Cisco Announces End-of-Life for Lower-end UC Platforms, Recommends Alternatives
Recently, Cisco (www.cisco.com) announced it will be discontinuing its current line of unified communications (UC) on-premises platforms for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), including the Cisco Business Edition 3000, the Unified Communications 300 Series (UC300) and the Unified Communications 500 Series (UC500). Sale of these business telephony systems ends January 2014; support will continue until January 2017.
Cisco has designed two new programs to assist with the SMB transition, including a new Small and Midsize Business Specialization with reduced training requirements for partners and the SMB Collaboration Migration Program with discounts to help current customers evaluate a migration to the recommended Cisco Business Edition 6000 or Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution. For example, through the SMB Collaboration Migration Program, partners can offer discounts on the Business Edition 6000 system, IP and video endpoints and collaboration application licenses; there is no trade in required.
Going forward, Cisco is recommending two options for existing customers of the discontinued platforms, as well as for new small or mid-size enterprise customers with more than 25 users. Both options (Cisco Business Edition 6000 and Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution) are based on Cisco’s flagship UC applications, including the Cisco Unified Communications Manager for call control.
For premises-based deployments, Cisco is recommending its Business Edition 6000 virtualized telephony platform for business customers with 25-1,000 employees. Business Edition 6000 uses VMware virtualization technology to consolidate multiple applications on a single platform. With the latest release, five Cisco applications (four core applications and one optional application) run co-resident on a Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) C220 rack-mount server. Cisco continues to upgrade Business Edition 6000 and recently introduced a reduced-price 25-user starter license bundle for companies with smaller user requirements. Additional simplifications geared toward smaller businesses are said to be on the roadmap. Read more on the specifics of Business Edition 6000 here.
Cisco also indicates that its Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) available through Cisco partners may be a suitable alternative for some businesses. HCS extends Cisco’s collaboration portfolio (Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unity Connection, Cisco Mobility, Cisco Jabber, Cisco Unified Presence, Cisco Customer Collaboration, etc.) to a cloud environment, offering the portfolio as a subscriber-based service. Though HCS can handle hundreds of thousands of users, some Cisco partners, such as California-based collab9, are targeting mid-market businesses with about 100-2,000 users across multiple locations or even businesses with as few as 50 users. In addition, for smaller customers, collab9 is looking at lowering the cost of the PSTN or local and long distance charges to make the offer more attractive. Read more on Cisco HCS here and more on collab9’s HCS packages here.
For businesses with fewer than 25 users, Cisco suggests evaluating a third party SIP-based system or hosted service with Cisco IP/SIP phones as endpoint devices.
Note that the earlier Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express running on Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISR) remains an option for enterprise branch offices.
To request the full write-up, including more about the EOL timeline and SMB considerations and migration options, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
collab9 Adopts New Sales Model to Deliver Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution
collab9 (www.collab9.com), a California-based Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution service provider, is going through a makeover of sorts, rebranding and adopting a new sales model that promises to open up the funnel for new business. collab9 was formerly known as En Pointe Collaboration Solutions or ECS, the enterprise-class hosted voice and collaboration service based on Cisco’s HCS that was introduced in 2012 by IT solutions provider En Pointe Technologies. Still offering Cisco HCS, the company has new branding as collab9 and is moving forward as its own entity.
collab9 has also shifted its distribution model to be 100% channel-based, partnering with two distributors that already sell Cisco’s on-premises unified communications solutions, Tech Data (the TDCloud business unit) and WestCon (the Comstor business unit) that will deliver Cisco HCS as a subscriber-based hosted service for mid-sized enterprises in the United States. Resellers that become a Tech Data or WestCon Cisco Cloud Partner will white-label and resell the cloud services to end customers, while taking advantage of the distributor partner for ordering and provisioning and collab9 for the network operations and data center infrastructure.
Cisco HCS extends Cisco’s collaboration portfolio (Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unity Connection, Cisco Mobility, Cisco Jabber, Cisco Unified Presence, Cisco Customer Collaboration and Cisco WebEx) as subscriber-based services through Cisco partners, including collab9 and other service providers, systems integrators, wholesalers and resellers around the world. End-user organizations pay a fixed monthly fee to utilize the hosted services for their communications in lieu of purchasing on-premises equipment and incurring the associated monthly telecom and data costs.
Hosted solutions are appealing to today’s businesses, not only for budgetary reasons (reduced capital expense, installation and energy savings, predictable per-user monthly fees and fewer IT personnel required), but also for the range of business productivity applications and built-in redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities and the ability to take advantage of innovative technologies as soon as these become available. Multi-site and growing organizations, in particular, can benefit from the scalability of an on-demand, pay-per-user model and how quickly new locations can be up and running.
The Target Market
collab9 has a national footprint and currently offers its cloud-based services across the U.S. via data centers located in Los Angeles and Chicago. The data centers are fully redundant with complete backup and load balancing to ensure call continuity and applications are always available. collab9’s Network Operations Center promises 7x24x365 support.
Though Cisco HCS can handle hundreds of thousands of users, collab9 is targeting mid-market businesses with 100-2,000 users across multiple locations and can even service smaller businesses with as few as 50 users in some cases. Previously, Cisco HCS was targeted to businesses with 200 users or more, but Cisco and its partners have seen demand coming from smaller organizations and have decided to take HCS a bit lower in the market (down to 100 seats or even to 50 seats as noted above). In addition, for smaller customers, collab9 is looking at lowering the cost of the PSTN or local and long distance charges to make the offer more attractive.
This lines up with Cisco’s recent decision to discontinue its small and mid-size businesses (SMB) voice platforms; SMBs with 50-100 employees or more can consider Cisco HCS as an alternative. See related story “Cisco Announces End-of-Life for Lower-end UC Platforms, Recommends Alternatives.”
Packages and Pricing
collab9 cloud collaboration is currently available nationwide. End-customers can subscribe to one of five (5) packages for varying basic, mid-level and advanced requirements: Voice (V), Voice Plus (V+), Collaboration (C), Collaboration Enhanced (CE) and Collaboration Plus (C+), Each package includes support and maintenance and is offered for 36-, 48- or 60-month terms.
Standard pricing ranges from $15-$25 per user per month, depending on the package. Hardware (phones and routers) are purchased separately. Optional add-ons include Voicemail and Unified Messaging (for V+ and C packages), Softphone and Smartphone Clients (for C and CE packages), Attendant Console, Contact Center (standard, enhanced and premium options), Conferencing (voice, Web, video), Unified Presence (for C, CE, C+ packages) and Enhanced 911 Services. Local and long distance dialing, international dialing, DID, toll-free numbers, number porting and 411/611 services are also extra.
To complement the services, collab9 offers Cisco’s line-up of Unified IP Phones telephones, namely the Cisco 9900 media endpoints with optional video camera, the high-end professional 8900 models, the established 7900 business phone series, the entry-level, energy-efficient 6900 phones and the basic SIP-based 3900 Series. The Collaboration packages (C, CE, C+) support the full range of telephone models.
NEC UNIVERGE 3C 8.5 Focuses on the Consistent User Experience
NEC (www.necam.com) updates its software PBX and UC solution, UNIVERGE 3C, addressing one of today’s most important trends – mobility and a consistent user experience across all client types, including a desk phone, desktop computer, video phone, smartphone or tablet device.
The latest version 8.5 software adds a more advanced, native mobility capability that connects a supported smartphone or tablet device (iOS or Android-based) directly to the UNIVERGE 3C platform. The benefits are two-fold. First, mobile workers can use the smartphone or tablet as their business telephone (single number reach) and be able to seamlessly handoff calls between a cellular network and the enterprise wireless network; this includes users/phones connected to an earlier NEC or third party PBX that is tied to UNIVERGE 3C. Employees on-the-go never miss important calls and can collaborate with colleagues and customers quickly and efficiently, from anywhere. Secondly, companies will be able to better manage cellular wireless expenses and lower communications costs since the corporate WiFi network is used for voice calls instead of more expensive cellular minutes. Regardless of the network that the call is using (cellular, corporate WiFi, hot spot, etc.), calls will be routed through the UNIVERGE 3C system, then transmitted accordingly.
UNIVERGE 3C is a software-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solution that has evolved from an IP-PBX acquired in 2007 when NEC Corporation of Tokyo Japan purchased Sphere Communications. The software (formerly called Sphericall) runs on industry standard servers and integrates with standards-based SIP phones from NEC or third party vendors to deliver a full PBX and UC&C feature set with scalability to 30,000 ports across multiple locations.
A software-based solution such as UNIVERGE 3C is a natural fit for virtualized IT environments where voice can run as an application over a data network (NEC supports VMware and Microsoft Hyper V virtualization technologies). The software is also the core of NEC’s hosted/cloud UC service introduced earlier in 2013. NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services or nUCaaS (NEC Unified Communications as a Service) delivers the 3C functionality as a subscription-based hosted service for a monthly fee.
NEC UNIVERGE 3C, both premises-based and cloud deployments, can take advantage of the following new v8.5 functionality.
- Native Mobility: NEC UNIVERGE 3C 8.5 adds a new, native mobile capability that connects a supported smartphone or tablet device directly to the UNIVERGE 3C platform so that it functions as a standard SIP device whenever it is connected to WiFi. This enables a more advanced smartphone capability over and above the previous UNIVERGE 3C Mobile Client for iOS or Android which did not include softphone capabilities (voice communication was via the cellular network and used expensive cellular minutes).
- To take advantage of the new capability, mobile users simply install a SIP-WiFi client on their smartphone or tablet, and the mobile device then functions as their business telephone to make calls and to access corporate PBX calling features such as extension dialing, call hold, transfer, forwarding or ad-hoc conferencing. Any standards-based SIP client can be used (NEC will be introducing its own mobile SIP client in an upcoming release). Only a UNIVERGE 3C SIP Terminal License is required. The new, native mobile capability eliminates the cost and complexity of deploying an add-on Fixed Mobile Convergence or FMC solution that requires deploying a separate controller or network-based server connected to the 3C system.
- Enhanced Collaboration: In 2012, UNIVERGE 3C added a built-in Web and video conferencing capability, enabling workgroups to share files and presentations, share a whiteboard, utilize polling, voting, recording and archiving, communicate via video and more. The license-activated capability incurs no per minute usage charges which can add up over the course of a year and offers the security of a privately owned and operated solution. Users join a meeting from any mobile phone, tablet or computer by simply clicking on the meeting link and can take advantage of a new corporate directory search capability that makes it easier to invite and add colleagues into a conference.
- Group Paging and Emergency Notification: V8.5 software incorporates group paging and emergency notifications as standard features. Users can invoke group paging from any device (IP phones, analog phones, SIP devices, mobile numbers, etc.), with up to 128 phones per group and up to 1,560 concurrent pages allowed by the system. Emergency notifications can be sent via Instant Messaging, e-mail or SMS with real-time, detailed information about the caller and their location; previously, this function was an add-on component.
- UC&C Integration with Earlier Platforms: NEC is well aware of the capital investments already made by its existing and extensive customer base. To this end, the company is making it possible to integrate UNIVERGE 3C with earlier NEC or third party PBXs. Customers can run UNIVERGE 3C alongside existing telephony equipment (NEC is3000 in Europe or NEC SV8000 or third party PBXs), allowing employees to take advantage of UC functionality such 3C’s built-in Web and video conferencing capability and the new native mobility. The integration also provides earlier customers with a migration path or smooth transition to UNIVERGE 3C in the future.
Availability: UNIVERGE 3C 8.5 software is available now in North America and EMEA, with other regions to follow shortly including Japan, Australia, Thailand, Singapore and other countries in the Asia Pacific.
Siemens Enterprise Introduces Phase II of OpenScape Business for SMBs
Siemens Enterprise Communications (www.siemens-enterprise.com) is unifying and streamlining its telephony portfolio for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) into a single platform called OpenScape Business. The new solution is designed as a single, scalable platform (to 500 users and to 1,000 users in a network) that will simplify and eventually replace the company’s two earlier platforms for SMBs, the OpenScape Office all-in-one IP system and the legacy HiPath 3000 converged PBX which is no longer orderable as of October 2013 (support will continue until July 2015).
OpenScape Business has entered the market in phases, with support for 500 voice users (50 unified communications or UC users) in the first version introduced in June 2013 in all world regions, except North America and Latin America. As of September, the full version is available, including in North America, with scalability to 500 voice/UC users and support for Siemens’ UC Suite of built-in applications. Availability in Latin America will follow in October 2013, completing the rollout.
Siemens promises a smooth migration from either of its earlier platforms, allowing customers to reuse existing housing, power supply and some peripheral boards and devices. With the proper system release, HiPath 3000 customers replace only the motherboard, system software and license file, while OpenScape Office requires just a software upgrade.
OpenScape Business is the “perfect marriage” of the OpenScape Office and HiPath 3000 solutions, according to Susan Ericke, Senior Marketing Manager at Siemens Enterprise Communications. “Our goal is to simplify the migration as much as possible by allowing current customers to reuse much of their existing hardware, while adding new software with built-in UC that is ready to activate when customers feel their businesses are ready. And, we have designed the new platform such that there is no urgency to migrate, with continued availability of OpenScape Office which will seamlessly fold into the OpenScape Business family. OpenScape Business is our latest effort to empower today’s Anywhere Worker, helping SMBs to embrace UC as part of the new way we work” explains Ericke.
To smooth the migration even further, there are a number of special promotions for existing customers, depending on their current system configuration. For example, with Siemens’ Go Forward Partners promotion (available until December 31, 2013), distributors can offer HiPath 3000 customers a new OpenScape Business mainboard at a promotional price, and the upgrade license from HiPath 3000 V9 to OpenScape Business is free of charge when customers send back the old HiPath 3000 mainboard.
Flexible Deployment Options
The new OpenScape Business has flexible deployment options. It is available as a hardware appliance or as software that can be virtualized to run in a VMware environment. There are three hardware platforms that support up to 500 IP users and have built-in slots for analog and digital trunks and stations similar to the earlier HiPath 3300, 3500 and 3800 configurations. An IP-only software version resembles the earlier OpenScape Office LX.
- OpenScape Business X3 is a rack or wall-mount system that supports 20 BRI trunks, 60 IP trunks, 20 or 36 analog stations, 24 digital stations, 500 IP phones and 32 cordless/DECT handsets.
- OpenScape Business X5, also a rack or wall-mount system, increases capacity to 52 BRI trunks, 30 PRI trunks, 60 IP trunks, 56 or 68 analog stations, 56 digital stations, 500 IP phones and 32 or 64 cordless/DECT handsets.
- OpenScape Business X8 rack system has the highest TDM capacity with support for 128 BRI or PRI trunks, 60 IP trunks, 384 analog or digital stations, 500 IP phones and 250 cordless/DECT handsets.
- OpenScape Business S is a software version, a server-based all-in-one telephony and UC platform with support for 500 IP users and IP (SIP) trunk connections. Designed for the Linux operating system, OpenScape Business S software can run on a customer-provided dedicated server or in a virtualized environment (VMware vSphere). OpenScape Business X3, X5 or X8 hardware can be networked as gateways for analog and digital devices, if needed.
All of the above deployments can be part of a multi-site network for up to 1,000 users across up to 32 systems, with one system acting as the Master Node and the single point of administration. Networking is accomplished over IP (LAN/WAN) or via digital trunking. Feature transparency includes a range of UC features such as presence status information, instant messaging (including XMPP presence and chat with external partners), drag and drop conferencing, Web Collaboration, directory integration, Microsoft Exchange calendar integration and more.
The all-in-one X hardware platforms include an embedded UC application called “UC Smart” for up to 50 users. This software runs on the motherboard of the OpenScape Business X3, X5 and X8 hardware platforms and enables basic UC functionality similar to that of Siemens earlier HiPath 3000 WebServices, including presence and status-based announcements, visual voicemail control, ad-hoc conferencing, directory access and internal chat. UC Smart is Web-based and device independent.
For more advanced UC functionality, customers can add the UC Booster Card or UC Booster Server. The UC Booster Card plugs into the motherboard of the OpenScape Business X3, X5 or X8 supports up to 150 UC users, while the UC Booster Server (can be a dedicated server or run in a virtualized VMware environment) opens up the UC capabilities for 500 UC users. This full “UC Suite” is the same as the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) functionality of the earlier OpenScape Office with extensive functions that include presence and instant messaging, meet-me conferencing, dialing from applications, status-based call forwarding and more. Basic call distribution is included, or a full ACD and UC-based Contact Center can be license-activated. There is also an add-on OpenScape Web Collaboration server. Note that the OpenScape Business S software version does not require the Booster Card or Server for UC since it is run on a standard server or in a virtualized environment.
Overall, the new OpenScape Business platform and associated special promotions smooth the migration of Siemens Enterprise Communications’ existing customer base toward a next generation platform that brings UC into their business environment without the need for add-on software and/or hardware often required by competing solutions. Further, the new platform allows Siemens Enterprise to focus its product enhancements on a single SMB platform, and channel partners can now go-to-market with one scalable, UC platform that meets the needs of both existing and new customers.
Tadiran Enhances Aeonix UC&C Platform with Scale and Built-in Applications
Tadiran Telecom (www.tadirantele.com) has enhanced its Aeonix software-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) platform with new features and functionality, increasing the capacity and adding new applications and endpoint devices. Aeonix is particularly well suited to large, distributed organizations in various vertical markets, such as contact center, utilities, healthcare and transportation. The solution is highly scalable (from 10 to 25,000 users) and deployed on-site or as a cloud or hosted service using multiple servers that are clustered for resiliency. An intuitive Graphical User Interface unifies management across all servers in the network, and simple licensing makes the system easy to install, manage and maintain from any location.
Tadiran chose the name Aeonix as a variation of the word aeonic which means “everlasting” and reflects the system’s open, flexible architecture that adapts as customer requirements change and as new market trends emerge.
Aeonix is Linux-based software that runs on industry standard servers and VMware virtualized platforms and supports standard protocols such as SIP, CSTA and Web Services. The solution’s pro-active resiliency approach enables load balancing, automated diagnostics and recovery mechanisms for a high level of fault tolerance and failover. Applications are always available and calls continue even when a server in the cluster fails. With Release 2.0, the active-active hot standby capability further reduces the time for SIP endpoints to register to an alternate server when the primary server malfunctions.
Tadiran has been offering limited time promotions to encourage existing customers with earlier Tadiran systems to migrate to Aeonix as it is the company’s flagship and forward-looking communications platform. Legacy Tadiran Coral and IPx customers qualify for free licensing for the first 70% of the user licensing, while existing customers with Tadiran’s Coral Sea softswitch can replace the software and all software licenses at no cost; both of these upgrades require a one-year Annual Support Agreement. Alternatively, Coral and IPx Systems can be converted to a gateway to interface the legacy phone system with Aeonix in order to connect and reuse existing investments in analog and digital phones and trunking. Third party TDM-SIP gateways can also be used. Note that Tadiran’s earlier Coral IPx (150-4,000 users) and Emerald ICE (64 users) systems are still available for customers seeking a TDM/IP-enabled solution. Also, Tadiran’s UCx all-in-one, entry-level system (30-120 users) introduced in 2011 is available as a cost-effective option for smaller businesses.
Sulzer Pumps, one of the world's leading pump manufacturers, recently upgraded legacy Tadiran telephony equipment in its North American offices, deploying Aeonix across 19 U.S. locations. The Sulzer Pumps, US Inc. division uses Aeonix servers in its main offices and Tadiran’s IPx Office systems as TDM-SIP gateways in remote locations to connect 1,000 endpoints as a single, scalable, fault tolerant, easy-to-manage system.
- Aeonix 2.0 now supports 25,000 users and up to 20 servers in a cluster (up from 15,000 users and five servers per cluster). Each server supports up to 3,000 users. Tadiran has plans to support over 100,000 users in Release 3.0 due out in mid-2014.
- Contact center management software is now embedded, making Aeonix a complete solution for both telephony call control, UC and contact center running on a single server (previously, a separate server was required for contact center). The system supports 600 concurrent agents and enables multimedia communications using voice, chat, email and fax. Notable features include multi-layer routing (by priority, skills, statistics, business rules or customer-defined values), IVR, outbound campaigns, real-time monitoring and reporting and CRM database integration. A Lite version (a basic package) is also available, with licensing to activate the full contact center capability.
- Aeonix Dispatch Console is a new touch-screen application for mission critical environments. Dispatchers can view live video feeds from multiple locations and quickly communicate in pre-defined or ad-hoc conferences. GUI functions include presence status information, one-touch buttons for making outgoing calls, speed dial using the touch screen, managed group calling, visual alerts and call recording, to name a few. The console runs from a desktop Web browser or via the browser on a smartphone or tablet device.
- A new Windows-based call accounting (billing) application presents usage statistics and summaries across multiple switches and multiple locations. Features include multi-lingual and currency options, account codes, built-in and custom reports, graphics and a Web-based portal for accessing the billing information from anywhere.
- Aeonix R2.0 integrates with Microsoft Lync 2010 (via SIP trunks), allowing customers to choose Lync for instant messaging and presence status information among internal users if desired.
New SIP Endpoints and Enhanced SIP Features
- Since Aeonix supports the SIP standard, the system is compatible with Tadiran’s SIP desk phones and third party SIP phones, including a new SIP phone family from Yealink with four desktop models to meet varying user requirements: the T46G color, Gigabit phone for professionals, the T42G Gigabit phone for business users and the lower priced T41 phone, as well as a forthcoming T48G high-end executive phone (2014).
- Enhanced SIP phone features are available for Tadiran’s T300 Series SIP phones, including provisioning, 125-party meet-me conference calls and conference call controls, zone paging, silent monitoring and barge-in, among others.
On the Roadmap - WebRTC
With Aeonix, Tadiran is focusing on Web solutions and is moving toward utilization of real-time Web-based communications or WebRTC, an emerging open standard that is bringing about new and simpler ways of communicating that will improve customer service and collaboration. WebRTC technology enables voice and video chat applications to be implemented in a Web browser, effectively blending Internet and telecommunications into a single tool and eliminating the need for client/server installations, trunking and other dedicated resources typically required to enable such applications. As an example, embedded WebRTC code can enable "click-to-call" or "click-to-video" chat capabilities directly from a particular Web page; an answering agent will see exactly what page the caller is viewing or has recently viewed and be able to answer inquires more accurately for a higher level of customer service. Look for additional Aeonix applications based on WebRTC in the future.
Availability: Tadiran Telecom's Aeonix 2.0 software is available as of August 2013 from 200 business partners trained to sell and support Aeonix in 41 countries across all continents. Most of the existing Coral dealers have completed the certification program to sell Aeonix, and new partners signed have strong IT knowledge in order to best support the Aeonix software and Web solutions.
8x8 (www.8x8.com) introduces a new mobile client for Android-based smartphones and tablets that adds UC features such as video calling over 4G and WiFi, IM/presence and visual voicemail. The client is already available for iOS devices. In other news, 8x8 has been awarded two new patents related to managing networked contact centers and distributed local telephony gateways and has launched the Zerigo VDI desktop virtualization platform that can be licensed by service providers as white-label solution.
Alteva (www.alteva.com) introduces Alteva Mobility for Smartphones and Desktops including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Mobile workers can use a smartphone, tablet or desktop device as their business telephone (single number reach), managing calls and seamlessly handing off calls between their desk phone and the alternate device. An optional upgrade adds instant messaging and presence. User settings, enterprise directory, contact lists and call history are stored in the cloud and synchronized with the client. The application is available now for download at the Apple App Store; Android availability is expected soon. The desktop client can be downloaded from Alteva’s website. In other recent news, Alteva sold most of its USA Datanet assets to an undisclosed buyer for $600,000, citing that the assets are not part of the company’s core platform and not part of its ongoing growth strategy.
AudioCodes (www.audiocodes.com) and European-based Gigaset Communications GmbH (www.gigaset.com) have developed an IP DECT cordless solution for Microsoft Lync. Specifically, AudioCodes SIP Phone Support (SPS) software connects the Gigaset pro N720 IP DECT Multicell System to a Microsoft Lync server. Mobile users will have essential business communication features via their cordless DECT handset such as basic calling, call hold, call forward and transfer, directory lookup, base station roaming and handover as they move throughout a location or campus.
Avaya (www.avaya.com) announces a partnership with Oracle (www.oracle.com) to integrate Oracle Service Cloud (formerly RightNow) with the Avaya Customer Experience Management solutions. A new plug-in makes the integration possible and allows the collection and organization of large amounts of data for greater business insight, and ultimately, improved customer service with a consistent customer experience across channels (mobile, web, voice, self-and assisted service) and various user device types.
AVST (www.avst.com) announces Release 8.5 features for its CX-Series unified messaging products, including support for the new Atom UC productivity tool, Multilingual Speech Recognition, Federated Presence, Google Apps, Location-Based Services, a Web-based system administration application for mobile phones and tablets and a single sign-on with Microsoft Active Directory. CX-S is an all-in-one unified messaging suite smaller businesses; CX-E is a rebranding and repositioning of AVST’s CallXpress unified messaging platform for medium to large enterprises.
BlackBerry (www.blackberry.com) announces major corporate changes, including reducing its workforce by 40% this year and the pending acquisition by shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings. In other news, BlackBerry delayed plans to roll-out its BlackBerry Messenger application to Android and iOS users; the application would allow Android, iOS and BlackBerry users to share files, send notifications and participate in group chats (30 people) using a unique BBM PIN, eliminating the need to share e-mail addresses and phone numbers or send text messages.
Cisco (www.cisco.com) announces end-of-life plans for its small and mid-size business (SMB) voice and unified communications (UC) platforms, UC300, UC500 and Business Edition 3000. See related write-up “Cisco Announces End-of-Life for Lower-end UC Platforms, Recommends Alternatives.” Cisco also announced it will be reducing its workforce by 4,000 (5% of the total workforce) in Fiscal Year 2014, possibly reallocating some portion of these resources to growth areas of the company.
collab9 (www.collab9.com), a Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution service provider, is partnering with two distributors, Tech Data (the TDCloud business unit) and WestCon (the Comstor business unit) to deliver the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) as a subscriber-based hosted service for mid-sized businesses (100-2,000 users) in the United States. See the related write-up “collab9 Adopts New Sales Model to Deliver Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution” for details.
Comcast Business VoiceEdge (http://business.comcast.com/) cloud PBX service for SMBs adds a mobile client application for iOS and Android-based devices. Users can make calls that display their Business VoiceEdge caller ID (calls are placed through the VoiceEdge phone number and use standard minutes from the user’s cell phone plan). Additional functions include listening to new voicemail messages, managing voicemail greetings, searching and dialing from the VoiceEdge directory, a list of recent calls or via the keypad and managing call settings, including the “Be Anywhere” feature that rings a specified user device for inbound calls. The application is free, but requires the Business VoiceEdge Unified Communications (UC) user package.
Digium (www.digium.com) has acquired long-time partner VocalCloud, a provider of cloud-based VoIP solutions that has been providing the network, infrastructure and back office for Digium’s Switchvox Cloud offer introduced earlier this year. This merger forms a new subsidiary called Digium Cloud Services that will deliver and manage the Switchvox Cloud hosted service, as well as future cloud-based products and services for SMBs and for Asterisk users. New developments are already underway, according to the company. The acquisition closed on August 30, 2013.
Fonality (www.fonality.com) introduces new bundled pricing for customers with 25+ users. The new subscription-based pricing model is available for both cloud and on-premises deployments and is designed to eliminate upfront installation costs, individual license purchases and long-term contracts. The all-inclusive package for SMBs is equivalent to the company’s Connect+ solution with business phone features, unified communications and contact center functionality, plus it adds some additional services such as virtual extensions and group mailboxes - all for under $40 per user per month. For customers that opt for the on-premises deployment, the new bundle also includes a high-capacity server. In other news, the company was recently awarded two new patents related to the HUD UC client: Event Driven Browser Launch and Single Click Enterprise Communication.
Interactive Intelligence (www.inin.com) announces Oracle-validated integration between its Customer Interaction Center (CIC 4.0) and two Oracle (www.oracle.com) solutions: Oracle Sales Cloud (formerly Fusion) and Oracle Cloud Service (formerly RightNow). CIC is the company’s all-in-one IP communications software suite that offers both contact center and enterprise IP telephony functionality. CIC 4.0 users can now access the Oracle Sales Cloud interface and functions to improve the customer experience, including receiving screen pops of customer data and real-time call activity information. The Oracle Cloud Service integration further improves agent productivity and responsiveness through features like universal queuing of calls with all Oracle Cloud Service interaction types (emails, incidents, Web forms, social media, chats, etc.) and integrated reporting. Interactive Intelligence is also launching Interaction Content Manager (ICM) in fourth quarter 2013; the new content management software aims to reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve customer service by providing real-time management of business content (scanned images, documents, spreadsheets, photos, call recordings, video files, etc.).
Intercall (www.intercall.com), a subsidiary of West Corporation, introduces the ECC Lync Edition, a hosted reservation-less audio conferencing solution that complements the Microsoft Lync unified communications platform. Users manage global conferences through their Lync client (coverage in more than 100 countries). InterCall partnered with applications developer Clarity Consulting (www.claritycon.com) to develop the new solution.
MegaPath (www.megapath.com) introduces a new Cloud Capacity Assessment service to help North American businesses assess the capacity and resources required to move their computing and storage infrastructure to the cloud. The assessment is a one-week evaluation of a business’ current environment and is free for a limited time. MegaPath offers hosted IT services (powered by VMware's vCloud platform), as well as hosted voice, data and security services. Partners can take advantage of limited time rewards on new Enterprise Cloud Hosting resources and Hosted Exchange services sold on or before November 30, 2013.
Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) announced it will acquire Nokia’s (www.nokia.com) Devices and Services business, will license Nokia’s patents, and will license and use Nokia’s mapping services; the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014. Nokia’s Mobile Phones and Smart Devices business units (including the Lumia brand), design team and operations will transfer to Microsoft, including approximately 32,000 Nokia employees. Microsoft will open a new data center in Finland to serve Microsoft consumers in Europe. In other news, Microsoft has launched Skype For Outlook.com in the U.S., the UK, Germany, France, Brazil and Canada. Outlook users can make/receive Skype voice and video calls from an Outlook inbox. Skype for Outlook.com is the email service from Microsoft that replaced Hotmail.
Mitel (www.mitel.com) forges an agreement with Black Box (www.blackbox.com) to market, sell and support Mitel cloud-based communications, collaboration and customer care services across the United States. Also, RackForce (www.rackforce.com), a VMware Service Provider Partner (VSPP) in Canada, will offer Mitel cloud-based UC services to Canadian businesses, including to its own customer base via the cloud and also as a white label cloud solution to resellers and service providers. The RackForce Mitel cloud-based communications service is available September 1, 2013.
NEC (www.necam.com) updates its software PBX and UC solution, UNIVERGE 3C. The new Version 8.5 software embeds a new native mobility capability. See related write-up “NEC UNIVERGE 3C 8.5 Focuses on the Consistent User Experience” for more detail.
Nice Systems (www.nice.com) acquires Customer Experience Management (CXM) software provider Causata (www.causata.com) and its Web-based predictive analytics and machine learning technologies. The integration of Causata’s big data technologies into NICE’s Customer Engagement Analytics platform is expected to generate new real-time capabilities that will improve the customer experience such as creating dynamic customer profiles and providing agents with the complete context of an interaction. Causata will gain a global market presence.
Panasonic System Communications Company of North America (www.us.panasonic.com) plans to introduce several next-generation video surveillance and security technologies later this year and into 2014, including a network video surveillance recording solution, a facial search and recognition system, a new i-PRO camera line and more. The innovative technologies will benefit numerous vertical markets, such as transit surveillance where high quality video solutions can assist with public safety and address liability claims on trains and buses.
snom technology Inc. (www.snom.com) and Patton Electronics (www.patton.com) are expanding their partnership to offer a new telephony bundle for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in North and South America via value-added distributor ABP Technology (www.abptech.com). The bundle simplifies the purchase and installation process, providing a total solution that includes snom SIP VoIP phones, the IP-PBX and VoIP gateway. Patton’s SmartNode Branch eXchange (SNBX) appliance comes preinstalled with Windows 7 and 3CX Phone System software; snom IP phones are then set up using the 3CX auto-provisioning tool.
Tadiran Telecom (www.tadirantele.com) updates the Aeonix software UC&C platform. Release 2.0 software increases capacity to 25,000 (up from 15,000), improves SIP phone and security features and more. See related write-up “Tadiran Enhances Aeonix UC&C Platform with Scale and Built-in Applications” for details.
Yealink (www.yealink.com) and Germany-based SMB phone system provider STARFACE GmbH partner to develop additional functions for the recently released Yealink T4 series IP Phones, including integration with the STARFACE Phonebook and automatic updates of Caller ID profiles and pictures.
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