8x8 Redesigns Virtual Office with X Editions
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider 8x8 recently introduced three new competitively-priced cloud-based user bundles, the 8x8 Virtual Office “X” Editions. Each of the new editions (X2, X5 and X8) comes with popular enterprise telephony and UC functions, but also more advanced capabilities not typically standard in competing UCaaS offers. The highest-end package, X8, is a particular differentiator for 8x8 as it incorporates inbound and outbound contact center features to create an all-in-one bundle for communications, collaboration and contact center (see more below on the new package options and advantages).
8x8 continues to report growth in the number and size of its business subscribers since the company introduced the Virtual Office hosted phone service to U.S. small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in 2004. The service has expanded significantly since then, entering the Canadian and UK markets in 2013, Hong Kong in 2014, Australia in 2015 and South America in 2016. Today, with 15 data centers in six regions, along with nine customer support centers, 8x8 is supporting 50,000 businesses (more than one million business users) with offices in 150 countries.
With each quarterly financial update, 8x8 highlights rising service revenue from larger size businesses. The number of mid-market and enterprise customers has climbed to 58% of the company’s total revenue per the company’s latest second quarter fiscal 2018 report. It is these larger customers that 8x8 views as its “sweet spot” in the market since the company can offer them a full portfolio of enterprise-level services that includes UC and telephony, team collaboration interoperability, contact center and analytics.
The 8x8 Virtual Office Line-up
The new 8x8 Virtual Office X Editions come in three tiers with a notable set of standard features when compared to competing UCaaS offers:
- X2 ($25 per user per month) provides all of the 8x8 Virtual Office telephony and UC features, plus “essential” analytics for detailed reporting on extensions, unlimited internet fax, unlimited calling to 14 countries, the Virtual Office Meetings audio/web/video service (up to five participants per conference) and integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk and NetSuite CRM.
- X5 ($35 per user per month) builds on X2, adding unlimited calling to 32 countries, more Meetings capacity (up to 25 participants), plus Salesforce analytics, call recording and the Operator Switchboard software-based app for live call handling.
- X8 ($55 per user per month) is a unified bundle that builds on X5 to add unlimited calling to 45 countries and support for 50 Meetings participants, plus inbound and outbound contact center capabilities with call quality and supervisor analytics and visual IVR; 2,000 outbound calling minutes to the U.S. and Canada are also included.
Up until now, 8x8 has offered two user packages for business telephony and UC, namely the 8x8 Virtual Office standard user package with popular business communications features and the 8x8 Virtual Office Pro package that adds more collaborative functionality. These packages remain for now as 8x8’s “Classic” bundles as the company begins to incorporate new SMB customers into the new X Editions initially in the U.S. and UK.
So, how do the new 8x8 Virtual Office X Editions stack up? What improvements do they offer versus the earlier Classic bundles? Here are some of the differentiators:
- Price-Value Advantage – Perhaps most obvious is the price-value advantage with the new X Editions, particularly the new X8 bundle which is an attractive offer that combines contact center functionality (drawn from the 8x8 ContactNow solution) with unified telephony/collaboration features for only $55 per user per month. Contact center as a Service (CCaaS) typically adds a separate per-user fee on top of a UCaaS subscription. For example, 8x8 ContactNow Pro for informal contact centers is $50 per user over and above the monthly fee for 8x8 Virtual Office Classic. The full-featured 8x8 Virtual Contact Center (VCC) service runs even higher as do competing CCaaS offers – generally, above $100 per agent per month.
- All-in-One UC/CC – As noted, the new X8 Edition all-in-onebundle for communications, collaboration and contact center is a particular differentiator not only from the earlier 8x8 Virtual Office Classic, but also from competing UCaaS offers. With the earlier offer, Virtual Office customers with a contact center requirement could opt to add the 8x8 ContactNow informal contact center solution or the full-featured 8x8 Virtual Contact Center (VCC) service. The X8 bundle, however, embeds key functionality from 8x8 ContactNow, namely inbound/outbound contact center with 2,000 outbound minutes to the U.S. included ($.03/minute thereafter), three months of contact center call recording storage, visual IVR, as well as graphical reports and analytics, including on call quality.
- Larger Set of Bundled Features – The new X Editions include as standard many capabilities that are add-on options for 8x8 Virtual Office Classic. 8x8 Virtual Office Meetings for audio, web and video collaboration is an option for Classic, but comes standard with all X packages. Essential Analytics (detailed extensions reporting) and CRM integrations (Salesforce, Zendesk and NetSuite CRM) are also included with each X Edition. Salesforce analytics and the Operator Switchboard software-based app for live call visibility and handling, optional for Classic, are bundled with X5 and X8 Editions.
- Unlimited International Calling – Each of the new X editions includes unlimited international calling to a large number of countries - 14 countries (X2), 32 countries (X5) and 45 countries (X8). The advantage here is that customers do not need to pay an extra fee for global services as with many competing UCaaS offers.
8x8 will continue to offer the 8x8 Virtual Contact Center (VCC) service to businesses headquartered in the U.S., UK and Australia, as well as the 8x8 ContactNow informal contact center solution for SMBs and teams in the U.S. and UK (ContactNow was previously available in the UK and is from the 8x8 acquisition of DXI in May 2015). These contact center services can be sold standalone (without 8x8 Virtual Office) as they are vendor-agnostic and can work over the top of other vendor’s telephony solutions.
As noted above, 8x8 is looking to rapidly bring new SMB customers into the new 8x8 Virtual Office X Editions and will be gathering feedback in the coming months. Over time, we expect the 8x8 Virtual Office Classic bundles will disappear, and all 8x8 customers, including enterprise customers, will migrate to the X Editions. Stay tuned for updates.
Business Phones & the OPEX Model
Last June, we wrote about the growing number of traditional telephony equipment vendors seeking to simplify the payment model for customers that opt for on-site IP-PBX, contact center, messaging, meeting and UC solutions. These vendors recognize that many of today’s businesses still maintain or require on-site solutions, but they also recognize the appeal of the recurring, operational expenditure (OPEX) payment model that is the norm for a hosted/cloud service. In the June article, we highlighted several telephony equipment vendors on our radar that have begun to offer subscription pricing for on-site telephony system installations, similar to the recurring, OPEX payment models of their cloud-based UC alternatives.
Now, we can add business telephones to the list of “as-a-service” equipment options. Polycom, a leading provider of conferencing equipment, video collaboration solutions and open standards-based business telephones, recently launched a new Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription. Instead of buying and stocking the equipment upfront, Polycom partners simply pay a monthly fee for the phones or devices, thereby avoiding the usual financial risks of purchasing and owning equipment. The partner can then pass on this flexibility to their own customers.
With an OPEX payment model, the customer is not locked into the same phone or device long-term, but can upgrade to newer models at any time. That’s a big benefit as users can flexibly try out the features and functionality of different phone models and can more easily stay up-to-date with the latest phone technology. Polycom offers a large portfolio of business media phones, including its VVX series with entry-level, mid-range and executive models that have color touch-screens and a one-touch videoconferencing capability. Polycom’s recently introduced RealPresence Trio “smart hub” is designed for modern group collaboration and combines voice, content-sharing and video into a single conferencing/collaboration device.
Polycom’s DaaS program runs month-to-month so customers have the option to cancel and return the phones or devices at any time with no penalty. A mandatory 7-year replacement plan allows the exchange of any device that fails during the first seven years of service.
The pilot opened in August to ITSPs in North America that offer the Polycom standards-based business phones and conferencing devices in concert with a cloud-based unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering. Impact Telecom, for example, is offering Polycom’s month-to-month DaaS model as a new and flexible option to customers that subscribe to Impact’s Hosted PBX service. Since then, the program has expanded to include all Polycom partners selling the company’s voice products. Polycom phones/devices work with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services worldwide.
Polycom DaaS: The Details
- Initial Pilot: Polycom’s Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) partners in North America
- General Availability: Now available to all Polycom partners selling the company’s voice products in North America; partners in the UK and the Netherlands may follow depending on additional partner feedback
- Subscription Plan: Month-to-month; customers can cancel and return the phones at any time with no penalty
- Polycom Devices in the Program: Polycom VVX Business Media phones (VVX 101, VVX 201, VVX 300, VVX 301, VVX 310, VVX 400, VVX 401, VVX 410, VVX 500, VVX 501, VVX 600, VVX 601), Polycom SoundStation IP5000, IP6000 and IP7000 VoIP conference phones, Polycom RealPresence Trio 8500 and 8800
- Pricing: Monthly rental rates vary as these take into account the partner’s financial condition, volume amounts and churn rates. Typical rental factors range from .0265 to .028 (for example, a VVX 310 that lists for $219 would run $5.80 per month using the rental factor .0265). A mandatory 7-year replacement plan is also billed separately, but added into the monthly fee.
We’ve learned that Panasonic UK has launched a similar “Hardware-as-a-Service” (HWaaS) program in the European market, offering the company’s SIP-based business telephones and wireless DECT systems for a monthly fee in lieu of purchasing the hardware upfront. Unlike Panasonic’s month-to-month DaaS model, however, Panasonic’s HWaaS program requires a 24- or 36-month commitment, with the option to extend the contract or purchase the phones at the end of the term.
Program details will vary, but the trend in offering business phones as-a-service will continue as more SIP endpoint providers see the benefit to offering a simpler, subscription-based payment model for their hardware devices. Stay tuned.
Cisco, BroadSoft Merger
Major shake-ups in the UC industry keep on coming. The recent news that Cisco intends to acquire cloud unified communications wholesaler BroadSoft will combine two major market leaders in the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) space. Per the announcement, BroadSoft will add 19+ million business (voice and contact center) subscribers to the Cisco base. BroadSoft has a 49% market share in UCaaS new line shipments and a 45% market share in cloud installed base, according to the Synergy Research Cloud & On-Premise IP PBX Market Share Report June 2017.
At present, Cisco and BroadSoft are stressing the complementary nature of their respective portfolios that will result in a “full stack” of UC solutions available across all market segments. BroadSoft is a wholesale provider that delivers cloud-based UC and contact center services strictly through service providers, citing partnerships with over 450 telecom carriers in 80 countries. BroadSoft highlights its strength in the small and mid-size business (SMB) segment with its UC-One, Team-One and CC-One services, though these services are scalable (Wainhouse estimates 80% of BroadSoft’s 18 million licensed users work for SMBs with under 250 employees). Cisco, on the other hand, states traction in the enterprise segment through its Hosted Collaboration System (HCS) that delivers Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (UCM) and collaboration portfolio as a subscription-based service.
As expected, the two companies are emphasizing synergies and cross-selling opportunities, and little in the way of overlap. But, as with all mergers, the portfolios will morph and change over time. We’ll be particularly interested in what this means for the Cisco Spark Calling service introduced in 2016 and aimed at SMBs with 250 users or less. Cisco has been encouraging HCS partners to add Spark Calling to their portfolios as an opportunity to reach out to a new market segment – SMBs – with the more cost-effective Spark cloud-based phone system (HCS is typically sold to medium to large organizations). HCS customers can also take advantage of Spark Messaging and Meeting for enhanced functionality. BroadSoft offers the Team-One collaboration workspace, originally from Intellinote, along a group collaboration workspace called My Room that has been part of its UC-One portfolio. We’ll be watching to see how Cisco positions (or integrates) BroadSoft’s offerings versus its own Spark services for messaging, meetings, calling and customer care.
The acquisition of BroadSoft by Cisco is expected to close in first quarter 2018. More to come on this major consolidation as we size up and sort out what this means to the portfolios, partners and customers going forward.
The business communications industry is evolving fast in terms of technology, but also in the number of vendors and providers competing in this market. Mitel is another case in point. Just a few weeks after finalizing its purchase of the Toshiba Telecom assets last July, Mitel announced an agreement to acquire ShoreTel. This acquisition was completed on September 25, 2017. See the related write-up for more detail.
Mitel, ShoreTel Portfolio Roadmap TBA Q1 2018
The business communications industry is evolving fast in terms of technology, but also in the number of vendors and providers competing in this market. Mitel is a case in point. Just a few weeks after finalizing its purchase of the Toshiba Telecom assets last July, Mitel announced an agreement to acquire ShoreTel. This acquisition completed on September 25, 2017.
Mitel has a somewhat complex portfolio of products, having acquired a number of business telephony manufacturers over the years, each of which brought along products and services from their own earlier acquisitions. This includes telecommunications manufacturer Inter-Tel and its international subsidiaries in 2007 (Mitel’s current SMB offering MiVoice Office evolved from InterTel’s CS-5000). In 2014, Mitel finalized the merger with Aastra which had previously made a series of major acquisitions of its own, including Ascom’s PBX System Division in 2003, the EADS Telecom PBX system division in 2005 (the U.S.-based Intecom became part of the Aastra group with this acquisition), DeTeWe Business in 2005, the Ericsson Enterprise Communications Business in 2008 and cloud-based enterprise communication solutions provider Telepo in 2014 just as the Mitel merger was completing. Mitel has retained a number of the acquired products in its current line-up, and we should know soon which of the ShoreTel and Toshiba products will remain.
The ShoreTel and Toshiba product lines are far more straightforward. As outlined in our July issue, all of Toshiba’s telephony systems are based on Toshiba-developed technology and designed to protect customer investments as they migrate from digital to IP to cloud (more on that here). In recent years, ShoreTel has also worked to simplify its offerings, introducing ShoreTel Connect in 2015 as a common platform for cloud, on-premises and hybrid deployments. Connect blends ShoreTel’s earlier IP-PBX software with elements from its cloud-based solution, ShoreTel Sky, acquired when ShoreTel purchased M5 Networks in 2012.
Currently, the following ShoreTel solutions are now branded as Mitel:
- Connect ONSITE is a premises-based system that was built upon ShoreTel’s earlier IP-PBX functionality and unique architecture with distributed application servers for management and distributed voice switches for call control and trunk and station connections; Connect ONSITE can support up to 20,000 users as a single system image.
- Connect CLOUD is the hosted version of Connect ONSITE, with all system components and software located in data centers rather than at the customer site. Last March, ShoreTel entered the team collaboration space with the new Teamwork persistent virtual workspace where teams can share and store messages, tasks, and files. Teamwork is included free for Connect CLOUD customers in the US and Canada.
- Connect Contact Center is a redesign of ShoreTel’s earlier contact center solution, with multi-channel capabilities and with deployment either on-site or in the cloud (ShoreTel’s earlier cloud call center offer was an informal, inbound, voice-only offer).
- Connect HYBRID Apps is a set of standalone cloud-based applications available as-a-service to customers that deploy the Connect ONSITE system (or have the earlier premises-based ShoreTel IP-PBX 14.2). Applications include the Connect HYBRID Fax email-to-fax service, the Connect HYBRID Scribe service for voicemail transcription and Connect Contact Center HYBRID that adds cloud-based contact center services to an on-site UC deployment. As an aside, Mitel recently introduced a new hybrid enablement technology called CloudLink that connects premises-based telephony systems (Key or PBX systems from Mitel or any other vendor such as Toshiba or ShoreTel) to a new series of focused cloud applications that are currently in development by Mitel and that leverage Amazon Web Services (AWS) – first up is a mobile UC app for small businesses in the Americas.
- Connect HYBRID Sites enables multi-site organizations to deploy an on-site system (Connect ONSITE) at some locations, while subscribing to the cloud service (Connect CLOUD) at others, tying all locations together as a single network with feature transparency and common applications among all users regardless of the deployment model.
- Summit is a communications platform as-a-service (CPaaS) offering that ShoreTel acquired from Corvisa in 2016. Summit provides software developers with open, standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) for third party application integration. The Summit CPaaS environment represents a new category of service and new market opportunity for Mitel. A SIP Trunking service, also a result of the Corvisa acquisition by ShoreTel, became a new revenue stream for ShoreTel and its partners in 2016 and is now a Mitel-branded offering.
Mitel stresses that it’s “business as usual” right now for ShoreTel partners and attempts to answer many of the frequently asked questions in a posted ShoreTel Partner FAQ. A unified channel program is in the works and expected to be completed by the end of March and officially announced in Q2 2018. For now, partners are directed to continue selling the same product lines as all “respective discounts, tools, training, and partner programs remain unchanged.”
It won’t be too long before we know how Mitel will blend in the newly acquired portfolios. And, we’ll be anxious to hear which products and services will remain. Solution evaluations are underway, and announcement of a combined portfolio and roadmap is expected in Q1 2018. A smooth migration path for customers will be key. Stay tuned for updates.
Panasonic Canada’s SBB, SME Business Bundles
Panasonic Canada steps up the options for small and mid-sized businesses and enterprises (SMBs and SMEs) in the Canadian market with a new cloud-based telephony service offering called simply Panasonic Hosted PBX.
Panasonic has long been delivering telephony solutions for the SMB communications market, including analog, digital and IP and SIP business phone and voicemail systems, associated voice and unified communications (UC) applications, and wired/wireless telephones and user devices. On-premises installations have been the norm, but the company has also implemented managed private cloud solutions for larger customers using its SIP-based KX-NS1000 communications server. These managed solutions are similar to a cloud solution in that the system hardware is located and managed in a data center which relieves the customer of dealing with ongoing system upgrades and maintenance.
Now, Panasonic Canada introduces a fully cloud-based solution using third party softswitch technology in conjunction with Panasonic’s SIP-based desktop and wireless phones. This includes three hosted offers: (1) a cost-effective Small Business Bundle (SBB) for very small businesses with fewer than eight extension users (a market segment that Panasonic says represents 75% Canadian businesses today); (2) a Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME) for multi-site organizations and/or those that need more scale or that have more sophisticated communications requirements; and (3) SIP trunking services that complement Panasonic on-premises system installations. The new SIP Trunk Business Plan can provide cost savings in terms of calls and maintenance, additional reliability (calls can be rerouted to redundant data lines or mobile phones) and scalability since virtual connections make it easier to add lines or services.
Panasonic Hosted PBX customers can select the service delivery method that best fits their needs in terms of cost and quality. Options include: cost-effective over-the-top (OTT) transmission via public Internet or private managed connections - either Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or Internet Virtual Private Networking (VPN) - to ensure quality of service, business continuity and security. The Hosted PBX service can also run over a 4G LTE Wireless network or use this technology for survivability/failover should the traditional WAN connections fail. Nine (9) data centers across Canada provide geo-redundancy (failover) to alternate data centers, ensuring that communications will continue with minimal or no interruption in the event of a hardware or data center failure.
Two Panasonic Hosted PBX user plans come with unlimited local and long distance calling within Canada. A North American calling plan is an extra fee. Each offers a good complement of standard telephony features, including voicemail with email notification, mobile twinning to a smartphone or tablet and PSTN failover during LAN/WAN failures. Optional add-on services are also available.
Small Business Bundle (SBB)
- Target Market: Small Businesses in Canada with fewer than eight extension users
- Calling Plans: Canada (included) or North America (optional); each calling plan comes with two concurrent SIP call sessions (expandable to eight sessions), one DID number with 911 service listing, one voice mailbox with email notification per user seat
- User Devices and Hardware: SBB is based on Panasonic’s KX-TGP600G SIP-DECT System. Three- or five-year plans include the base station and two Panasonic DECT handsets (the KX-TPA60 DECT mobile handset or the KX-TPA65 DECT desktop model); customers can add up to six more DECT handsets.
- Pricing: Starting from $35.95 per month (includes two handsets and two SIP sessions)
- Optional Services: Additional SIP calling sessions, fax SIP call sessions, virtual fax, DID, 411 directory listing, toll-free calling plan, IP phone provisioning, local number porting
Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME)
- Target Market: SME businesses in Canada with more than eight extension users (scales to any size organization)
- Calling Plans: Canada (included) or North America (optional); each calling plan includes one voice mailbox with email notification per user seat
- User Devices: One Panasonic KX-HDV330 SIP phone 4.3-inch color touch display is included with 3- or 5-year plans (the KX-TGP600G SIP-DECT system and KX-TPA DECT phones can be substituted as an alternative).
- Pricing: $24.95-$27.95 per user per month, depending on optional services selected
- Optional Services: Fax SIP call sessions, virtual fax, DID, 411 directory listing, 911 service listing, toll-free calling plan, IP phone provisioning, local number porting, auto attendant/IVR, paging, call center, call recording, 8-party conference bridge
Recent surveys reveal that hybrid cloud-premises deployments are a growing preference as these protect a customer’s existing on-site investments in business telephony equipment, while allowing them to opt for pay-as-you-go cloud-based services for new locations, remote employees or for adding advanced capabilities as-a-service. A number of traditional telecom manufacturers have leveraged their expertise in on-premises telephony solutions to introduce a cloud-based alternative that uses the same software code base (e.g. Avaya IP Office, Mitel MiVoice Business and Zultys MX, to name just a few). The common software for both on-site and cloud-based solutions means that customers can use the same phones and endpoints, experience the same functionality and access the same administration software whether they deploy a system on-site, select the monthly subscription service, or utilize a mix of the two solutions in a hybrid configuration. Further, any new software developments, effectively “kill two birds with one stone” since the improvements will benefit both deployment types (premises and cloud).
Panasonic Canada has taken a different approach by partnering with a third party softswitch provider rather than cloud-enabling one of its own business phone systems. However, the two companies have worked together to develop tight integrations that make hybrid cloud-premises deployments possible. A multi-site customer can have a SIP-based Panasonic telephony platform installed in some sites (Panasonic’s KX-NS1000, NS700, NSX1000 or NSX2000 SIP-based platforms), while subscribing to the Panasonic Hosted PBX at other locations or home offices. All locations – whether these are cloud or premises deployments – can utilize the same Panasonic telephones and can communicate using a coordinated dialing plan.
Panasonic Canada is not yet offering any standalone applications as-a-service to customers with on-site PBX installations, but has been looking at the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of offering historical reporting as-a-service.
Panasonic Canada notes that it still sees significant demand for digital technology from certain business verticals with strict security requirements or those that require custom integrations such as healthcare organizations with tightly integrated nurse call systems. In fact, recent Nemertes research confirms that while many companies are evaluating cloud-based UC, many are opting to stay with an on-premises system, particularly when cost savings is the greater concern. For many businesses, existing TDM (analog or digital) infrastructure continues to function well and meet their needs, and they can supplement this with IP technology if desired, such as adding Panasonic IP phones for remote staff or subscribing to Panasonic’s SIP trunking services.
Panasonic Canada’s cloud strategy is not about encouraging its customers to move to the cloud, but to have a cloud option in their portfolio for those that may be looking to avoid the up-front expense of purchasing and installing on-site equipment (and to take advantage of the many other budgetary and strategic benefits that subscribing to business communications as-a-service can bring). Cloud solutions enter into nearly every business communications evaluation these days, so a company must have a cloud option to stay relevant.
Like other established telecom manufacturers, Panasonic sees the value in offering a full spectrum of deployments – cloud, premises and hybrid arrangements – as customers can select the combination of on-premises equipment and cloud services that best fits their particular business challenges. It is also an approach that pure cloud communications providers cannot provide.
Currently, we are told there is no plan to extend the Hosted PBX offering from Panasonic Canada to the US market, but stay tuned.
Unify’s OpenScape Cloud: A Q&A
Recently, Unify (a division of the European IT service company Atos) released the new OpenScape Cloud service, an integration of the company’s Circuit team collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS) application and its OpenScape Voice solution as a single cloud-based service.
Each solution on its own – Circuit and OpenScape Voice – has been available as a hosted offering for some time. Circuit debuted in October 2014 as one of the first in a new category of as-a-service teamwork solutions that combines voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing into a single user interface (more on the team collaboration trend here). OpenScape Voice, a SIP-based voice application for mid-to-large enterprises, dates back to 2004 when Unify was known as Siemens Communications Group. OpenScape Voice can be deployed either on-premises or in the cloud. What’s new from Unify is the combination and integration of the two as a single cloud service and seamless user experience for both voice and collaboration.
We reached out to Unify with a series of questions to get some specifics on the target market, scale, delivery methods and subscription options available with OpenScape Cloud, as well as what’s coming next. Here is an edited version of our Q&A with Darren Gallagher, Director, Global Solution Management for Unify.
What is the target market for the new OpenScape Cloud in terms of customer size and regional availability?
We are selling via our distributors, resellers and global service providers to customers of any size, from small up to very large organizations with an unlimited number of users. Our OpenScape Cloud instance can support massive scale per tenant, from a team of say five users to the largest companies in the world (Very Large organizations often have requirements that demand managed, hybrid or private cloud deployment models which are delivered through Atos). We have designed different packaging options to offer a solution that is cost-effective for any size of business. Currently, OpenScape Cloud is available in Germany, France, the UK and the U.S., with expansion in the near term to all 30 countries where Circuit is now offered. Seven more countries are planned for the future (custom agreements for additional countries can be made on a case by case basis).
How many data centers are hosting the solution? What are the service delivery options?
We have two primary Data Centers, one in the U.S. and one that supports Europe, with another data center providing geo-redundancy. For service delivery, we are able to support any network presentation, including point-to-point Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or private Ethernet. For speed of provisioning, elasticity and cost effectiveness, over-the-top (OTT) connectivity via the Internet is the fastest way to connect to the service.
(Insider note: 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); more on SD-WAN as it relates to cloud UC here.)
What type of user packages are available with OpenScape Cloud?
OpenScape Cloud includes four subscription options: Essential, Team, Professional and Enterprise. All packages can be mixed within a customer’s tenant, and all packages support the same voice-related features, including unlimited calling and popular telephony/UC features, plus the Circuit team collaboration application. Essential supports up to 100 users per tenant and three concurrent session users, while Team allows an unlimited number of users and six concurrent sessions. Users and sessions are unlimited with Professional and Enterprise subscriptions.
Does the new combined cloud offering deliver the full suite of OpenScape Voice features?
After considerable market, customer and analyst research, we've launched the OpenScape Cloud platform with parity for the most critical features. All OpenScape Cloud packages come standard with these key features: voice, voicemail, call management and system administration, instant messaging and presence, social collaboration (Circuit), audio and video calling, screen sharing, web browser-based and mobile clients, Outlook plug-in and language support. In upcoming release sprints, we will grow that balance of parity between traditional features (which our customers tell us are still important) combined with the digital change to workflows that our modern collaboration experience brings.
Are hybrid arrangements possible such that a multi-site customer can have a Unify telephony system deployed locations, while subscribing to OpenScape Cloud in others?
Yes, we support multiple hybrid deployments such as Circuit overlaying an on-premises OpenScape Voice or OpenScape Business deployment, for example. We can also move specific locations completely to cloud, while other locations utilize an on-premises installation of OpenScape Voice, OpenScape Enterprise Express, OpenScape 4000, or any third-party SIP-enabled communications platform. We have made the offer particularly attractive to our existing customers by offering them a managed migration option with reduced cost licenses. This helps them migrate to the cloud at their own pace.
In 2011, Unify (back when the company was known as Siemens Enterprise Communications) announced “OpenScape Cloud Solutions” that included hosted voice, UC and Web collaboration. Is the new OpenScape Cloud offering considered the next version of this?
The recently-announced OpenScape Cloud is an entirely new offering and a fully developed integration of OpenScape Voice and Circuit as a seamless user experience of voice and collaboration. From the beginning, the packaging was developed and designed to provide the widest choice of deployment models from a cost-effective highly-standardized public cloud offering. The 2011 offering was built upon OpenScape Voice, OpenScape UC and OpenScape Web Collaboration and was only available as a private cloud deployment model through partners.
Unify tells us that some additional capabilities are coming soon for OpenScape Cloud, including a managed, hybrid option (a virtualized private cloud instance deployment model to be offered by Atos) and another, more advanced user package option that is “still under wraps.” Stay tuned.
In recent news:
3CX continues to expand its market position globally, recently acquiring Askozia, a German provider of the Asterisk-based IP telephone system AskoziaPBX. This includes the Askozia team, physical premises, Linux technology and customer base, all of which will further 3CX’s presence in the region. 3CX will no longer sell the AskoziaPBX, but all customers are offered a free 3CX license. Additionally, in recent months, 3CX has partnered with distributors based in France, Poland, Greece, India, Russia and New Zealand. 3CX first introduced the 3CX Phone System (a Windows version in 2006) as a software-based, open-standards telephony solution and a cost-effective alternative to traditional proprietary PBX hardware. A Linux-based version was released in 2016.
8x8 made a series of major announcements recently, including three new Virtual Office “X” Editions (X2, X5 and X8) that come with popular enterprise telephony and UC functions, but also more advanced capabilities not typically standard in competing UCaaS offers. The highest-end package, X8, includes inbound and outbound contact center features to create an all-in-one bundle for communications, collaboration and contact center. The X editions are initially being offered to new SMB customers in the U.S. and UK. See the related write-up for more detail. In recent months, 8x8 also enhanced its Virtual Contact Center (VCC) solution for global midmarket and enterprise companies, adding Customer Experience Analytics and Post Call Survey features (for VCC Standard, Pro and Ultimate plans) and a new release of 8x8’s Quality Management solution (part of VCC Ultimate). The 8x8 Virtual Office mobile app for iOS and Android devices was redesigned with a single UI for voice, messaging, video and collaboration. In other news, 8x8 is partnering with global SD-WAN provider Aryaka to offer enterprise-grade private connectivity as an alternative to routing traffic over the public Internet, improving the quality of service for voice, video and conferencing by minimizing latencies, packet loss and jitter.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and PGi have partnered to integrate HD audio conferencing within ALE’s Rainbow suite of collaboration cloud services. PGI’s GlobalMeet conferencing service connects up to 250 participants via 160+ local access points across 60+ countries. Currently, GlobalMeet is priced per minute and is available independently from any of the Rainbow user plans; however, ALE is in the process of building some pre-defined bundles (within Rainbow Premium) that will include unlimited audio conferencing minutes. ALE offers three user plans, including a free offer for small teams (Rainbow Essential) and two fee-based offers under the Premium umbrella: Rainbow Business (adds advanced call control, voicemail and PBX connectors) and Rainbow Enterprise (adds collaborative multi-party services, office tools integration and more). With Rainbow, ALE also offers a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) environment with open APIs for development of custom business applications (for example, enhancing a mobile banking application with chat capabilities from Rainbow).
Avaya rebranded and enhanced its cloud-based video conferencing service as Avaya Equinox Meetings Online (formerly called AvayaLive Video). The updated service doubles the capacity to 50 participants per conference (up from 25 participants per conference previously), improves the video performance and increases the market availability to now 28 countries in North America, EMEA, APAC and Central and Latin America (previously offered in the US and Canada only). Avaya also announced the UK launch of ACS Select (IP Office Cloud and Avaya Contact Center Select) hosted and delivered via the BT Wholesale network. A new A.I.Connect initiative and partner ecosystem will focus on building and integrating artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into Avaya Oceana (Avaya’s contact center portfolio) and Avaya Breeze (the Avaya Aura application development environment). On the corporate front, Avaya continues to relay positive momentum in its debt restructuring process and expects the company to emerge from Chapter 11 in December 2017. Effective October 1, Kevin Kennedy retired as CEO and is succeeded by Jim Chirico (previously, Avaya’s Chief Operating Officer and Global Sales Leader). Kennedy also retired from the Board of Directors, but plans to continue as an advisor to the company.
BroadSoft and Cisco announced an agreement to merge on October 23, 2017 in a significant industry event that combines two major market leaders in the UCaaS space. The two companies are stressing the complementary nature of their respective portfolios that will result in a “full stack” of UC solutions across all market segments. The acquisition of BroadSoft by Cisco is expected to close in first quarter 2018. See the related write-up for more detail/thoughts on this major consolidation. In other news, BroadSoft recently enhanced its CC-One omni-channel cloud contact center solution by integrating new solutions for workforce optimization (WFO) and speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR). The WFO capabilities, including quality management, workforce management and WFO analytics, are from Calabrio (previously, call recording and supervisor monitoring were the only WFO-related features). The advanced IVR solution from Inference looks to improve the customer experience with natural language integration, automatic speech recognition (ASR) in multiple language and voice biometrics (previously, only touch-tone IVR was available). Both the WFO and the Speech-enabled IVR integrations are available optionally, for an additional monthly fee.
CafeX updated its Supervisor Assist one-click online agent coaching solution. The new Release 7 introduces a consolidated web application for supervisors to listen in on conversations between agents and customers, to provide guidance to agents via web chat and to view and control an agent’s desktop remotely. Supervisor Assist can also benefit other scenarios such as fraud detection when combined with a third-party analytics system. A supervisor can be automatically notified of fraudulent credit card transaction attempts who can run real-time authentications while the customer is on the line. Supervisor Assist is compatible with contact center technology from Cisco, Avaya, Genesys and other major vendors. CafeX is currently offering a no-obligation free trial.
CenturyLink introduced the new CenturyLink Business VoIP cloud service that targets small businesses with 1-10 employees. The new offering, based on BroadSoft technology, comes in two flat-rate packages: (1) Premium with popular telephony features and voicemail ($20 per user per month) and (2) Premium with Unified Communications that that adds mobile device voice integration, instant messaging and file sharing capabilities ($25 per user per month). Customers can purchase Polycom VVX telephones through CenturyLink or utilize already owned, compatible Polycom devices. Cisco’s Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) can also be paired to incorporate existing analog telephones. In other news, the integration of BroadSoft’s unified communications as a service (UCaaS) with CenturyLink's secure, carrier- class network has been approved as a new offering that meets the security requirements of government agencies at the local, state and federal levels (i.e. BroadSoft UCaaS from CenturyLink has been added to the General Services Administration (GSA) IT Schedule 70 contract). Also, the CenturyLink-Level 3 Communications merger is now complete, creating a global network services company that is said to double CenturyLink’s ownership of fiberoptic route miles and deliver internet connection services to 350 metropolitan areas worldwide.
Cisco and BroadSoft announced an agreement to merge on October 23, 2017 in a significant industry event that combines two major market leaders in the UCaaS space. The two companies stress the complementary nature of their respective portfolios that will result in a “full stack” of UC solutions across all market segments. The acquisition of BroadSoft by Cisco is expected to close in first quarter 2018. See the related write-up for more detail/thoughts on this major consolidation. Other recent acquisitions include Springpath, Inc. (hyperconvergence software) and Perspica (machine learning). Cisco also announced a partnership with Google to simplify hybrid cloud deployments by helping businesses connect on-premises data centers to the Google Cloud Platform and develop new applications in the cloud or on premises, using the same developer tools and production environment; the solution will be available to a limited number of customers in early/first half of 2018, with general availability expected later in 2018.
Cisco introduced a number of enhancements related to the Cisco Spark platform, most recently the Cisco Spark Assistant voice assistant for meetings based on machine-learning technology from MindMeld (acquired by Cisco in May 2017). The new voice assistant will be first available on Cisco’s Spark Room Series portfolio, including the new Cisco Spark Room 70 video system (70” 4K single or dual screens) that replaces the MX800. Field trials of Spark Assistant begin early in 2018; capabilities will roll out in phases. The Cisco Spark Room 55 all-in-one video system is also officially generally available and is designed for rooms of up to seven people (MSRP is $7490 plus a $199 subscription). Cisco is also exploring virtual reality use cases in the enterprise by offering an experimental Cisco Spark in VR app to Spark customers, downloadable from the Oculus Rift store. A new suite of advanced enterprise capabilities in the Cisco Spark platform is aimed at enhancing end-to-end message encryption, data security (customers can run an on-premises key server that encrypts and decrypts content sent to Cisco Spark), “fluid” analytics (simple data manipulation) and mobile device and application management (Graceful PIN Lock, Web Smart Timeout, Enterprise Certificate Pinning).
Digium introduces four new Switchvox UC appliances (the E-Series) for small and mid-size businesses that promise better performance and affordability versus earlier models. The compact E510 for small businesses (up to 150 phones and 50 concurrent calls) starts at $695 (suggested retail pricing); the E520 (300 phones and 100 concurrent calls) starts at $1,595. The higher capacity appliances E530 ($2,995) and E540 ($5,995) each support up to 600 phones and 200 concurrent calls and are powered by Dell EMC hardware; the E540 appliance has a mirrored RAID array of solid state drives and dual power supplies for redundancy requirements. Digium also simplified user licensing and the quoting process, lowered pricing and improved support options. Switchvox software is available at US$1,000, and Switchvox user licenses are US$90 per user and include one year of 24x7 US-based phone support and system upgrades. In other news, Digium announced next major release (R15) of its Asterisk open source communications platform, including enhanced video conferencing and screen sharing capabilities with WebRTC-capable endpoints.
Fuze introduces the new Fuze Web browser-based version of the Fuze Desktop user interface that runs directly from a WebRTC-compliant browser without the need for plugins or downloads. Chrome and Firefox browsers are supported today; compliance for Edge and Safari is expected in the first half of 2018. Fuze Web enables access to the Fuze business voice, messaging and collaborative experience via the interface and has particular integrations with Google and Microsoft environments. Users can click-to-call from Office 365 or Google contact lists, make calls using the Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge Dialer, and automatically set presence status based on Google or Microsoft calendar presence, among other use cases.
Microsoft, at its recent Microsoft Ignite event, announced that its Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace introduced last March will evolve to replace the Skype for Business Client in Office 365. Per the company’s stated roadmap (current expectations), the plan is to bring Skype for Business Online Phone System (formerly called Cloud PBX) feature parity to Microsoft Teams by Q2 2018. By the end of this year (4Q 2017), Microsoft Teams is expected to support inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers, voicemail, multi-call handling, extension dialing, transfer, forwarding, hold and other specified Calling features, with another wave of calling features slated for 2Q 2018 and a third wave by 4Q 2018. Similarly, additional Meetings and Messaging capabilities will be incorporated into Teams by the end of 2Q 2018 and beyond. Note that Microsoft has rebranded PSTN Conferencing as “Audio Conferencing,” the former Cloud PBX as “Phone System” and PSTN Calling as “Calling Plan.” In related news, Microsoft plans to continue to offer and support its on-premises Skype for Business Server for customers who are not yet ready to move their PBX to the cloud. Skype for Business Server 2019 is targeted for the second half of calendar year 2018 is expected to include interoperability support with Teams and introduce migration paths for moving to the cloud. Stay tuned for updates and changes to this proposed roadmap schedule.
NEC has released the SL2100 Smart Communications System for small businesses in North America (up to 128 extensions). The new on-premises system has built-in features over and above those of the earlier SL1100 system; these include mobile extension, audio and video conferencing, document sharing, presence and instant messaging, ACD and contact center and hotel/motel services. In other news, NEC’s UNIVERGE Blue Business Cloud Services Contact Center (based on the Enghouse CCSP cloud contact center solution) is now available through NEC’s Canadian partners. NEC also launched the NeoFace Express rapid-access biometric solution, a new class of facial recognition system that captures facial images at tight angles and in difficult lighting conditions (targets high-demand, high-traffic areas). NEC Corporation of America is working with GE Digital and Microsoft to create new solutions around AI, IoT and digital transformation; initial solutions include AI for Visual Inspection and AI for Parts Traceability.
Panasonic Canada introduces a fully cloud-based solution using third party softswitch technology in conjunction with Panasonic’s SIP-based desktop and wireless phones. This includes three hosted offers: a cost-effective Small Business Bundle (SBB), a Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME) and SIP trunking services that complement Panasonic on-premises system installations. See the related write-up for more details. Panasonic System Communications Company of North America introduced a new Senior Care Facility Communications Solution that integrates four Panasonic components with a facility’s alarm system: Direct Care Connect (DCC), DCare, the KX-DTU100 Digital Communications Terminal and DECT cordless handsets.
Polycom has launched a new Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription. The pilot opened in August to ITSPs in North America that offer the Polycom standards-based business phones and conferencing devices in concert with a cloud-based unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering. Since then, the program has expanded to include all Polycom partners selling the company’s voice products. Polycom phones/devices work with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services worldwide. See the related write-up for more detail.
RingCentral made a series of significant announcements of late, including the official release of the company’s Quality of Service Analytics for administrators, first introduced last March and now available to all RingCentral Office customers. New integrations were announced, namely RingCentral for Google Gmail and Slack, as well as an integration with Amazon Alexa–powered devices (Alexa Skills) due out by end of year. RingCentral is also working on artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot integrations for its Glip team collaboration application, including a new Salesforce Alert Bot that captures Salesforce events and sends notifications to Glip teams (GA early 2018) and a Gong.io integration that provides call transcription and analytics within the Glip platform (currently available in the RingCentral App Gallery). International expansion continues with RingCentral’s Global Office UCaaS now available across Latin America in Brazil, Argentina and Peru, through a new data center in Brazil. A data center in Japan is expected to open by year end, bringing the total to 17 data centers across four regions (North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America) and a Global Office footprint within 37 countries.
Serenova completed the acquisition of TelStrat, adding a workforce optimization (WFO) suite to its cloud contact center portfolio. TelStrat’s Engage WFO software solutions for contact center call recording, quality management, analytics and workforce management will become part of Serenova’s contact center portfolio that includes CxEngage, and Serenova will now be able to offer its customers a natively integrated solution for contact center as a service (CCaaS) and WFO. Telstrat WFO software can run on-site, as a hosted service, or as a hybrid deployment with a combination of cloud and on-premises applications. Per the announcement, Serenova plans to continue its partnerships with other third party WFO and workforce management providers, namely Verint, Calabrio, and Teleopti. In 2016, LiveOps Cloud renamed as Serenova, offering the CxEngage CCaaS multi-tenant platform that runs in Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers.
Sonus and Genband have completed their merger and are rebranding the combined company as Ribbon Communications. Per the announcement, the new name represents a fresh start for the companies and reflects the weaving together of a broad suite of cloud and premises-based real-time communications software solutions that target both enterprises and service providers. Sonus offers a portfolio of hardware-based and virtualized Session Border Controllers (SBCs), Diameter Signaling Controllers (DSCs), Cloud Exchange Networking Platform, Policy/Routing servers and media/signaling gateways. Genband offers products in some similar communications categories (i.e. SBCs and Media Gateways, for example), but has most recently made news around its Kandy communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS).
Talkdesk, a cloud-based call center software solution provider headquartered in San Francisco and with offices in Europe, continues to add new tools into its AppConnect app store, now making available AssistHub personal conversational customer experience technology powered by the Bit6 cloud communication platform. Talkdesk customers can integrate AssistHub into their existing call center stack to enable non-voice agent-customer interactions such as live chat online, SMS or app messaging. AssistHub is available as a free trial. Talkdesk is also announcing Talkdesk for Sales, a new product suite for inside sales teams that includes SalesAssist (AI and voice analytics), power dialing, voicemail drop, local presence, Salesforce Sales Cloud integration, and more (target date for SalesAssist is Q1 2018).
Unify (a division of the European IT service company Atos) released the new OpenScape Cloud service, an integration of the company’s Circuit team collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS) application and its OpenScape Voice solution as a single cloud-based service. We reached out to Unify with a series of questions to get some specifics on the target market, scale, delivery methods and subscription options available with OpenScape Cloud, as well as what’s coming next. Click here for an edited version of our Q&A.
Verizon evolves the One Talk cloud-based telephony service with new functionality for mid-market and multi-location organizations, including workspace collaboration (group chat, live meetings with persistent storage and task management) based on BroadSoft's Team-One solution, now offered as an add-on application at $15 per seat monthly. Also new are some administrative features in support of multi-site businesses such as call queuing and extension dialing among locations, as well as improvements to on-site installation and setup. Verizon One Talk officially launched in August of 2016 as cloud-based telephony service for mobile-centric small businesses in the United States. These latest enhancements are part of the company’s stated plan to add more advanced (enterprise-level) business phone features in 2017. Note that Team-One support is planned (1H 2018) for Verizon’s Virtual Communications Express (VCE) cloud service for larger SMBs.
Vertical officially released the latest Wave IP unified communications (UC) software, Version 6.0, which adds ViewPoint Web, a browser-based version of the company’s ViewPoint desktop and mobile client applications for PCs, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. ViewPoint Web requires no download or installation and uses any browser for communication from any device. Other notable V6.0 features include E911 location support, a click-to-call Chrome browser plugin, new IVR features and lower-cost Edge IP 9802 phones. Vertical also rolled out new service tiers (Basic, Premium, Ultimate) with unlimited remote support, discounted billable hours, and extended hardware warranties. In other news, Vertical and Ericsson-LG are partnering to launch the Vertical Atlas enterprise-grade virtualized communications system that pairs Ericsson-LG’s call management platform with Vertical Communications’ voice applications. The solution will support 100 to 960,000 users, with scaling up to 640,000 SIP trunks to handle 864,000 Busy-Hour Call Completions (BHCC). Vertical’s Summit PBX can be configured as a local failover gateway at remote sites.
VMware signed a definitive agreement to acquire cloud-based software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology provider VeloCloud. 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); more on SD-WAN as it relates to cloud UC here.) A number of UCaaS providers have been partnering with VeloCloud, including Mitel, Windstream, MegaPath, CoreDial, Sprint, Star2Star and Accent Services, to offer SD-WAN as an alternative to other network techniques such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Internet Virtual Private Networking (VPN). The transaction is expected to close in VMware's fiscal Q4 2018.
Vonage has expanded its footprint in the Asia Pacific region by opening three new offices in China. The company already has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul through its Nexmo division, and now plans for growth in the region with new offices in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. Vonage reports that the APAC region represents more than 25% of revenues for Nexmo, the Vonage API platform, with large enterprise customers that include Huawei, Meitu, Bigo, JD.com and Alibaba.
West introduces Visual Voice, an interactive, a multi-channel approach to traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The new self-service solution promises a quicker and more efficient way of collecting customer data by allowing customers to interact via their mobile phone with mobile web pages and forms Use cases include navigating a visual calendar to select an appointment slot, requesting proactive text messages about order statuses or receiving a link to a mobile form to start up a new service, all without the need for any live agent intervention.
Windstream has completed the acquisition of Broadview Networks and is pairing the Unified Communications as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution, Broadview OfficeSuite, with Windstream’s Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) enterprise networking technology. The combined solution will be sold across Windstream’s national footprint. The OfficeSuite platform is said to serve over 250,000 users nationwide. Windstream is also the parent company of Allworx and sells an end-to-end managed service offering for SMBs called IP Simple that includes the Allworx phone system (as a rental) in combination with Windstream’s nationwide VoIP and data service. For larger businesses, Windstream offers enterprise cloud unified communications solutions from Avaya and Mitel.
Zultys releases new MX UC software for premises, virtualized and hosted deployments. The latest R13 updates security (voice encryption and password security) and adds a new Last Agent routing option for contact centers which allows a return caller to be connected to the last agent they spoke with (faster customer resolution and increased customer satisfaction). A new web-based portal is available as a simpler means of setting up incoming call routing to an extension (an alternative to using Zultys MXIE or ZAC). MX-E, the company's higher capacity appliance (to 2,000 users) introduced earlier this year, adds a new redundancy option in the form of a second MX-E chassis that can be configured as a redundant node. R13 is available free to Zultys customers with an active warranty and subscription.
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