seats): The PureConnect solution encompasses Interactive Intelligence’s all-in-one software suite, Customer Interaction Center (CIC), that offers both contact center and enterprise IP telephony functionality, deployed on-premises or as a single-tenant cloud service (CaaS) with a month-to-month or annual subscription. CIC and CaaS share the same code-base, and though there may be a few small differences due to deployment and delivery, the aim is to have the same features with enhancements released at the same time, according to the company.
  • PureEngage (750+ seats): The newly-branded PureEngage category encompasses the Genesys Enterprise Edition offerings, including both cloud- and premises-based solutions for customer engagement (digital, inbound, self-service and outbound), employee engagement (workforce optimization, omnichannel desktop and collaboration) and business optimization (workload management, analytics, platform and integration). Genesys recently acquired OEM partner Silver Lining Solutions based in the UK, expanding the company’s portfolio with employee engagement and performance software. Genesys has been offering the Silver Lining Performance DNA portfolio through Genesys Skills Management.

 Roadmap 2017

Over the past year, Interactive Intelligence has announced the integration and availability of some PureCloud services for CIC customers with on-site telephony deployments, including access to the cloud-based PureCloud team collaboration tool (formerly called PureCloud Collaborate). In 2017, Genesys plans to continue developing these hybrid cloud-premises offers which protect a customer’s existing on-site investments, while allowing them to take advantage of pay-as-you-go cloud-based services for advanced applications. In addition, hybrid cloud configurations can ease the migration to an all-cloud solution in the future. Recent surveys reveal that hybrid deployments are a growing preference so vendors like Genesys-Interactive Intelligence that can offer both cloud and premises-based solutions are in a good position.

In 2017, Genesys is planning a $200 million investment in R&D across all three main offers - PureCloud, PureConnect and PureEngage. The company will continue to “rapidly build out” the capabilities of the PureCloud multi-tenant offering, but also invest in the single-tenant PureConnect offering for businesses looking for more isolation and customization. We can also expect some additional integration among the three product lines as noted above (e.g. PureCloud services for CIC), as well as making some of the Genesys contact center functionality available to CIC customers.

For the PureEngage line, Genesys will focus broadly on digital trends, messaging applications, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (for Customer Engagement); the omnichannel desktop, Workforce Optimization (WFO) and next-generation forecasting and planning (for Employee Engagement); and predictive algorithms for routing and analysis, machine learning, APIs and pre-built applications (for Business Optimization). Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Quick Takes

In recent news:

8x8 has expanded its contact center portfolio to include the ContactNow informal contact center solution for SMBs and teams in the U.S. (this was previously available in the UK and is from the 8x8 acquisition of DXI in May 2015). ContactNow enables web-based self-service customization and administration, inbound calling, outbound campaigns, visual IVR, call monitoring and recording and performance reporting. The new solution is available to U.S. businesses as of April 2017 in three editions: Standard has metered pricing of $0.04 per minute, while Pro and Ultimate have a monthly recurring fee per agent ($50 or $75) and include 2,000 or 5,000 bundled minutes per agent per month, with additional per minute charges thereafter. In other news, 8x8 has re-aligned its more advanced Virtual Contact Center service into four new Editions to more logically map features to the most common contact center types: Digital (digital only), Standard (voice only), Pro (multi-channel) and Ultimate (advanced multi-channel). Available in the U.S. and UK, the new VCC Editions are priced with a single SKU to simplify the quoting and ordering process (previously, pricing was a-la-carte requiring multiple SKUs). Net pricing for VCC (after discount) is typically $50-$140 per agent per month depending on the VCC Edition.

8x8 is promoting its full suite of cloud services (UC and telephony, team collaboration interoperability, contact center and analytics in an open platform) under the new banner, “Communications Cloud.” The company has also made a series of announcements of late related to team collaboration and business application integration, including acquiring LeChat, Inc. and its Sameroom interoperability platform that connects disparate team messaging solutions. 8x8 is seeking to solve the problem of fragmented communications or “silos” that often exist in larger organizations with departments or user groups using different collaboration tools. Sameroom bridges various team collaboration services by transferring messages and files among the connected “rooms” in real-time; all data is replicated for each room. Currently, Sameroom integrates with two dozen different messaging and team collaboration apps, including Skype, Slack, Spark, HipChat, Hangouts, and others.  In other news, 8x8 has introduced a number of new out-of-the-box integrations, including with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Oracle Sales Cloud, Hubspot, ZOHO, Bond, Bullhorn, Jobscience and TargetRecruit, Zendesk, Freshdesk and ConnectWise, as well as new customer and partner APIs for access to messaging, chat, meetings, IVR, SMS, Fax, analytics, provisioning and administration.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is broadening its enterprise communications portfolio, announcing new cloud-based services related to team collaboration and contact center. The new Amazon Chime cloud-based service for team meetings enables video, voice, chat and screen sharing capabilities and is available in three versions: the free Basic Edition with voice, video, messaging and chat; the Plus Edition that adds user management and 1GB per user of message storage ($2.50 per user, per month); and  the Pro Edition that also enables screen sharing and video for up to 100 users, support for mobile devices and laptops, and in-room video ($15 per user, per month). Amazon Chime will also be sold through partners Level 3 and Vonage beginning in the second quarter of 2017 (Vonage will provide Amazon Chime Pro Edition to its Essentials business customers at no additional cost). In other news, AWS entered the contact center space with the Amazon Connect self-service, cloud-based contact center service. Customers pay by the minute for usage along with any associated telephony services. Currently, Amazon Connect is available in the U.S. and 18 countries throughout Europe, with expansion to more countries in the coming months. AWS is working with partners to build and extend Connect, including Twilio that brings in some of the voice capabilities and Calabrio that can be integrated for workforce optimization. Amazon Connect is a voice-only solution (e.g. for live calls and IVR), but customers can add channels like email, Web chat and social media by combining Connect with Salesforce, Zendesk or other CRM vendors.

Avaya announced several new UC-related solutions in the midst of its restructuring and Chapter 11 proceedings, including the global availability of the new Avaya Equinox UC client software for desktop and mobile devices. Equinox replaces multiple earlier Avaya client offers (Communicator, Flare, OneX, Scopia clients) and also runs on Avaya’s new Vantage next-gen desktop endpoint. Avaya’s subsidiary Zang introduces the Zang Office multi-tenant cloud-based business phone service available to SMBs in the United States and Canada (European coverage is targeted for September 2017). New partnerships expand the global reach of Avaya UC cloud-based services, including offering Avaya Aura and Avaya Equinox in Algeria (Icosnet) and “Powered by Avaya” cloud services in the EU and Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region (ScanSource and TOPAZ). Avaya Enterprise Cloud for Business Process Outsourcers combines Avaya Customer Engagement applications with ConversationCenter CCaaS from partner Spoken Communications. In other news, Avaya announced a new security and management solution called Avaya Surge (formerly SDN Fx Healthcare) and entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell Avaya’s Networking business to Extreme Networks (transaction to close by June 30, 2017). Stay tuned for more about the uptake of Avaya’s new solutions and partnerships and the future of Avaya as it moves through the Chapter 11 process.

BroadSoft announces the commercial availability of the BroadSoft Business Hub BroadSoft Hub cloud aggregation service that provides contextual intelligence across the core BroadSoft Business applications, namely UC-One (telephony and unified communications), Team-One (team collaboration) and CC-One (contact center). Recently, Hub added artificial intelligence (AI) to the UC-One Connect mobile application that can retrieve and display relevant information from files, emails and social media to the mobile device user based on who the user is talking to or messaging. BroadSoft also added support for Apple’s iOS CallKit for UC-One mobile applications, enabling a native user experience on an iOS device (i.e. answering a UC-One call with a single swipe, using UC-One mid-call services such as hold, transfer and conference while on an iPhone, or making a UC-One call directly from an iPhone contact list).

CafeX unveiled the new Chime Spaces team collaboration cloud-based offering at the recent Enterprise Connect Conference and Expo. Chime Spaces (formerly Vayyoo Rooms acquired in January 2017) is a virtual workspace where team members can collectively collaborate, review and comment on posted documents and multimedia content, and participants are continually notified in real-time about any updates via push notifications and email alerts. Chime Spaces joins two other Chime business collaboration solutions, namely the WebRTC-based Chime Meetings web and video collaboration solution for enterprises (launched simply as Chime in February 2016) and the recently introduced Justchimein free video conferencing service for online meetings with up to six people. In other news, the CafeX Live Assist omni-channel service for Microsoft Dynamics 365 is now available for public preview in free 30-day trials, orderable in North America and Europe with expansion in Asia and other regions starting later this month. And, CafeX is looking to broaden its global reach through a partnership with Voxbone that incorporates the VoxConf’s API (application program interface) within the Chime Meeting enterprise product and Justchimein free service. Note that CafeX has filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services over the “Chime” branding.  AWS recently announced its Amazon Chime videoconferencing product in March 2017; CafeX launched the Chime web and video collaboration service for enterprises back in February 2016.

Cisco recently rolled out a number of innovations for its Cisco Spark cloud-based subscription service, including support for additional video collaboration hardware, advanced security options, extended Spark Hybrid Media Services and a new customer care capability. New Cisco Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus all-in-one devices attach to standard HD screens and convert them into video collaboration systems; connectivity is native to Cisco Spark, but the devices can also register on-premises. New Cisco Spark Content Security Options allow customers to own and manage encryption keys by installing an on-site Cisco Spark Key Management Server (available in early June). Cisco Spark Hybrid Media Services now allow people to join Spark meetings from any standards-based SIP hardware or software client such as third-party softphones, Cisco video conferencing products or third party video conferencing endpoints (previously, there was support for Spark clients only); Spark Hybrid Media Services are included with M3/C3 Cisco Spark meeting and WebEx licenses. The new Spark Customer Care service provides customer support for help desks and small teams using web chat and callback (generally available in April for $17 per named user per month, with an annual subscription). Cisco has integrated an AI-based virtual assistant into its Spark product line ("Hey Spark”) and previewed a virtual reality capability at Enterprise Connect where Cisco also won the Best of Enterprise Connect 2017 Award for its Spark Board 55 touch-based collaboration device.

Comcast Business announced new integrations related to its Business VoiceEdge hosted telephony service, including VoiceEdge for Skype for Business that enables click-to-dial and call control features (such as hold, transfer, do not disturb and call move) directly from a user’s Microsoft Skype for Business contact list or within a message window using a Business Voice Edge-enabled device. Similarly, the new VoiceEdge for Google Chrome lets users manage phone calling directly from a Google Chrome browser using Business VoiceEdge, including from an email message, calendar event, contact or a website. In addition, Comcast says it continues to improve the Business VoiceEdge portal and Business VoiceEdge mobile application.

CoreDial recently announced support for BroadSoft’s BroadWorks as an alternative call control platform. Now, CoreDial resellers can select from CoreDial’s in-house call control software (rooted in Asterisk) or BroadWorks which handles higher capacities and has a more advanced set of features and applications, opening up sales opportunities for larger size businesses, call and contact centers and additional vertical markets. CoreDial also addresses enterprise needs with a new data center in Phoenix, Arizona that facilitates geo-redundancy and failover with the alternate data center in Philadelphia, as well as a new option for cloud-based SD-WAN technology in partnership with VeloCloud that provides multi-site and larger customers with better quality-of-service, reliability and improved security and management options. CoreDial is also offering a free integration to ConnectWise Manage business management software which the company says many of its partners are already using for quoting and invoicing. See the related write-up for more on CoreDial’s enhancements.

Enghouse Interactive introduces the TouchPoint Attendant, a native operator console solution for Microsoft’s Skype for Business, either the cloud-based Skype for Business Online and Office 365 or a Microsoft Skype for Business on-premises deployment. TouchPoint Attendant is a downloadable application for call routing and features a gamification-style visual interface in which incoming calls appear as animations and change color according to wait times. The solution also leverages directories, email, IM, and presence information from Office 365. Enghouse is offering a free 30-day trial. Regular subscription pricing starts at $54 per month.

Epygi Technologies  recently released two new IP-PBX models, the entry-level Epygi QX20 for very small offices (to 32 users) and the Epygi QX500 for mid-size offices (to 500 users). The new models fill gaps in the earlier line of QX business telephony systems which includes the QX50 IP-PBX (to 50 users), the QX200 (to 200 users) and the QX2000 for mid-range and larger enterprises (to 2,000 users). The low-end QX20 has an MSRP of only $385. See the write-up “Despite the Cloud” for more on Epygi’s new QX products and other new IP-PBX systems just entering the market.

Fuze announces Fuze Connect, an integration solution that ties together enterprise applications such as CRM or customer service applications with the Fuze UCaaS platform. The API integration enables call control and management directly from the application, eliminating the need to toggle between applications or perform manual look-ups. For example, contact details, activity records and notes from a CRM or service desk application will display on the screen for an incoming call. After the call, activities are saved directly into the integrated application. Ten pre-built integrations are currently available, including for Salesforce, Netsuite, MS Dynamics, SugarCRM, ServiceNow, Jira, ZoHo, Zendesk and BullHorn. In 2016, ThinkingPhones renamed the company as Fuze, the name of the cloud video conferencing company it acquired in November 2015. The new name is meant to emphasize that the company’s cloud-based services encompass more than just voice and telephony, but deliver (i.e. “fuze”) voice, text, data, and video on a single platform.

Genesys announces the alignment of portfolios, following the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence in August 2016. There will be three main offers using Interactive Intelligence’s “Pure” branding: PureCloud (the Interactive Intelligence multi-tenant cloud service for SMBs with 20-250 users), PureConnect (the Interactive Intelligence CIC and CaaS all-in-one solutions for SMBs with 250-750 users) and PureEngage (the Genesys Enterprise Edition portfolio of applications for larger businesses with 750+ users). In other news, Genesys recently acquired OEM partner Silver Lining Solutions based in the UK, expanding the company’s portfolio with employee engagement and performance software. Genesys has been offering the Silver Lining’s Performance DNA portfolio through its Genesys Skills Management. See the related write-up for more on the re-aligned portfolio and roadmap.

Google recently announced the next wave of collaboration and communications tools for the enterprise, including two new services for teams, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Hangouts Meet is a video meeting solution with file sharing for up to 30 people (generally available today for G Suite customers). Hangouts Chat adds a virtual room experience where team members can store, share and discuss files, spreadsheets, slides, calendars and more; integration with other business applications like Box and ZenDesk is possible. A new machine learning bot called @meet uses natural language to schedule meetings (available for Hangouts Chat customers). Google also enhances the security and compliance features of its Google Drive platform for storing, sharing and accessing files. And, this May, the company is announcing the general availability of its Jamboard digital whiteboard, priced at $4,999 plus $600 for annual support and management (discounted to $300 if purchased prior to September 30, 2017).

MegaPath is partnering with VeloCloud to expand its software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) service options and add new capabilities that include bi-directional priority routing, real-time application failover, packet-level application performance monitoring, true bandwidth aggregation and complete network performance visibility. MegaPath has two new SD-WAN packages: SD-WAN Pro for SMBs and SD-WAN Enterprise; packages start at $57 per month. SD-WAN technology promises to be the next frontier for enterprise networking and a better approach to handling the high-bandwidth requirements of the modern workplace, including the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications for information technologies (IT) and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). Read more here on the SD-WAN approach and its benefits, particularly as these relate to cloud-delivered telephony and unified communications. The VeloCloud SD-WAN solution adds another option to MegaPath’s existing SD-WAN offering that was introduced in March of 2016.

Microsoft announced the roll-out of its Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace to Office 365 business users worldwide starting March 14. The more than 85 million active Office 365 business customers will be able to access Teams for no additional cost beyond what they pay for their Office 365 Business or Enterprise subscriptions (Business Essentials, Business Premium and Enterprise E1, E3, and E5). Microsoft Teams is also a free add-on to Office 365 Education users if they have an Education, Education Plus, Education E3 and/or an Education E5 suite plan. Teams is built around four key concepts: Chat, Teamwork Hub (the Office suite - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Planner, Power BI, and Delve - is built into Teams), Customizable (open APIs) and a Trusted Environment (data encryption).  In other news, Microsoft has added Auto Attendant and Call Queues calling features to its Skype for Business Cloud PBX and announced new meeting room solutions from partners, including Polycom RealConnect for Office 365 and Crestron SR for Skype Room Systems.

NEC has introduced a new subscription-based payment model for its UNIVERGE SV9100 Communications Server for SMBs. The new SV9100 BLUE option offers a complete out-of-the-box, on-premises business phone solution, but with monthly pay-as-you-go pricing (a recurring, operational expenditure or OPEX) which reduces the large upfront investment. Customers will pay only for capacity needed and receive a single monthly bill for hardware and phone services. In other news, NEC is field testing biometrics applications integrated with its UNIVERGE UC software, including a virtual receptionist solution for the NEC UT880 phone called NeoFace Welcome, a virtual receptionist that uses facial recognition to trigger greetings, notifications, advertising and other content. Security solutions under the banner NeoFace Watch use facial recognition to identify individuals in a crowd; use cases can include public safety, crowd flow management and VIP customer service, among others.

NetFortris has acquired small and mid-size business (SMB) phone solution provider Fonality and its portfolio of business telephony, unified communications and collaboration solutions. The Fonality UC&C products and services for SMBs will augment the NetFortris IT and security products and specialized applications for enterprises, positioning the company as a single IT and UC provider for businesses of all sizes. Fonality was an early leader in offering a hybrid-hosted IP-PBX architecture and among the first to see the benefits in offering a single pay-as-you-go pricing model (subscription-based pricing) for both hosted/cloud UC services and premises-based UC deployments. The combined company will have over 11,000 customers and 300,000 end users in 41 countries, served by operating centers in three countries.

NVT Phybridge showcased its CHARIoT Series portfolio of Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches for plug-and-play IP migration at the recent Enterprise Connect 2017 Conference and Expo. The latest product in the CHARIoT portfolio is FLEX, an energy efficient long reach PoE switch that includes a managed 24-port option currently, with an 8-port unmanaged model shipping in the July timeframe. FLEX switches extend a company’s LAN across longer distances to support IP-based devices and applications with the connectivity, bandwidth, and power required to perform optimally. Since 2008, Phybridge has been providing that “piece of the puzzle” which enables existing analog and digital (TDM) cabling infrastructure to be transformed into an IP platform. Market research indicates that some 72% of businesses have not yet moved to IP communications, though traditional telephony equipment continues to reach end-of-life status at a rapid pace. The Phybridge CHARIoT PoE switches allow businesses with legacy analog and digital telephony (TDM) equipment to transition to newer IP devices inexpensively by leveraging their existing infrastructure. Phybridge acquired Network Video Technologies (NVT) in 2015 and subsequently changed the company name to NVT Phybridge. Today, NVT Phybridge PoE switches are deployed by many of the established communications providers, including Avaya, BroadSoft, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Polycom, ShoreTel, and Unify, to help their customers with migration to IP.

RingCentral recently redesigned the user interface for its unified communications as-a-service offering, RingCentral Office. The new UI enables access to all communication modes - voice, video, messaging, tasks, fax and SMS - via a single screen (limited release begins mid-April 2017). RingCentral also announced 40 new out-of-the-box business application integrations (now over 85 integrations in total) and expanded team messaging APIs, including support for chatbots and artificial intelligence. New real-time analytics tools are available for administrators (voice QoS monitoring; currently in beta) and for department managers (live reports on customer interactions). RingCentral is also expanding international coverage, now offering the RingCentral Office service in 13 European countries with an in-country purchasing capability and euro billing, along with new channel partners in Europe (now 33 countries in total). In other news, RingCentral is enhancing its Channel Harmony rewards program to apply to all deals from “one to infinity” (previously, only deals above 50 users qualified); partners receive 100% commissions on all deals, plus have access to dedicated subject-matter experts.

Serenova introduces a new web-based Agent interface called Skylight for CxEngage, with a simplified interaction panel (fewer screens) designed to support multiple interactions on a variety of channels simultaneously. Serenova is also partnering with Teleopti to offer the Teleopti cloud-based WFM suite with its CxEngage contact center solution to manage work schedules, change training methods and content, and optimize the layout of the contact center. In 2016, LiveOps Cloud renamed as Serenova, offering a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform called CxEngage built on the company’s early innovations in the cloud contact center, but with an open API framework and integration to customer relationship management (CRM), workforce management (WFM) and business intelligence (BI) applications. The CxEngage multi-tenant service runs in Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers located in various world regions, making the service available to multi-national contact centers that require geographic coverage.

ShoreTel entered the team collaboration space with the new ShoreTel Teamwork, a persistent virtual workspace where teams can share and store messages, tasks, and files. Teamwork is accessible from iOS and Android mobile devices and included free for Connect CLOUD customers in the US and Canada; features are consistent across ShoreTel’s Essentials, Standard and Advanced service bundles. In other news, ShoreTel launches the ShoreTel Connect for Chrome browser, a new client application that integrates ShoreTel Connect, G Suite and Google Chrome (free for U.S. Connect CLOUD and Connect ONSITE customers with Essentials, Standard and Advanced plans). ShoreTel also announces the new Summit Partner Program that provides training, support and marketing guidance to organizations developing voice and SMS applications on the Summit communications platform as-a-service (CPaaS). The program also helps partners introduce their solutions and applications to ShoreTel’s customers and reseller partners. The new program is an extension to ShoreTel’s developer partner program TechConnect.

Tadiran Telecom updates its Aeonix software-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) platform with Version 3 software that introduces a number of new capabilities, including a high availability contact center, a new Aeonix Touch UC client, new T2x SIP telephones and pre-provisioned gateways support plug-and-play functionality and automatic firmware upgrades. A 30-day trial license with full features allows administrators to “stage” Aeonix in a lab setting for evaluation and tweaking prior to full licensing. In 2015, Tadiran Telecom introduced a multi-instance cloud-based version of Aeonix running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), giving customers the option to access their telephony and UC as a subscription-based service or as a traditional on-site deployment. Multi-site organizations can also take advantage of a hybrid cloud-premises arrangement by deploying Aeonix servers at some sites and utilizing hosted/cloud services at other locations. Tadiran Telecom envisions a 'Bring Your Own Cloud' approach that will eventually allow customers to select the public Cloud Service Provider (CSP) they prefer to host the virtualized Aeonix software. Currently, Aeonix runs on AWS, but Tadiran has been testing Microsoft Azure within its own corporate network.

Toshiba Corporation of Japan announced abruptly it would "wind-down" its Telecommunications Systems Division (TSD) starting immediately, including all telecom sales in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The news came just as TSD was rolling out new software features for its IPedge communications platform and a new compact server for the small business, IPedge ES. The telecom group was also poised to announce some significant developments, including investments in geo-redundancy and survivability for its VIPedge cloud telephony service, additional hybrid cloud options and new pricing models. Per a letter to its dealer network, Vice President and General Manager Brian Metherell emphasized that TSD would “continue to support dealers in all warranty and maintenance obligations to customers” and would “waive early termination charges” for customers of its subscription-based cloud service.

Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise and now part of the European IT service company Atos) recently extended the compatibility of its OpenScape Desk Phone CP family beyond its own telephony platform to the BroadSoft Business BroadWorks call control platform. This opens up new sales opportunities and also benefits a growing number of customers that have a mix of vendor solutions within their organization. Unify introduced the CP phone family in 2016, including two higher-end models (CP400 and CP600) for users with collaborative needs; these phones can interoperate with the company’s Circuit team collaboration application. In other news, Unify’s Circuit platform now integrates with Plantronics range of corded or wireless headsets and speakerphones which feature HD and noise-cancellation technology.

Vonage Business is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide the new Amazon Chime Pro Edition cloud-based service for team meetings to its Essentials business customers at no additional cost.  The Chime Pro Edition encompasses the Basic and Plus Edition features for voice, video, messaging and chat, user management and message storage and also enables screen sharing and video for up to 100 users, support for mobile devices and laptops, and in-room video. In other news, Vonage collaborates with Google to offer Rich Communication Services (RCS) business messaging that enhances the standard SMS or MMS experience on Android mobile devices with features like group chat and high-resolution photo sharing. And, Vonage introduces the Nexmo Extension for Zoho that enables voice calls and SMS messaging from within the ZoHo CRM.

West Corporation has acquired the cloud collaboration practice and assets from Vocus Group in Australia. The merger is expected to generate new opportunities for West in the Asia Pacific region and to make West one of the few global providers of Cisco HCS which it offers under the brand, VoiceMaxx CE. In other news, West is partnering with Dolby Laboratories to launch a new conferencing service called InterCall Reservationless-Plus with Dolby Voice. Dolby Voice is known for enabling clear and natural audio via advanced noise suppression and sound delivery technology that picks up all voices from anywhere in a room (available initially in North America, with EMEA and APAC regions later this year). 

Yealink Network Technology Ltd, a China-based voice and video over IP phone designer and manufacturer, makes several announcements lately, including the qualification of its T46G and T48G phones with Microsoft’s Skype for Business Online Services (as part of Office 365); three other T4 models are set to follow. Yealink video conferencing hardware endpoints have also been certified as compatible and optimized for the StarLeaf UC OpenCloud platform, with registration to the cloud automatically configured and deployed in minutes. In other news, Yealink debuts the forthcoming T5 media phone series, including the T58V model equipped with a two-megapixel adjustable camera and an adjustable screen for lifelike video communication. Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes the Yealink phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services worldwide.

 

 

 

 

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