3CX V15 Highlights Automation and Integration
3CX has rolled out a major software release for its Microsoft Windows-based software PBX, 3CX Phone System for Windows. The new Version 15 includes a number of improvements based on feedback from partners and customers, including automation of many system processes for “zero admin,” a redesigned management console, third party application integrations, improvements to its WebMeeting solution, a Free PBX Edition for small installations, and more.
To recap, 3CX first introduced its Phone System for Windows in 2006 as a software-based, open-standards telephony solution and a cost-effective alternative to traditional proprietary PBX hardware. 3CX software fits well into a company’s existing IT infrastructure, including virtualized environments since the software can be installed along with other applications on an existing Windows machine or on a virtualized server running Hyper-V or VMware technology. The system has been tested with, and pre-configured for, a large number of third party SIP Trunking services, SIP telephones and VoIP gateways that support the SIP standard. The solution has become known for its all-in-one functionality, advanced feature set and affordability for small and mid-size businesses.
Last year with V14, the company “found its hybrid cloud” so-to-speak, introducing a new deployment option - a wholesale hosted/cloud offer designed for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) that want to support multiple customers using 3CX in the cloud. Now, authorized 3CX channel partners have the flexibility to offer the 3CX Phone System for Windows as an on-site deployment or as a hosted/cloud service, either hosted by 3CX (a single instance solution in which the partner rents hosted instances from 3CX) or hosted in the partner’s own facility for more control (a multi-instance solution in which the partner can install up to 25 instances on a single Windows server). Additionally, customers can flexibly mix and match cloud and on-premises 3CX solutions within their corporate network.
3CX Phone System for Windows supports up to 1,024 simultaneous calls per license (extensions are unlimited). Pricing for on-site installations is based on the number of simultaneous calls (no per extension licensing). For example, support for 128 simultaneous calls is price is $8,995 USD (Standard Edition) or $11,545 (Pro/Enterprise Edition). 3CX Cloud PBX uses a subscription-based pricing model. 3CX was recognized earlier this year by Frost & Sullivan as price/performance value leader in the unified communications market due to its innovative solutions and strong value proposition that addresses changing market requirements and increasing competitive pressures.
3CX, a 100% channel company, restructured its Partner Program in 2016, adding new partner levels, a new points system and a free certification program. Today, 3CX has offices in the US, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Russia and Australia, serving some 50,000 customers worldwide, including Boeing, McDonalds, Harley Davidson, Pepsi and other major corporations.
Generally available as of July 11, 2016, the new V15 software supports a number of important enhancements. Here are some highlights:
- Process Automation (Zero Admin): With V15, 3CX has automated many of the system processes, including system backup and restore, management updates, failover configurations and security. This reduces time spent on operation and maintenance and makes on-site installations “as easy as cloud services” in that little administration is required by the end user. Deployment of the solution now takes an average of only 15 minutes, according to the company. A new administration dashboard displays performance information and makes it easy to monitor and log events. V15 also improves built-in security with automatic generation and management of SSL certificates, encryption of voice traffic via SRTP, detection and auto blacklisting of SIP attack tools and more.
- Application Integration: V15 adds native (out-of-the-box) support for more third party CRM and business process applications (no plug-ins are required), and a new scriptable interface makes integration easier for IT administrators and allows them to centrally install and maintain these applications. The 3CX Pro/Enterprise Edition currently integrates with about a dozen third party applications, including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Exchange, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Google Contacts, Exact, Zendesk, Freshdesk, act! And Datev. End users or partners with development skills can easily develop source code for additional integrations using the 3CX Visual Studio Plugin Template that generates most of the code needed. For those without development resources, 3CX accepts suggestions online and will consider the integration for a future enhancement.
- WebMeeting Improvements: 3CX WebMeeting is a client-free web conferencing solution that leverages WebRTC technology to enable one-click conferencing, meeting recording, remote control and screen sharing. Pricing is based on the number of concurrent meeting participants (10, 25, 50 or 100), and the solution can be deployed as an on-site server or accessed as a hosted service. A 10-user license is included free with the Standard Edition (25 users with the Pro/Enterprise Edition or five users with the Free PBX Edition). V15 improvements include a redesigned interface that makes it easier to start and control video calls with a personal URL for each user, and new single stream technology is employed to reduce bandwidth usage.
- Free PBX Edition: V15 re-introduces the 3CX FREE PBX Edition as a “lite” version of the solution that comes with eight simultaneous call licenses, free web conferencing for up to five participants, a single SIP Trunk and one year of free maintenance. The Free Edition is a good way for small offices evaluate the solution. Upgrading later to one of the more fully-featured commercial editions (Standard or Pro/Enterprise) is a simple license activation.
Down the Road
3CX will incorporate the new V15 capabilities into the 3CX Cloud PBX Server sometime during the remainder of this year, making the new dashboard, management console, application integrations and WebMeeting improvements available to customers that choose to subscribe to the 3CX solution as-a-service. 3CX is refreshingly open about forthcoming features and enhancements and takes seriously the input from partners and end customers on the company’s online forum. Plans are to address most of the top 20 ideas posted there in an upcoming Service Pack. Stay tuned.
Avaya Improves Architecture, Highlights Hybrid Cloud with IP Office R10
Avaya continues to evolve the Avaya IP Office communications platform for small and mid-size organizations and enterprise branch offices. With the latest Release 10, the emphasis is not on new features or applications, but focuses instead on improvements related to system architecture, including installation and administration, resiliency, security and performance. Avaya also highlights the flexibility in deploying IP Office on-site, in the cloud or as a hybrid arrangement that protects existing investments in IP Office equipment. Avaya customers can retain on-site equipment, while taking advantage of a pay-as-you-go hosted service for some applications or can flexibly network a mix of premises-based and cloud-based solutions across geographically dispersed business locations.
Today, IP Office is offered in several different deployments to fit varying size enterprises and feature requirements. IP Office continues to be available as an IP/hybrid platform for the small and mid-size business (SMB) market, with the IP Office 500 version 2 (IP500 V2) control unit handling up to 384 IP or TDM users (Basic, Essential or Preferred Editions are available). Avaya also serves the mid-market with the Linux-based IP Office Server Edition which supports up to 2,000 IP users in a single site or across up to 32 sites and the latest Avaya IP Office Select software that can support even larger organizations with up to 3,000 IP users across as many as 150 sites.
It is a virtualized version of either IP Office Server Edition or IP Office Select that can be deployed in a hosted/data center environment, with a unique VMware instance set up and managed for each end customer.
Avaya currently offers two IP Office cloud services options available through 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 do not have the data center infrastructure to do so.
Because Avaya uses the same software code base for premises and cloud IP Office solutions, partners are able to support the deployment (cloud or on-site) that best meets a particular customer’s requirements, including hybrid cloud-premises arrangements that involve a combination of on-site equipment and hosted services – often a perfect fit for customers that already have an installed IP Office system.
New in IP Office R10
The latest Avaya IP Office R10 emphasizes architectural enhancements, including reduced installation time, simpler management, enhanced resiliency and security, and improvements to capacities and performance. Here are some highlights:
- Centralized Licensing and Administration: In support of multi-node cloud and hybrid cloud deployments, all licenses can now be fully centralized on the integrated Web License Manager or WebLM (a web-based application for managing licenses) available on the IP Office Server Edition Primary Server or the IP Office Select solution. This simplifies installation and on-going system administration (alternatively, these systems can support centralized licensing from an external WebLM server).
- Improved Resiliency and Security: Support for a back-up one-X Portal server provides resiliency for unified communication features; the back-up server is installed by default on Server Edition secondary servers or can be installed on standalone application servers. Additionally, SIP endpoints can now “failover” to a backup system and “failback” when the home system is up and running again; this capability is available for Avaya’s SIP soft clients and SIP hard phones, including the new H175 video deskphone. R10 also extends built-in security to include signaling, as well as media encryption for hard IP endpoints and UC clients.
- Enhanced Performance: R10 improves packet capture logging, Linux tools, RAM usage and other performance measures. Several system capacities are increased, including music on hold sources (now up to 32), hunt groups (now 600 with up to 6,000 members), voice messaging (now 3,600 mailboxes and 3,600 hours), centralized directory (now 10,000) and personal directories (now 250 per user).
Leveraging the Enterprise Portfolio
Avaya has been leveraging its Aura enterprise portfolio to bring new capabilities to IP Office. Last year, with R9.1, Avaya introduced IP Office Web Collaboration, a derivative of Avaya Aura Conferencing that is modified for IP Office and mid-market companies that require audio and Web conferencing, desktop and application sharing and white boarding. The solution is part of the base software for IP Office Server Edition and IP Office Select or runs on an external Application Server if used with the IP Office Preferred Edition. Recently, Avaya enhanced its contact center portfolio for the mid-market with a new Workforce Optimization Select solution that works with Avaya IP Office Contact Center, Avaya Contact Center Select and Avaya Aura Contact Center. WFO Select represents the first Avaya-branded offering from the 2015 KnoahSoft acquisition.
Now, with R10, Avaya makes the SIP-based H175 Video Collaboration Station compatible with IP Office (the phone was introduced for Avaya Aura platforms in 2015). This desktop video phone for two-way video calling has a 7-inch touchscreen for access to web-based applications, menus, calendars and directories. A detachable full HD 1080p camera displays video on the built-in touchscreen (a traditional video phone) or on an external monitor (a video conference system). Users can also connect the H175 and a personal computer to an external monitor. H175 is available with a cordless DECT handset or with an analog corded handset for countries that do not support the DECT standard. H175 is the first model in Avaya’s H100 Series of new desktop video phones that combine the functionality of a business telephone and an executive video conference system.
Going forward, we can expect additional enterprise-level (Aura) solutions for IP Office, along with continued cloud and hybrid cloud developments. WebRTC clients are also a strategic focus. Stay tuned.
Grandstream Launches New UCM6200 IP-PBX Series for SMBs
Grandstream Networks recently launched the UCM6200 series of Asterisk-based IP PBXs for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) that introduces new hardware with a faster processor and more memory compared to the earlier UCM6100 communications appliances. The new series also incorporates the latest version of the Asterisk Open Source Communications software, Asterisk 13, which includes hundreds of new features such as an improved Asterisk REST Interface (ARI) for building custom business applications.
Grandstream is well-known for its widely deployed SIP-based telephones, IP video phones and gateways, surveillance cameras and video storage systems that are interoperable with any SIP-compatible telephony system or hosted/cloud service. But, the company also offers the Asterisk-based UCM IP-PBX appliances that help to complete Grandstream’s portfolio and allow the company to address an even broader business market.
Grandstream re-entered the IP-PBX market back in 2013 with the UCM6100 all-in-one communications appliances aimed at small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), multi-site offices and home users (to 500 users). Now, Grandstream is upgrading replacing these earlier appliances with three new UCM6200 models that have improved hardware and introduce a redesigned, higher capacity 8-FXO port model, the UCM6208, which supports 800 users and 100 concurrent calls (up from 500 users and 60 concurrent calls on the earlier UCM6108 appliance).
Grandstream will continue to offer the UCM6510, a large capacity appliance introduced in 2014 to support mid-size enterprises with up to 2,000 users.
The UCM6200 Portfolio
- UCM6202: This appliance model is essentially the same as the earlier UCM6102, but introduces new hardware with a dual-core 1GHz high performance application processor, 1GB RAM, 4GB Flash and two Gigabit network ports. Capacities include two PSTN trunk line FXO ports, two analog telephone FXS ports (each with a “lifeline capability” in case of power outage), 500 SIP devices, 30 concurrent VoIP calls and three conference bridges, allowing up to 25 simultaneous conference participants.
- UCM6204: This appliance features the same new and improved hardware as the UCM6202, but adds support for four FXO ports and 45 concurrent VoIP calls (user capacity is 500 SIP devices).
- UCM6208: The UCM6208 appliance is a significant redesign of the earlier UCM6108 in terms of hardware and capacity, supporting up to 800 SIP devices, 100 concurrent calls and an extra Gigabit port. Other capacities include eight FXO ports, two FXS ports and six conference bridges, allowing up to 32 simultaneous participants.
Like the earlier UCM6100, the new UCM6200 appliances support popular voice telephony features, but also enable some built-in advanced functionality without any additional license fees, per-user costs or add-on feature costs. Here are some highlights:
- Telephony: The system supports typical phone system features such as voicemail, auto attendant, intercom and group paging, call forwarding, park and transfer, ring/hunt groups, but also more advanced capabilities not always included in a standard system price such as a customizable, five-level IVR with auto attendant and a call center (ACD) function that has several routing options (based on skills, availability and busy level), multiple configurable call queues and in-queue announcements. An audio conferencing capability enables up to six password-protected bridges and 32 simultaneous participants on the UCM6208 model (three conference bridges and 25 participants on the 6202 and 6204 models).
- Video: Point-to-point video calling and 3-way video conferencing are possible using any SIP video endpoint, including Grandstream’s own Android-based GXV3240 or GXV3275 IP Video Phones. The system also integrates with Grandstream’s door access or video surveillance cameras for security and monitoring.
- Mobility: Users can register a smartphone or laptop as an extension on the system, for making and receiving calls whether they are in or out of the office. The system supports Grandstream's Wave free softphone application for mobile devices or any SIP-based softphone application such as CounterPath’s Bria for audio and video which can be downloaded to a Windows PC, Mac Computer, Android or Apple iOS mobile device. Grandstream also offers its own DECT IP cordless telephony solution, the DP750 base station paired with DP720 cordless handsets, for in-building and campus wireless communication.
- Data: The system collects Call Detail Records which are easily accessed via the built-in Web interface for viewing phone usage or for billing, as well as other data-driven solutions like call recording, corporate directories across locations, sending voicemail and fax messages to an e-mail account and a built-in system backup feature that saves configuration settings and files to an internal flash drive or an external SD card.
- Web Administration: A Web browser interface for administration makes it easy to manage the system, locally or remotely. A graphic LCD indicates system status and displays a menu of options for viewing events, device and network information. The system is ‘plug and play’ with auto discovery and registration of SIP endpoints. Additional phones and offices are easily added using the Web interface (Grandstream refers to this as “Zero Configuration Provisioning”).
The new UCM6200 IP-PBX appliances for SMBs are available now and list for $399 USD (UCM6202), US$549 USD (UCM6204) and $949 USD (UCM6208).
Sangoma Enters the Cloud UC Market with PBXact UCC
Sangoma enters the hosted/cloud telephony and unified communications market with the new PBXact UCC (Unified Cloud Communications) service for small and mid-sized businesses and small enterprises (up to 200 users). The new service, hosted in Sangoma data centers and sold as a monthly subscription, is based on the features and functionality of the company’s premises-based PBXact phone system from the 2015 acquisition of open source IP PBX developer Schmooze Communications.
Sangoma is best known for its VoIP gateways, session border controllers and telecom interface cards and Microsoft Skype for Business (Lync) related products such as Express for Lync, an all-in-one Skype for Business server with a built-in SBC and VoIP gateway. In recent years, however, the company has tapped into new markets, broadening its customer reach by bringing new products and services into its portfolio. In early 2015, Sangoma purchased fax-over-IP (FoIP) provider RockBochs and open source IP PBX developer Schmooze Com and its two IP-PBX solutions: the FreePBX open source PBX platform and PBXact, a commercial version. Since then, Sangoma has revamped and renamed PBXact as “PBXact UC” which is available in six appliance models, handling from 10 to 5,000 users (the largest model, PBXact UC 5000, is new this September).
Sangoma’s entry into the cloud UC space is no surprise. Adoption of hosted/cloud solutions for business telephony and unified communications is well underway as businesses, small to large, recognize the benefits in subscribing to unified communications “as-a-service” (UCaaS) versus purchasing and installing hardware and software on-site. Sangoma’s new PBXact UCC service will meet the requirements of today’s evolving workplace and bring a new source of recurring revenue to the company.
UCaaS solutions like the PBXact UCC service are appealing to businesses looking to bypass the typical business phone system purchase. There are obvious budgetary advantages to selecting a subscription-based service (a recurring, operational expenditure or OPEX model) such as reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable per-user monthly fees, to name a few. And, there are strategic advantages in terms of scale, consistency across a network of locations and the ease of adding innovations and technologies that emerge in the future.
Furthermore, recent market studies also highlight a growing preference for “hybrid cloud-premises” implementations that protect existing investments by allowing a business to continue using 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 Sangoma is using the same software code base for both premises and cloud PBXact solutions, the company can flexibly support hybrid cloud-premises networks for multi-site business customers that may want to install on-site systems in some locations and utilize cloud services in others. Under specific requirements and service contracts, customers can also subscribe to Sangoma’s call center solution as a cloud-based service, according to the company.
PBXact UCC: Lite and Full Extensions
PBXact UCC is currently available in the U.S. and Canada, with plans for further expansion later on. The company is offering a Lite Extension for lobby phones, conference room phones and other low usage scenarios and a fully-featured bundle (Full Extension) with popular telephony and UC functionality, plus options to add more advanced capabilities such as enhanced call center as-a-service.
Sangoma offers three of its own IP phones (s300, s500 and s700) which are automatically provisioned and configured when connected and which support Sangoma Phone Apps to control features such as Follow Me, Conference Rooms and Visual Voicemail directly from the phone (no codes to remember). End users can also select third party (non-Sangoma) SIP phones.
Below are some “fast facts” on Sangoma’s cloud-delivered PBXact UCC:
- Acquired Technology: Schmooze (in 2015)
- Target Market: SMB, Small Enterprise in the U.S. and Canada (to 200 users)
- Data Centers: two in the U.S.
- Service Delivery: Public Internet
- Telephony/UC: Two plans:
- Lite Extension ($8.95 per extension per month) for lobby phones, conference room phone and other low usage scenarios
- Full Extension ($24.95 per extension per month) with popular telephony features, plus more advanced features like a built-in conference bridge, unified messaging (voicemail-to-email and fax-to-email), call recording and video calling
- Advanced Applications: XactView Operator, Zulu UC desktop client, enhanced call center and third party hard and soft phone support
Sangoma hints that additional UC and collaborative features, such as desktop sharing and mobile client applications, are in development for the near future. Stay tuned.
SD-WAN and the Cloud UC Experience
Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) has been making big headlines lately as 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).
SD-WAN technology promises not only to simplify branch office networking and the delivery of WAN services, but also touts application performance improvements and lower costs compared to traditional and less flexible network techniques such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Internet Virtual Private Networking (VPN).
Research firm IDC is watching this market develop and estimates that SD-WAN revenues worldwide will surpass $6 billion in 2020, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate or CAGR of 90% over 2015-2020. IDC cites a recent U.S. survey that shows as many as half of enterprises will consider a migration to SD-WAN over the next two years. Gartner also weighs in, predicting that 30% of enterprises will actually deploy SD-WAN technology in their branch offices by the end of 2019.
The SD-WAN Approach
We turned to Chris Cameron, President of Accent, for his expertise on the SD-WAN approach and its benefits, particularly as these relate to cloud-delivered telephony and unified communications. Ohio-based Accent is a national provider of telecommunications services and solutions, including cloud telephony services based primarily on either Zultys or ShoreTel technologies depending on customer needs. About a year ago, the company began beta testing cloud-based SD-WAN technology powered by VeloCloud, and in early 2016, rolled this out to customers as an alternative to using more expensive MPLS for delivery of its VoiceOne business communications cloud offering.
What is SD-WAN in simple terms?
In simplified terms, SD-WAN is a cloud-based software-defined networking technique that utilizes the public Internet to connect geographically-dispersed sites within an enterprise network, including branch offices. Unlike earlier WAN technology that typically involves fixed circuits and proprietary hardware, SD-WAN virtualizes the network control and moves it to the “cloud," with a flexible, software approach.
SD-WAN enables the intelligent selection of the best path for network data using proprietary software algorithms which factor in critical WAN metrics such as available bandwidth, latency, jitter, and packet loss. The WAN is actively monitored in real-time and traffic flows are “steered” automatically around network problems to ensure optimal application performance. SD-WAN employs some specialized techniques to ensure successful packet delivery over the Internet such as Forward Error Correction (FEC) that corrects for packet loss on poor performing circuits by retransmitting lost packets. And, unlike MPLS, SD-WAN is decoupled (separated or abstracted) from any specific carrier and can leverage multiple Internet circuits from multiple carriers simultaneously in a bonded manner to select the best circuit type (fiber, cable, DSL and 4G-LTE, etc.) for a particularly critical application or for failover.
Generally, what are the key benefits?
The SD-WAN approach touts a number of benefits over traditional private WAN networking solutions such as MPLS. These include:
- Network simplification (virtualizes network control and moves it to the cloud)
- Automatic adjustment of traffic flows (dynamic steering of traffic toward the optimal Internet link on a per packet basis)
- Maximizes bandwidth resources (customized policies can prioritize real-time applications)
- Better performance (uses techniques such as multi-carrier bonding and “forward error correction”)
- Real-time monitoring and management tools (a deep level of visibility into the network)
- Reduces costs (use of the public Internet is more economical than private MPLS)
What are the specific advantages related to cloud UC?
SD-WAN is relatively new in the market, but the technology is quickly being recognized as critical to the quality of cloud-based telephony and unified communications. Some cloud UC providers are beginning to complement their UC services with SD-WAN to ensure Quality of Service (QoS) over public Internet connections or in combination with MPLS network services. Either way, SD-WAN adds real-time packet optimization, network performance monitoring and failover capabilities that add up to higher quality communications overall.
Businesses are increasingly incorporating video and other bandwidth-intensive cloud-based applications into their operations. SD-WAN provides unprecedented insights into the performance of an organizations WAN and whether or not those applications are performing as expected. The monitoring and management tools which accompany an SD-WAN service can provide businesses with multiple layers of critical performance data including:
- Circuit throughput/bandwidth
- Circuit status (up/down) including real-time alerting
- Application-based traffic demand
- Device-based traffic demand
- Historical performance reporting
Are there unique aspects to Accent’s CloudSDN?
Accent’s “Cloud SDN” solution (powered by VeloCloud) brings all the aforementioned benefits in terms of network simplification, performance improvements, failover and cost savings versus traditional VPN or MPLS techniques. But, Accent goes a step further by fully implementing, managing and monitoring the solution for the customer.
With Accent’s Cloud SDN managed service, the VeloCloud Edge appliance is installed at each customer location to connect the customer’s communications infrastructure to the SD-WAN via the public Internet. The Edge device provides a window and deep level of visibility into real-time network and application performance. Using a web browser-based dashboard, Accent engineers are able to monitor real-time performance data, network utilization statistics, and critical circuit details for every location. With this intelligence, traffic control decisions are made on-the-fly to ensure all communications continue to run efficiently.
What’s next for SD-WAN as it relates to cloud telephony and UC?
The SD-WAN market is still evolving and will continue to mature for several years. Meanwhile, SD-WAN penetration will grow substantially and become a widely adopted mode of delivering a managed cloud VoIP experience to the customer via the public Internet. Current and future applications of SD-WAN are vast with respect to cloud VoIP, and service providers like Accent are in a good position to deliver an all-in-one bundle of managed services, combining cloud VoIP, UC, SD-WAN, and circuit management to provide a software-based suite of carrier services over any Internet connection.
Vertical Advances Hybrid Cloud Strategy with Vertical Cloud Connect
Vertical Communications unveils Vertical Cloud Connect (VCC), a suite of cloud-based applications and services hosted and running on Amazon Web Services or AWS (transitioning to Google Cloud). VCC is part of the company’s cloud-first strategy in which all going-forward applications will be designed as cloud services that can be accessed by all Vertical customers, even those with existing premises-based telephony deployments. Vertical uses the same Wave IP code base for all of its Wave-related solutions whether on-site or accessed in the cloud, making it possible for Vertical to offer hybrid arrangements. Customers can select the combination of on-premises equipment and cloud services that best fits their particular business “workflow” needs.
As background, Wave IP is the company’s lead telephony and unified communication system for the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market and larger distributed organizations. Vertical offers the traditional Wave IP unified communications (UC) appliance, as well as a virtualized software-only version now in beta (VMware vSphere technology). Both deployments incorporate Vertical’s ‘Applications Inside’ architecture that embeds all applications within the system software. Most of the functionality is standard with a single user license, including enterprise telephony features, voicemail and mobile twinning, Vertical’s ViewPoint desktop and mobile UC client applications and ViewPoint Softphone. Additional applications such as for contact center and networking can also be incorporated without any additional hardware.
For Vertical’s customers that have a Wave IP system already deployed, the VCC suite of cloud-delivered applications makes it possible for them to retain their existing equipment (investment protection), while trying out new and advanced applications as a convenient monthly subscription service. For example, a business with an existing phone system on-site may find that subscribing to a hosted contact center capability is an appealing alternative to the expense of purchasing and installing contact center software and/or hardware on-site and the cost of the ongoing administration and maintenance that follows. And, a cloud service can be up and running quickly. Further, customers are never left behind as technology moves forward since future innovations delivered as-a-service can always be added over-the-top of an existing system.
Read more below on Vertical’s phased approach to hybrid cloud that benefits its own Wave IP customers initially, but will expand to support businesses with other vendor’s telephony platforms in the not-so-distant future.
Phase I - Simplification
In 2015, Vertical began to introduce some cloud-based applications which are easily accessed as subscription services from Vertical’s secure portal VAppcenter.com running on AWS (transitioning to Google Cloud). The first offering was the subscription service CRMlink to integrate Wave IP with major Web-based CRM platforms such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and NetSuite. Wave IP users simply sign up and purchase user licenses as needed; no additional software or hardware is required. Vertical Updates marked the second cloud service available to Wave IP customers. Vertical Updates automates software updates, ensuring that Wave IP customers keep up-to-date on the most recent security and feature releases. The Vertical Updates cloud service is a significant improvement over the previous process to update Wave IP which involved a lengthier, more delayed roll-out of new features -- and the service is available at no charge, further adding to the product’s lower cost of ownership.
The next cloud-based service will be Vertical Meetings (due out in Q4 2016) which will enable unlimited team meetings and webinars with video conferencing, file sharing, remote control and private chats for as many as 500 participants. Participants simply click on a single link to enter the meeting – there are no downloads required and no PINs to remember. Vertical will offer three subscription tiers that are priced per user/account (the user is a moderator; participants join for free).
Phase II – Apps in the Cloud
The availability of the VCC suite on AWS (transitioning to Google Cloud) marks a second phase in Vertical’s cloud-first approach with additional cloud-based applications in beta and close to general availability. New client applications within the “ViewPoint Team Connect” portfolio will include the browser-based ViewPoint Web that will require no VPN or client download, as well as new ViewPoint client applications that are specially adapted for retail, auto and other vertical markets. Vertical is building micro services which are available for internal application development (plans are to expose these to external developers in Phase III). Also in the near-term, Vertical will release a multi-channel contact center solution called Customer Connect that will allow agents and customers to interact using non-voice technologies such as Web, chat, video and SMS.
Currently, Vertical’s cloud-based services within VCC are tied to Vertical’s call control (Vertical’s cloud-based applications are available for customers that have deployed Vertical’s Wave IP R5.1 or higher), but in the future, these services will be available for third party call control platforms, allowing even more businesses to take advantage of Vertical’s application suite.
Phase III – OTT and UCaaS
In 2017, Vertical plans to make the VCC cloud suite available “over-the-top” for third party telephony platforms (non-Vertical call controllers), broadening Vertical’s addressable market, attracting more customers and opening the door to new opportunities. Any business will be able to continue using existing phone system equipment (investment protection), while trying out new and advanced applications as a convenient monthly subscription service. The VCC cloud suite will also be available to businesses that have deployed Vertical’s Summit IP/TDM hybrid phone system for small and medium businesses.
Also in 2017, look for a new public cloud offering based on Wave IP (Unified Communications as a Service or UCaaS) that will likely target smaller businesses, though the target market is still under review. Stay tuned.
In recent news:
3CX introduces a major software release for its Microsoft Windows-based software PBX, 3CX Phone System for Windows. The new Version 15 includes a number of improvements based on feedback from partners and customers, including a new dashboard for administrators that promises “zero admin,” a new management console, open APIs with 10+ integrations, improvements to its WebMeeting solution, a Free PBX Edition for small installations and more. See the write-up 3CX V15 Highlights Automation and Integration for more detail.
8x8 is expanding its international footprint, recently adding three new global Data Centers (Singapore, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro - now 12 total), localization in six additional languages (now 13 languages) and two new customer support centers (now seven centers in all). 8x8 is also introducing the DXI outbound dialer in the US market and making the QSC quality management solutions commercial availability starting in August (in 2015, 8x8 purchased DXI, a UK-based contact center business that specializes in outbound contact center technology and Quality Software Corporation (QSC) that offers call recording, screen capture, live monitoring, speech analytics and other quality management solutions). The company was also awarded three new patents related to networked contact centers, data storage and conferencing for a total of 121 patents to date.
Avaya continues to evolve the Avaya IP Office communications platform for small and mid-size organizations and enterprise branch offices. The latest Release 10 makes improvements related to system architecture, administration, resiliency and security. Avaya also highlights the flexibility in deploying IP Office on-site, in the cloud or in a hybrid arrangement that protects existing investments in IP Office equipment, while taking advantage of pay-as-you-go hosted services for new locations or for advanced applications. See the related write-up Avaya Improves Architecture, Highlights Hybrid Cloud with IP Office R10 for more detail.
Cisco announces a number of new and forthcoming capabilities, including the first innovations from its partnership with Apple which improves Wi-Fi connections within a corporate network (with Cisco hardware) when using an iPhone or iPad device and adds a native iOS calling experience within Cisco's cloud-based business collaboration tool, Spark. In other news, the new Cisco Meeting Server enables video, audio, and web collaboration “from anywhere, on any device, at any time”; users join a meeting using Cisco or third-party video endpoints, a Cisco Jabber client, Cisco Meeting App, or Skype for Business. Cisco is also partnering with messaging company Gupshup and natural-language software company Api.ai to bring bots into Spark; in an enterprise, for example, so-called chat bots could help employees take care of administrative tasks like reserving a meeting room or submitting an expense report. Cisco also unveiled a Spark Video SDK and has updated the firmware for its SX, MX and DX video endpoints with the Spark Room operating system, along with introducing the global Spark Video Cloud. Cisco and IBM are partnering to develop new cloud-based workplace tools that combine IBM’s Watson analytics with Cisco Spark and WebEx.
Dialpad releases 40 new enhancements related to analytics, mobility, messaging and more that further the company’s vision around the “desk phone optional” workforce (Dialpad’s cloud-based phone service does not require hard-wired phones). Enhancements include iPad support, group chat and text, Salesforce integration and voicemail transcription. Dialpad Analytics is a new capability for employees, managers and IT administrators that provides actionable insights into phone and messaging usage patterns - by person, department and location. Dialpad (formerly Switch.co and Firespotter Labs before that) launched its cloud-based, business-grade phone system for Google Apps in January 2015 for $15 per user per month. Integration with Microsoft Office 365 was announced in October 2015. The company also offers the UberConference audio conferencing and online meeting service.
Digium introduces three new IP phones for Switchvox and Asterisk-based business phone systems. The new D65 for executives ($239 USD), the mid-level D62 ($189 USD) and the D60 entry level ($139 USD) phones have a modern design with 4.3-inch color display. D65 and D62 also support Gigabit networking. Earlier Digium IP phones (D70, D50, D45 and D40) will remain available. Digium also updates the Switchvox business phone system with new V6.3 software that adds multicast audio (to receive wide-area announcements and pages) and call parking enhancements (to create multiple custom-defined parking lots).
Genesys has announced its intent to acquire competitor Interactive Intelligence, combining two market leaders in contact center and customer experience solutions. As is typical with all mergers initially, the companies cite continued investment across the entire portfolio, including Interactive Intelligence’s multi-tenant PureCloud suite of unified communications and contact center application services, the single-tenant CaaS communications-as-a-service for contact center and the on-premises Customer Interaction Center (CIC) all-in-one IP communications software suite that offers both contact center and enterprise IP telephony functionality. Recently, Interactive Intelligence announced the integration and availability of PureCloud services for CIC customers, including Interaction Connect user access to the PureCloud Collaborate team collaboration tool. There will be more to come on strategy and product line integration as it becomes clearer. The Genesys-Interactive Intelligence transaction is expected to close by the end of this year.
Grandstream Networks has launched the new UCM6200 series of Asterisk-based IP PBXs for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), featuring improved hardware (a faster processor and more memory) compared the current UCM6100 communication appliances. See the related write-up Grandstream Launches New UCM6200 IP-PBX Series for SMBs for more detail. Grandstream also introduces a new DECT IP cordless telephony solution for business, retail, warehouse and residential users that includes the DP750 ($75) long-range DECT VoIP base station paired with up to five DP720 ($69) color-screen cordless handsets. In other news, the company has updated the iOS version of its softphone application, Grandstream Wave, adding support for 2-way video calling (the Android version of the app already supported 2-way video calling).
Microsoft is targeting small business teams in the U.S. with the new Skype Meetings online meeting tool that enables HD audio and video, IM, screen share and whiteboard capabilities. The new service is free and enables online meetings for up to 10 attendees for the first 60 days, then three people after that. Skype Meetings has a subset of the meeting functionality included in Office 365 business plans with Skype for Business (supports larger group meetings for up to 250 people and other more advanced meeting features). A new Office 365 appointment scheduling service called Microsoft Bookings is available with an Office 365 Business Premium subscription, and Microsoft has introduced some new Skype for Business Cloud PBX features, including an Organizational Auto Attendant and Hunt Groups. Microsoft is also currently internally testing Skype Teams, a new team collaboration tool that will be available to Office 365 subscribers (initially) as a web and a Windows desktop application, or a mobile application for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. In other news, Microsoft is partnering with IBM to build enterprise applications for Microsoft’s Surface tablet, with a particular focus on financial services and the retail/consumer packaged goods markets.
Panasonic System Communications Company of North America announces the new UC Pro client unified communications and collaboration software application for its KX-NS series of IP-based communications platforms, the KX-NS700, KX-NS700G and KX-NS1000. The UC Pro client can be downloaded to Windows and Mac OS desktop devices or Android or Apple iOS mobile devices, allowing workers to use the device as their business telephone for dialing and answering calls, accessing various telephony features, and displaying their office extension in the Caller ID for ‘single number reach’ whether the user is in or out of the office. UC Pro also enables more advanced communication capabilities such as video chat, calendar integration and chat history recording.
Sangoma enters the hosted/cloud telephony and unified communications market with the new PBXact UCC (Unified Cloud Communications) service for small and mid-sized businesses and small enterprises (up to 200 users). The new service, hosted in Sangoma data centers and sold as a monthly subscription, is based on the features and functionality of the company’s premises-based PBXact phone system from the 2015 acquisition of open source IP PBX developer Schmooze Communications. See the related write-up Sangoma Enters the Cloud UC Market with PBXact UCC for more detail.
Star2Star introduces three new models of its StarBox Cloud Connection Manager for managing and monitoring the Star2Star hybrid cloud-premises solution. StarBox CCM is an edge device that connects over the Internet to one of Star2Star’s data centers for 24/7/365 monitoring and remote management of multiple locations, two-way traffic shaping, automatic WAN failover and other features that help ensure reliability and continued communications. The following new models, which improve installation and bandwidth shaping and add support for high-speed Internet connections such as Google Fiber, are available now: StarBox CCM 6000 (to 500 extensions at a single location with 250 simultaneous calls), StarBox CCM 2500 (to 250 extensions at a single location with 50 simultaneous calls) and StarBox CCM 1000 (to 45 extensions at a single location with up to 15 simultaneous calls).
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division introduces Clarify Call Recording for its Strata CIX and IPedge business communications systems, including Toshiba software running in a VMware environment. The call recording solution enables secure recording, archiving, searching, playing and sharing telephone calls. Users can review calls visually with Clarify’s web-based dashboard, combine filters for locating particular call recordings and tie in external databased using the Software Development Kit. Other notable features include support for agents and agent groups in a contact center environment, an agent evaluation tool, and mobile call recording via Toshiba’s UCedge client application for smartphones and tablets. Toshiba also announces Salesforce.com integration with its IPedge Unified Communications System and Application Server; the native integration enables call-related activities, such as click-to-call and screen pops based on Caller ID, from within the Salesforce interface.
VeloCloud highlights a growing partner program for its Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN products and services, with more than 100 channel partners registered to date, including more partners in Europe and Asia. See the write-up SD-WAN and the Cloud UC Experience for more on SD-WAN technology and Accent, a VeloCloud partner. The company also earned the Frost & Sullivan 2016 North American Best Practices Award for Product Leadership and is recognized for its Dynamic Multipath Optimization technology, among other innovative features and functionality.
Vertical Communications unveils Vertical Cloud Connect (VCC), a suite of cloud-based applications and services hosted and running on Amazon Web Services or AWS (transitioning to Google Cloud). VCC is part of the company’s cloud-first strategy in which all going-forward applications will be designed as cloud services that can be accessed by all Vertical customers, even those with existing premises-based telephony deployments. See the related write-up, Vertical Advances Hybrid Cloud Strategy with Vertical Cloud Connect for more on Vertical’s phased approach to hybrid cloud.
Vonage Business enhances its Vonage Essentials mobile client application for SMBs to take advantage of Apple’s latest iOS 10 CallKit API, incorporating a native iPhone calling experience with full screen and full functionality for business calls when using the Essentials app, including native access to controls such as mute and call waiting. In addition, Vonage Essentials now integrates with Apple Siri, allowing users to make business phone calls using voice commands. Vonage is also offering a special, limited-time offer of a basic mobile service for small businesses with Apple iPhone users; the service, available exclusively through the Apple Store, includes two mobile extensions, an auto attendant, visual voicemail, company caller ID and other features. In other news, Vonage has launched a next-generation voice API through its recently-acquired communications platform, Nexmo. The new Nexmo Voice API is integrated with Vonage’s carrier voice network, and makes it easier for developers to add capabilities like call control, conferencing, call recording and text-to-speech to a company’s workflow applications (additional features will be added over time).
Zultys updates its MX UC software for on premises, virtualized and hosted solutions. The new Release 12 makes improvements to call recording, including a pause/resume feature that masks sensitive information like credit card numbers and a Call Record button on Zultys ZIP phones. For call center environments, the system now supports automatic callbacks from a queue when an agent becomes available, eliminating the need for a caller to wait on hold. Additionally, all users can take advantage of some features previously only available to agents such as barge in, whisper and silent monitor. R12 is available at no additional cost to customers covered under Zultys’ software assurance program.
For questions or additional information, please contact us at