Grandstream Targets the Medium Enterprise with New Communications Appliance
Grandstream introduces the UCM6510 IP-PBX, a new communications appliance aimed at mid-size enterprises with up to 2,000 users. UCM6510 is a compact unit that is easy to install and manage and enables some more advanced voice, video, mobility and data capabilities, without the licensing fees or recurring fees often required by competing solutions. Grandstream is also providing free firmware updates for the life of the product.
The new UCM6510 represents the second IP-PBX appliance in Grandstream’s Asterisk-based UCM line-up after the company re-entered the IP-PBX market in 2013 with a smaller appliance, the UCM6100 with scalability to 500 users. The two UCM systems have the same suite of features, but the UCM6510 supports higher capacities, T1/E1/J1 interfaces and greater performance and reliability to meet the needs of larger enterprise environments.
Phil Bowers, Global Marketing Manager at Grandstream Networks, explains, “This new enterprise-level IP PBX has expanded our IP PBX portfolio and allows us to offer a variety of IP PBX models in order to serve every industry and communications requirement."
Grandstream is 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. The UCM IP-PBX appliances help to complete Grandstream’s portfolio, allowing the company to address an even broader business market.
Scale: The UCM6510 IP-PBX is designed for enterprises, call centers, retail and hospitality environments, as well as many small and mid-sized businesses that have high calling volumes. The system handles up to 2,000 users and can support 200 simultaneous calls.
Performance: A number of performance and reliability features support the needs of larger organizations, including redundant power supplies and redundant Gigabit network connections. A hot-standby high availability option (a secondary UCM6510) is due out with the next software release.
Security: The system integrates with SIP-compliant door access and video surveillance cameras for security and monitoring. Grandstream’s GXV-series of HD IP video surveillance cameras support live camera feeds, alarms and 2-way audio and video streaming to a video phone or a mobile device. Users can download Grandstream’s IP Cam Viewer mobile application for video surveillance using an Android, Apple or BlackBerry smartphone or tablet. Additionally, UCM6510 includes security protection (SRTP, TLS, and HTTPS support) and software that defends against hacker attacks with Fail2ban, Whitelist, Blacklist and other alerts.
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”).
Advanced Features: Like the earlier UCM6100 IP-PBX, the new UCM6510 supports popular voice telephony features, but also enables some built-in advanced functionality without any additional license fees, per-user costs or add-on feature costs, as follows:
- Voice: 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, multi-level IVR with the auto attendant and a call center (ACD) function that has several routing options (based on skills, availability and busy level), call queues and in-queue announcements. An audio conferencing capability enables up to eight password-protected bridges, supporting 64 participants per conference.
- Video: Point-to-point video calling and 3-way video conferencing are possible using any SIP video endpoint, including Grandstream’s own GXV3240 or GXV3275 IP Multimedia Phones. The system also integrates with Grandstream’s door access or video surveillance cameras for security and monitoring.
- Mobility: Users will be able to 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 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 DP710/715 DECT phones 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.
Availability: The UCM6510 IP-PBX appliance is available as of the end of October 2014 and lists for $1,999 USD.
NEC Launches Next Generation UNIVERGE SV9000 Series
NEC’s new UNIVERGE SV9100 and SV9300 appliances and the virtualized SV9500 represent the next generation of the company’s SV8100, SV8300 and SV8500 on-premises telephony platforms for small to large businesses. The three new platforms are designed as simpler, all-in-one solutions that come with embedded applications for unified messaging, mobility and unified communications, reducing the number add-on cards as required by the earlier SV8000 models. With the SV9000 platforms, a number of capabilities come standard with the base system, including voicemail, voicemail to email integration, mobile twinning, IP endpoint support and PC-based call management, while additional unified communications functionality is built-in and easily license-activated.
The new models are generally available worldwide and include the UNIVERGE SV9100 as the next version of the company’s premises-based SV8100 telephony platform for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs); SV9100 can handle as many as 896 users in a full configuration. The SV9300 replaces the SV8300 and scales to meet the needs of mid-size organizations with up to 2,048 users. For the larger enterprise running a VMware virtualized environment, the new UNIVERGE SV9500 will handle 4,000 users per system or 192,000 networked users at maximum capacity (the software can also be preinstalled on an NEC server or comes as a telephony appliance).
NEC is addressing its current customer base with the next generation SV9000 hardware/software platforms, as well as specific vertical markets, including hospitality, healthcare and education. Targeted solutions now available from NEC include a UC Attendant for Hospitality (combines NEC’s UC Attendant with Newmarket’s Hotel Service Optimization System or HotSOS into a single user interface), a TeleCare solution (virtual exam room) that integrates GoogleGlass, and cloud-based content management and collaboration solution (CCM) for schools (the K-12 industry).
At the same time, NEC has been clear about its commitment to the future of communications, a future that is less about physical equipment and more about software, open standards, virtualization and the cloud. This includes the company’s UNIVERGE 3C software-based unified communications and collaboration solution, a natural fit for virtualized and distributed IT environments where voice can run as an application over a data network. The UNIVERGE 3C software is also the core of NEC’s UNIVERGE Cloud Services offer introduced in 2013.
Below are highlights of the new UNIVERGE SV9100 for SMBs. Look for more on the SV9300 and SV9500 in an upcoming issue.
UNIVERGE SV9100 for SMBs
UNIVERGE SV9100 builds on NEC’s earlier SV8100 platform designed for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Greater scale, an enhanced user experience with built-in voicemail, unified messaging and unified communications and a new license concept are among the improvements.
Scale. The SV9100 comes in two server models. The SV9100”E” (Expanded) is an IP/TDM appliance that scales to handle 896 users (about 1,300 ports), up from 512 users with the earlier SV8100. The SV9100”S” (Small) is designed as a cost effective, TDM-focused option for smaller businesses with up to 48 users. Up to 50 SV9100 systems can be networked via NEC’s NetLink IP network license for full feature transparency among locations (maximum network capacity is capped at 896 users; previously, NetLink connected up to 16 SV8100 systems and 512 users). Like the earlier SV8100, the SV9100 systems can also be networked to other NEC systems using NEC's Key-Common Channel Interoffice Signaling (K-CCIS) that enables some feature transparency.
User License Packages. The SV9100 solution introduces a new licensing concept with embedded, license-activated capabilities. Customers choose from Standard User and Premium User license packages to activate the desired feature sets. The Standard User license includes voicemail, unified messaging, mobile twinning, a Windows-based UC client with Microsoft Outlook integration and a UC Web client for Mac or remote PC users. Premium User licensing includes all of the Standard capabilities, plus opens up support for a UC Attendant, CRM integration and ACD (up to 512 agents, 64 groups). Optionally, customers can add a meet-me conference bridge, Web conferencing, contact center and real-time reporting functionality with add-on hardware.
Built-in UC. Perhaps the biggest difference from the earlier SV8100 platform is the inclusion of NEC’s UC Suite for all users (Standard and Premium licenses). An external server or internal blade server is still required as with the earlier SV8100, but the UC feature set is available for all users and is no longer a costly per-user option. UC Suite enables PC-based call management (Windows), including call control (such as answer, transfer and conference), directory access, real-time presence status information, call logging, Microsoft Outlook, CRM and ACD integration and a softphone capability for making and receiving calls directly through the PC. There is also a UC Web Client with similar functionality for handling incoming and outgoing calls through a Web browser interface, an option for remote users and Apple Mac users.
New User Devices. NEC began beta trials in mid-November of a new color touch-screen phone called the UT880 that combines a traditional desktop phone and an Android tablet into one device. Notable features include Bluetooth headset support, a built-in camera with video capabilities and access to an “app store” where end users will be able to buy and download software updates, features and applications. Users will also be able to create custom business applications that can improve their business processes.
The company has also updated its desk phone portfolio with features over and above earlier phones. A new Linux-based DT800 IP Series includes three models (with options of 12-, 24- and 32-buttons or Desi-less) with color displays and support for Gigabit Ethernet connectivity among other popular features. New DT400 digital telephones (with options of 2-, 6-, 12-, 24- and 32-buttons or Desi-less) are also available.
Since NEC is not planning any new releases of the SV8100 system, current customers will need to upgrade their system to take advantage of the latest capabilities and user devices. To make the transition as smooth as possible, customers can retain the SV8100 chassis and most blades and telephones, replacing only the CPU. NEC is also offering a database transfer program, trade-in promotions and customizable SV9100 Starter Bundles in 6- or 12-phone packages.
TeleSpeak Develops WebRTC-based Cloud Services for Vertical Markets
TeleSpeak, a cloud business communications provider based in Orlando, FL, is making some major changes – in technology and in target market. TeleSpeak is developing and marketing cloud-based services around several key verticals that have high growth potential, namely contact center, telemedicine and education. The targeted solutions are based on real-time Web-based communications or WebRTC*, an emerging open standard and Application Programming Interface (API) that promises new and simpler ways of communicating that will improve customer service and collaboration.
TeleSpeak is a relatively young company, founded in 2010 just four years ago. The company initially entered the market with a cloud PBX service based on Asterisk software, and subsequently developed a contact center offer (also based on Asterisk). The next versions of TeleSpeak’s ‘PBX Anywhere’ and ‘Contact Center Anywhere’ will be WebRTC-based, as well as several new vertical-specific ‘Anywhere’ services that the company views as differentiators from many competing cloud providers that position a hosted PBX as their central offering.
Subscription-based hosted/cloud unified communications services continue to gain in popularity as an alternative to purchasing on-premises equipment (more on this trend here and here), and analyst findings indicate that adoption within a variety of verticals is accelerating, including in healthcare and education which are on track to have very large growth. For example, Market analyst firm BCC Research projects the global telehospital/clinic and telehome market will grow to $43.4 billion in 2019, up from $16.3 billion in 2013 and $19.2 billion in 2014; this includes home-based telehealth technology that will rise to $24 billion by 2019 (up from $6.5 billion in 2013). Research by Docebo on e-Learning market trends finds this to be the fastest growing market segment in the Human Resource macro segment, and says adoption of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is playing a significant role; the worldwide market for self-paced e-Learning has a 5-year compound annual growth rate of about 7.6% with revenues projected to reach $51.5 billion by 2016.
TeleSpeak solutions are sold primarily through channel partners to small, mid-size and larger enterprises in North America and Europe. TeleSpeak also owns a technical support contact center service in Orlando.
‘Anywhere’ Cloud Services
TeleSpeak CEO Chance Myers emphasizes that the original PBX Anywhere software no longer represents TeleSpeak’s lead offer, though it is the underlying call control software for all of the vertical-specific cloud-based services in its portfolio. Services include ‘Office Anywhere’ for group collaboration, ‘Contact Center Anywhere’, ‘HealthCare Anywhere’ and ‘Classroom Anywhere’. Customers can subscribe monthly or annually to any of these services with or without PBX functionality.
The TeleSpeak Portfolio:
- Office Anywhere is a conferencing and collaboration application designed to connect distributed teams into a single virtual space (30 participants per meeting). Participants can view the presence status of others on the system and connect using voice, video and chat technology and share screens – all from an intuitive User Interface. There is no need to dial-in or enter conference codes. Office Anywhere can be accessed from a Windows PC or Mac Computer, or for mobile users, from an Apple iOS or Android device.The interactive and visual User Interface stands out. The User Interface presents a visual of an actual office space, with cubicles, workers at their desks, a lobby area and several conference rooms. Users can “see” their colleagues in the space, including whether their headsets, microphones or webcams are on or off, whether they are already engaged in a conference, or whether their “door” is open or closed (indicating they are occupied with other projects). Users click from room to room to drag and drop available participants into the virtual conference room areas. Click here to get a better idea of this unique User Interface.
- HealthCare Anywhere is a virtual clinical space where physicians and clinicians can interact with patients via voice and video for diagnoses, follow-ups and ongoing healthcare management. Bluetooth-enabled medical devices such as blood pressure or heart monitors will transmit actual measurements to the physician in a virtual exam room. Similar to Office Anywhere, healthcare professionals can conference with other colleagues using voice, video and chat technology and share screens from the intuitive UI, and patients can directly access benefits administrators, insurance specialists and registration personnel within this virtual healthcare office environment. HealthCare Anywhere will be released in the first quarter of 2015.
- Classroom Anywhere is an e-learning platform based on the Office Anywhere concept that creates a virtual learning space where students and teachers can easily participate in video meetings, hold private, small group or whole classroom chat sessions and access courseware.
- Contact Center Anywhere is a contact center software suite for inbound and outbound agent-customer interactions. Capabilities include Skills Based Routing, Queue Prioritization, Virtual/Personal Queues, Agent Hot-Desking and Customizable IVR, a Predictive Dialer for outbound campaigns, a built-in Script Builder for developing agent scripts and real-time monitoring and reporting. Contact Center Anywhere is available in both cloud and premises-based deployments. The WebRTC version will be available early first quarter 2015.
- PBX Anywhere is a hosted IP-PBX service that offers all the functionality of a typical office phone system with unlimited inbound/outbound calling and typical call control features (call transfer, park, forwarding, music-on-hold, etc.), but with the benefits of a cloud-based service such as reduced capital expenses, fewer IT personnel and predictable monthly fees, as well as on-demand scalability and built-in disaster recovery, to name a few. More advanced capabilities, such as mobile device integration and call recording, are all part of the same monthly fee. End users can choose from a range of desktop devices; phones from Polycom, Yealink and Mitel (Aastra) are supported.
- Home Anywhere is a virtual home experience based on the Office Anywhere concept, but the User Interface depicts living rooms, kitchens and other areas of a home where family members and friends can join in virtual chats, to watch movies together, share photos or music and more. TeleSpeak will offer a free 30-day trial with no obligation in early 2015.
Look for new and enhanced solutions in the coming months from TeleSpeak, including more vertical market solutions, as well as integration with other cloud-based database management and business process management solutions.
*WebRTC enables voice, video chat and file sharing applications to be implemented in a Web browser, 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.
Toshiba's VIPedge Application Service: UM + UC in the Cloud
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division is offering a new and simpler option for adding more advanced applications to a premises-based telephony system. Customers that deploy a Toshiba business phone system on-site can now access messaging, mobility and unified communications services in the cloud. The new Toshiba VIPedge Application Service makes Unified Messaging (UM) and Unified Communications (UC) applications available “as-a-service” for a monthly subscription fee, eliminating the need to install additional hardware and/or software for these applications locally. Additional cloud-based applications will become available in the future.
Previously, Toshiba customers that have deployed the company’s Strata CIX converged IP/digital system (or earlier Strata CTX digital systems that are upgraded to a Strata CIX) have been able to take advantage of some advanced applications (which are already built-into the Toshiba IPedge IP-based system and related VIPedge service) by installing Toshiba’s IPedge Application Server, and this add-on server remains an option. Now, as an alternative, accessing these applications is made easier since no upfront capital expense is required. With the new VIPedge Application Service, customers simply pay a monthly subscription fee to benefit from the latest features and functionality available from Toshiba.
The bottom line: Toshiba’s installed base of Strata CIX/CTX customers is not left behind as technology moves forward.
Toshiba is at the forefront as a number of traditional business telephony vendors begin to offer “hybrid cloud-prem” solutions. Using a combination of cloud services and on-site solutions is often a perfect fit for an organization and can ease a variety of business challenges (more on this trend here).
Cloud Application Packages
To be specific, Toshiba Strata CIX (and upgraded Strata CTX) customers will be able to choose from two cloud-based application packages available for a per-user, per-month fee (the service has a 2-year minimum contract):
Unified Messaging (UM)
This application package includes the voicemail/unified messaging capabilities that are built into Toshiba’s IPedge (VIPedge) system, namely standard voicemail and auto attendant features, unified messaging capabilities, message notifications, soft key navigation of mailbox menus and the Follow Me feature for flexible call control. By subscribing to UM as-a-service, the customer eliminates the need to purchase and install an add-on voicemail card or unified messaging appliance.
The application package also includes Toshiba’s IPMobility mobile client for Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones that enables single-number reach, business phone features and visual voicemail from the user’s smartphone device.
Unified Messaging and Unified Communications (UM + UC)
This full unified communications (UC) application suite includes the voicemail and unified messaging features noted above and adds access to Toshiba’s UC solutions, including the new UCedge client application that runs on selected Google Android and Apple iOS smartphones and tablets, Windows PCs and Mac computers.
With UC client software installed, a smartphone or tablet device (or desktop/laptop) will operate like an extension of the phone system, displaying the user’s office extension in the Caller ID (single number reach) and enabling access to corporate phone system features, plus UC capabilities like viewing presence and exchanging instant messages (IMs), even with colleagues and groups external to the system. Other notable features include desk phone pairing, consolidated call and IM history (stored in the cloud) and ACD integration. Additional UC capabilities are planned.
Strata CIX and upgraded CTX customers that subscribe to one of the new cloud packages in the VIPedge Application Service, and that also subscribe to Toshiba’s SIP Trunk iVoIP Service, will benefit from basic call control survivability. If the Strata system is not operating due to a natural disaster, power outage or other interruption, incoming calls will continue to reach the user at the external number per the rules set by each user in the Follow Me feature. In a future release, VIPedge will act as a full standby system, ensuring that all calls and applications continue during a system failure.
The new VIPedge Application Service is the second hybrid offer from Toshiba. The company also introduced Hybrid Networking among the cloud UC service (Toshiba VIPedge) and its premises-based business phone systems (the Toshiba IPedgeIP system and the Strata CIX converged IP/digital system). Toshiba customers with multiple offices can flexibly mix the two solution types (cloud and on-premises) and take advantage of feature transparency across all locations regardless of the deployment.
Zultys Cloud Services Offer Partners Wholesale or Retail Opportunities
Unified Communications (UC) solution provider Zultys continues the evolution of its MXvirtual solution by introducing a new sales model for channel partners to select from when selling the Zultys solution as a hosted/cloud service. Zultys Cloud Services Hosted Phone System and Unified Communications is a new Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) “retail” offer whereby the channel partner acts as the reseller, making the sale and providing support to the customer, while Zultys is responsible for the hosting and billing and provides SIP trunking and carrier services. This new sales model gives Zultys channel partners an alternative to the MXvirtual “wholesale” model introduced earlier in 2014 in which the channel partner acts as a managed service provider, hosting the solution in its own facility or in the Zultys data center and offering the solution as a subscription-based service to end customers.
Flexible Sales and Deployment Models
Having multiple pricing and deployment models differentiates Zultys from many of its competitors in the business communications space. First, channel partners can choose the sales model that best suits their go-to-market strategy. Zultys offers its premises-based MX IP phone system or the MXvirtual VMware-ready virtual appliance as a standard, one-time purchase (the traditional capital expenditure or CAPEX model). Alternatively, partners can offer a managed (hosted) subscription-based service (a recurring, operational expenditure or OPEX model) which also has flexible options, namely the wholesale managed services model or the recently announced retail UCaaS model.
Secondly, unlike many competing solutions, all deployment options (cloud or on-premises) are based on the same Zultys MX software. Features and functionality, administration and user device options are the same, regardless of the deployment chosen by the end-customer. The Zultys MX solution is known for “all-in-one” functionality that embeds capabilities like voicemail and call center (basic ACD) as standard features, with other collaborative functions built-in and easily license-activated as needed, including unified messaging, meet-me conferencing and the company’s MXIE UC client application for desktops and mobile devices. Additional applications can be added optionally.
The Hybrid Cloud
Zultys offers an identical user and administrator experience whether the solution is deployed at a customer premises, as a managed/hosted service or in a hybrid environment with both types of deployments.
Using the same MX software stream for both premises-based and cloud-based deployments is an advantage for both channel partners and end-customers due to the common experience, but additionally, this opens up new hybrid cloud-premises opportunities. Zultys is already offering a cloud-based disaster recovery option, offering its hosted MXvirtual system as a back-up system for an on-premises MX or MXvirtual solution.
Moreover, multi-site customers can mix and match cloud and on-premises MX solutions within the same corporate network. For example, existing customers that have MX IP phone system at some sites can subscribe to the Zultys hosted/cloud service when opening a new office location. This not only minimizes the upfront capital expenses, but also allows the quick integration of the new office into the existing network. A company-wide MXnetwork, with both physical MX systems and on-premises or cloud-based MXvirtual deployments, can include up to 128 systems or instances and 10,000 users connected as a single system.
In the future, Zultys may offer some standalone cloud-based services such as voice and video conferencing. Having the infrastructure in place within the data centers makes additional new services a logical next step.
With either the retail or wholesale hosted/cloud offer, customers can choose from the following three subscription feature bundles for varying requirements.
- The Standard User bundle provides the user with all standard telephony functionality, including call control, voice mail, basic ACD and mobility integration with iPhone and Android devices.
- The Premium User bundle adds a license to use the Zultys MXIE UC client, supported on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, to enable more collaborative features such as unified messaging (voicemail/fax-to-email), instant messaging, presence, point-to-point video calling, Microsoft Outlook integration and meet-me conferencing.
- A third user package is the same as the Premium User, but comes with a Contact Center Agent license for more sophisticated requirements like call queues, real-time supervisor monitoring, queue manipulation, group and agent statistics, queue overflow and promotional message playing. For the retail version, the Contact Center User Package includes Zultys’ SuperView software that allows a supervisor to monitor the activities of contact center agents, to see call queue status information and to set up real-time alerts – all within the same interface.
In recent news:
8x8 enhances its Virtual Contact Center hosted service, adding three new components designed to improve customer engagement: Proactive Web Engagement (send an offer for a chat interaction based on behavior on the web), Customer Connection Scripting (single scripting environment across all channels) and Direct Agent Connect (enables direct connections between agents and high value customers). 8x8 is also partnering with social customer service solution provider Conversocial to add prioritization, automation and analytics tools designed to manage customer service on social media; agents, for example, can move conversations from a public social media forum to a private chat, email or phone interaction when necessary.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise releases the latest OpenTouch Suite for Small and Mid-size Businesses (SMBs), including new features for the OmniPCX Office RCE communication server and the related cloud service, OpenTouch Office Cloud. OXO RCE Release 10 has a number of new and notable features, including native Instant Messaging (IM) among internal OXO users and across multiple device types - IP and digital Premium Desk Phones, the OpenTouch Conversation or OTCV (formerly My IC Mobile) mobile client running on an iPhone or Android device and the My IC Web for Office browser-based application. OTCV, My IC Web for Office, along with My IC Social Networks, also support new 3-way conferencing among other enhancements. Read more on the R10 enhancements in an upcoming issue. OpenTouch Office Cloud subscription service, based on the OmniPCX Office RCE R10, has a new, flexible licensing approach whereby a partner can remove unused licenses from a customer account and allocate these to other installations; customers pay only for what they use. OpenTouch Office Cloud is now available worldwide, including in the U.S. from partner ICON.
Allworx introduces two new business intelligence tools, Allworx View and Allworx View ACD. The new applications, which are built-in and license-activated, provide real-time call data (Allworx View) and ACD queue status and agent information (Allworx View ACD) through configurable dashboards with threshold alarms and on-demand or scheduled reports. Data is consolidated for all networked servers in a multi-site configuration. Allworx offers three systems for smaller businesses: the Allworx 6x12 for branch sites (to 12 users), Allworx 6x (to 60 users) and Allworx 48x (to 250 users). Allworx is a Windstream company.
Cisco introduced several new products at its recent Cisco Collaboration Summit 2014 partner event, including a new business collaboration application called Project Squared that is designed to ease communications among virtual or distributed teams that need to share files and work together on projects. The new cloud-based application (GA to be announced) combines chat, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing into a single user interface and uses a virtual conference room concept that organizes content, messages and conversations by topic. Users can invite others in the “room” via email, collaborate using various media and share files. Cisco has partnered with cloud storage and online file sharing company, Box; the application also integrates with Cisco WebEx. Cisco is seeking feedback on this evolving application and encourages users to download the free app to an Apple mobile device or access the Web browser version (an Android version is in development). In other news, Cisco is refreshing its video telepresence line, starting with the new IX5000, a high-end, three-screen system for life-like video, audio, and collaboration (6-18 participants); IX5000 uses less bandwidth and power, requires no room remediation and takes half the time to install than earlier Cisco telepresence systems.
Cisco announces Business Edition 6000S (BE6000S), an all-in-one business collaboration platform built into a Cisco 2921 Integrated Services Router (ISR). BE6000S targets the low-end of mid-market or branch offices with 25-150 users, introducing a smaller scale version of the current BE6000 for mid-size businesses that require capacity of up to 1,000 users per system. BE6000S is expected to be generally available in early 2015. Both BE6000 models will support an option for preconfigured settings whereby Cisco will configure the core applications prior to shipping the system to the partner, speeding up the deployment process. The forthcoming “S” Model houses five fixed core applications in total (voice, messaging, IM and presence and paging, plus the provisioning/management application). The current “M” (medium-density) Model also supports five core applications, but offers a choice of four collaborative applications and the provisioning/management application. The “H” (high-density) Model supports nine total applications, with a choice of eight collaborative applications and the provisioning/management application.
CoreDial has upgraded its SwitchConnex cloud platform with new features and functionality to improve flexibility, accessibility and ease of use. Release 5.0 adds a new user interface for both partners and end-customers, including an updated user rights system, a new sales agent login view and new User Dashboard (replaces former Operator Console) that links to a chat system for easier communication across an enterprise. CoreDial offers its cloud services, including hosted PBX solutions, VoIP, SIP Trunking and Unified Communication services, to Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Interconnects and Carriers in the Mid-Atlantic and other regions of the U.S. through a private label program.
Digium introduces a new SIP Trunking service in the U.S. (lower 48 states) as an option for VoIP connectivity for its Switchvox IP-PBX, systems based on its open source Asterisk software, or IP-enabled phone systems from other vendors. There are no set-up fees, and customers can choose from two pricing plans: $18.45 per month for unlimited minutes (flat rate) or $0.015 per minute for metered plans. The service is orderable through authorized Digium Cloud Service agents or from the Digium website. In other news, Digium releases its latest Asterisk 13 Open Source Communications Software with hundreds of new features, including improved Asterisk REST Interface (ARI) for building custom applications such as call queues, voicemail, conferencing and more.
Estech Systems Inc. or ESI enhances its cloud-based Ditto mobile client application for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets with a newly designed user interface, a split screen layout for iOS and Android tablets, WiFi to 4G/LTE hand-off, presence status indicators for the contact directory and Bluetooth headset support. The Ditto mobile mobile app is available for customers of the ESI Cloud PBX, a subscription-based hosted telephony service for businesses in North America. Customers that subscribe to the ESI Cloud PBX Premier package will be able to download the Ditto client to their mobile device to conveniently access ESI desk phone features on-the-go, including managing calls to/from an office phone number (single number reach), configuring feature settings and receiving voicemail notifications. ESI also introduces a beta version of a similar mobile client application for the ESI IP Server 900 premises-based platform (GA in early 2015). In other news, ESI is offering a 30-day free trial of its Abillity cloud-based billing application that works with Android-based desktop and mobile phones.
Grandstream introduces the UCM6510 IP-PBX, a new communications appliance aimed at mid-size enterprises with up to 2,000 users. UCM6510 is a compact unit that is easy to install and manage and enables some more advanced voice, video, mobility and data capabilities, without the licensing fees or recurring fees often required by competing solutions. See the write-up entitled “Grandstream Targets the Medium Enterprise with New UCM6510 Communications Appliance” for more detail. In other news, Grandstream introduces a Network Video Recorder security surveillance solution for the SMB, retail and hospitality markets with large recording capacity, auto-discovery of IP cameras, alerts, notifications to smartphones and more (US $299). Grandstream also tested and certified its GXV3275 and GXV3240 Video IP Phones for Android to work with the BroadSoft BroadWorks hosted platform.
Microsoft announces “Skype for Business” as new naming of next version of Lync to be released in the first half of 2015. Microsoft will retain all current Lync features (plus add new ones) and will incorporate some Skype features like Visible Call Monitor. In other news, AVST CX-E is the first third-party voice mail system supported by Microsoft Lync, offering an option to Microsoft’s own Exchange voicemail/unified messaging solution. Microsoft also introduces new Office for iPhone applications for Word, Excel and PowerPoint (the same iPad Office experience); Office apps for Android tablets are planned for early 2015. Skype Qik is a new, free video messaging service for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone devices. Skype Qik runs separately from Skype, the voice and video calling platform that Microsoft purchased in 2011. Skype acquired the video messaging vendor Qik in 2011.
Mitel introduces new branding, including the new tagline “Powering Connections” and a new logo to reflect one company, following several major mergers and acquisitions over the last year or so - OAISYS (contact center call recording), prairieFyre (contact center) and Aastra (enterprise communications). In other news, Mitel enhances its MiContact Center solution for Microsoft Lync environments. New capabilities include choice of communication, from email and web chat to social media interactions, a robust Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform and tablet support for the real-time supervisor client.
Mitel made two bid proposals to acquire ShoreTel. Mitel President and CEO, Richard McBee, sees the combination of the two companies as a compelling opportunity that would “add sustained value to both organizations, and to solidify [the] combined leadership position in a highly competitive and rapidly consolidating market.” However, ShoreTel’s Board of Directors rejected the initial bid proposal. The second bid (an increased offer) was withdrawn due to repeated refusal of ShoreTel's Board of Directors to engage in discussions of any kind regarding a potential transaction, according to Mitel.
NEC’s introduces the new UNIVERGE SV9100 and SV9300 appliances and the virtualized SV9500 as the next generation of the company’s SV8100, SV8300 and SV8500 on-premises telephony platforms for small to large businesses. The three new platforms are designed as simpler, all-in-one solutions that come with embedded applications for unified messaging, mobility and unified communications, reducing the number add-on cards as required for the earlier SV8000 models. See the write-up entitled “NEC Launches Next Generation UNIVERGE SV9000 Series” for more detail.
snom technology introduces the D7 Expansion Module for the snom 7xx series IP phones, snom’s UC edition Lync qualified phones and new snom phones which are due out in early 2015. The expansion model adds 18 multi-colored LED keys to the desk phone to help users manage and monitor large call volumes such as in a call center or other “call intensive” environment. The digitally-labeled (self-labelled) keys can be programmed to monitor extensions or for easy access to any telephony function, including forwarding, parking, speed dial, conferencing, paging and more. Set up is simple via USB, with no extra cabling required. Up to three modules can be daisy-chained per phone for a total of 54 keys (second module requires a separate power supply). MSRP is $139.
TeleSpeak is developing and marketing new cloud-based services around several key verticals that have high growth potential, namely contact center, telemedicine and education. The targeted solutions are based on real-time Web-based communications or WebRTC, an emerging open standard and Application Programming Interface (API) that promises new and simpler ways of communicating that will improve customer service and collaboration. See the write-up entitled “TeleSpeak Develops WebRTC-based Cloud Services for Vertical Markets” for more detail.
Toshiba is offering a new and simpler option for adding more advanced applications to a premises-based telephony system. Customers that deploy a Toshiba business phone system on-site can now access messaging, mobility and unified communications services in the cloud, eliminating the need to install additional hardware and/or software for these applications locally. See the write-up entitled “Toshiba’s VIPedge Application Service: UM + UC in the Cloud” for more detail.
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise) officially releases the Circuit collaboration platform (formerly known as Ansible), a new cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform designed to improve teamwork by enabling natural, contextual collaboration that combines voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing into a single user interface. The initial release supports a number of collaborative features, including contextual search, screen-sharing, click-to-call, multi-party HD video and swiping to switch between modalities. Users can access the Circuit functionality via a Chrome Web browser or an iPhone or iPad mobile device. Subsequent releases will add more functionality such as Android device support, live meeting recording, an answering machine capability and “connectors” to integrate with on-premises phone systems. Circuit is available now in the US, UK and Germany at a subscription price of $14.95 per user per month. Unify is offering a 60-day, 100-user free trial, and early subscribers that opt for an annual subscription will receive six months free. Circuit (Ansible) was developed in partnership with frog design.
Voice4Net introduces the RTC Client, a new agent desktop application based on WebRTC. RTC Client works through a standard Web browser, so there is no need for a plug-in or add-on hardware, making it simple to integrate into any contact center environment, including contact centers with legacy systems. The standard browser-based access with familiar navigation also reduces any need for agent training. Agents use a customizable, widget-based graphical user interface to easily drag-and-drop business applications (widgets) such as screen pops, scripts or chat applications within the same interface. RTC Client is available now. Voice4Net is developing additional browser-based solutions to be released in the coming months.
Vonage announces the acquisition of Telesphere, a BroadSoft-based UCaaS provider based in Phoenix AZ that offers carrier-grade services over a private, nationwide IP MPLS network. Services target distributed enterprises in the small and medium business (SMB) sector (average seat size per customer is said to be about 40) and include hosted voice, call center, collaboration, mobile office and multi-point video conferencing, as well as private SIP trunking and managed security services. Telesphere was recently recognized by Gartner as a Challenger in the 2014 “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and by Wainhouse Research that ranked Telesphere as “No. 1” among the top BroadSoft-based service providers listed in their annual “BroadSoft Provider Power Rankings” research report. The Telesphere acquisition will become part of Vonage Business Solutions. Vonage first entered the hosted business market in 2013 when it acquired Vocalocity, a provider of cloud-based communication services for small businesses in the U.S. and Canada, generally serving companies with 20 or fewer employees.
Zultys continues the evolution of its MXvirtual solution by introducing a new sales model for channel partners to select from when selling the Zultys solution as a hosted/cloud service. Zultys Cloud Services Hosted Phone System and Unified Communications is a new Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) “retail” offer whereby the channel partner acts as the reseller, making the sale and providing support to the customer, while Zultys is responsible for the hosting and billing and provides SIP trunking and carrier services. See the write-up entitled “Zultys Cloud Services Offer Partners Wholesale or Retail Opportunities” for more detail. In other news, Zultys introduces the all-in-one MX-SE premises-based IP phone system designed for small offices with up to 50 users. The MX-SE replaces the earlier MX30 (30 users) as a new hardware platform with higher scale, full T1/PRI/E1 support, increased memory and processor power.
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