As Research Director, Enterprise Software and Communications, Brian Riggs oversees three practice areas: Application Infrastructure, Contact Center Solutions, and Enterprise Communications. In addition, he actively monitors the markets for unified communications solutions, converged communications systems, communications applications, managed communications services, and enterprise FMC. Brian has tracked the enterprise communications market for Current Analysis since 2001.
‘Consumer-grade’ is becoming a new design objective for developers of enterprise communications gear.
Ease of use and ‘joy of use’ currently define consumer-grade solutions in business.
As an industry analyst tracking the market for business communications solutions, I’ve long tossed about the terms ‘enterprise-grade’ and ‘carrier-grade.’ Carrier-grade systems are characterized as massively scalable, extremely reliable, very expensive, fully multitenant, and potentially complicated to deploy and manage – the sorts of things that service providers use to base a hosted PBX service on or an absolutely huge enterprise deploys because it needs, for example, an IMS infrastructure of its own. Enterprise-grade systems are a notch down: highly scalable but supporting tens rather than hundreds of thousands of end users, meeting but not exceeding ‘five nines’ reliability requirements, not cheap but competitively priced. A notch below that are SMB systems which are even less scalable, low cost, and typically lack the high-availability features inherent to enterprise-grade solutions. Continue reading “Developers Aspire to Deliver ‘Consumer-Grade’ Products to Businesses”→
Enterprise FMC solutions may no longer be aggressively marketed, but they are still available.
Device security, management, and application enablement have taken over as top enterprise mobility concerns.
A few years back, there was such a rage for enterprise FMC solutions that maintained voice call continuity while transitioning a call in progress on a dual-mode mobile phone between a cellular and a WiFi connection. It seemed every time I turned around there was some new VC-backed enterprise FMC start-up – Agito, Divitas, Comdasys, Varaha, OptiMobile, Telepo, QuesCom, NewStep – focused on this. Continue reading “Dual-Mode Telephony Solutions Fall by the Wayside”→
Microsoft Lync appliances for SMBs are available from small, regional solution developers
There may be a certain degree of risk associated with purchasing from smaller, regional solution developers <br><br>
My recent post about the lack of a Microsoft-delivered Lync appliance generated some messages about Microsoft UC offerings for small businesses. The first was from Maarten Swemmer:
“I completely agree with your analyses. And although Microsoft offers Lync Online for SMBs, it does not offer the telephony functionality one would desire in a Unified Communications solution. You’re still stuck with your old PBX. However, implementing voice isn’t easy and often requires customization on a hardware level. That’s an area Microsoft explicitly does not like to involve itself in. This might be one of the reasons why Microsoft has not implemented Lync as an appliance itself.”
It’s a good point – that Microsoft steers clear of products that require customized hardware, and in the world of business telephony solutions, customized hardware platforms have traditionally been quite common. That being said, in many cases these days, business telephony (aka PBX) software runs on industry-standard servers (just like Microsoft Lync), is SIP-based (just like Microsoft Lync), and includes a messaging, conferencing and collaboration feature set beyond basic telephony (just like Microsoft Lync). In fact, many PBXs ran as software on a plain old server long before Lync was a gleam in Microsoft’s eye. So it’s not really the IT buyer that has this problem with PBXs, since PBXs can offer many of the same features and benefits of Microsoft Lync. It’s the Microsoft reseller that has the problem, because more often than not Lync is the only arrow in his quiver when it comes to telephony.
Another comment that came in was anonymous:
“There are several attractive options for SMBs at the moment…As a Microsoft Partner and SMB ourselves, we are grateful that Microsoft left the door open for us to fill a niche in the product portfolio.”
This was from someone at CyberUC, a provider of hosted Lync services. Swemmer, incidentally, is associated Active Communications, a Microsoft business partner based in the Netherlands. Both make a very valid point: That while Microsoft may not be delivering a Lync appliance of its own, several of its partners have stepped in to do so. These include boxedUC from Italy-based FrabbicaDigitale, Netherlands-based StartReady, SynSIP in Belgium (a developer of Asterisk-based PBX that added a Lync appliance to its portfolio), and Iluminari Tech in Canada.
What’s striking about this list is, first, a number of the vendors on it are based in Europe. I don’t really associate Lync strongly with Europe, in part because it lacks support for emergency services outside the US. And second, they are all very small companies. I’m surprised larger developers are not getting into the game. HP, given its close partnership with Microsoft, would be a prime candidate for pairing its servers with Microsoft’s UC software for a combined offering. The company offers (or offered, as it’s not on the HP Web site anymore) a “survivable branch appliance” that runs Lync on a gateway deployed at an enterprise’s remote offices. But HP has been actively backing away from UC, discontinuing sales of the 3Com line of VCX products and divesting itself of its Halo telepresence solution. Meanwhile Dell has a Lync-centric UC practice. This pairs Microsoft UC software with Dell storage and server hardware, but stops short of a pre-packed Lync appliance.
For IT buyers in SMBs considering Lync as an alternative to more traditional business communications systems, the appliances noted above are clearly worth considering. But bear in mind that these are from small developers whose staying power, telephony expertise, and ability to support customers not near their center of operation may still need to be proven.
• Microsoft Lync is starting to be offered on a hosted basis
• Trial software and services are readily available and a good way to determine if Lync is right for you
When I first saw the press release for BT’s Hosted Microsoft Lync pilot service, , I thought it was the first stage of a pilot for a new hosted Lync service that BT is planning to rollout. Upon closer reading, and after a conversation with Stephen Bruce, Portfolio Partner, Unified Communications and Mobility at BT Global Services, I found it is rather a pilot program where enterprises – large, multinational ones – can pay $15,000 to kick Lync’s tires for 90 days. Lync, for those not following the communications space closely, is the latest and greatest version of Microsoft’s unified communications software. It not only provides instant messaging and presence, but also can augment or completely replace a traditional PBX. Microsoft has a huge marketing campaign behind Lync and a growing number of highly capable channel partners very actively selling it. But Lync has only been out for about a year and for this and other reasons businesses have been hesitant to use it to replace tried-and-true PBX systems. Hence, BT’s kick-the-tires pilot program. Two things strike me when thinking of the BT pilot from the perspective of IT buyers: the state of hosted Lync services and for-pay Lync trials. Continue reading “Try-Before-You-Buy Options for Microsoft Lync”→
It is possible to deploy Microsoft Lync in a one- or two-server configuration for SMBs.
Microsoft is not yet delivering Lync solutions specific to SMBs, but it should be.
Microsoft marketed Office Communications Server 2007 to large-sized enterprises with thousands of users. This focus on the enterprise remained unchanged when the company released Lync, Microsoft’s latest and greatest unified communications software. The software is in fact highly scalable, capable of delivering instant messaging, Web conferencing, and telephony services to businesses with thousands of end users. However, such a large deployment can require a considerable number of servers to run the various software components – at least enough to put Lync out of the price range of SMBs that might consider it as an alternative to traditional PBX systems. Continue reading “Wanted: A Microsoft-Delivered Lync Appliance for SMBs”→
Financial market-related worries are causing major corporate shifts among UC solution developers.
IT buyers should ensure UC solution developers’ problems are not passed on to them.
Many major developers of UC solutions are in a state of disarray thanks in part to the financial markets. Cisco, in response to investor complaints about its stagnant stock price, is in the latter phases of a corporate re-organization that saw major shifts in its business strategy and widespread layoffs. Alcatel-Lucent, in what many believe to be a bid to raise a quick $1.5 billion in cash to help it make good on promises for a financial turnaround, is excising its Genesys contact center business from the larger enterprise organization – something that for years the company said it would never do. Moreover, Avaya is preparing itself for an IPO to help pay back investor Silver Lake and reduce the debt incurred from its 2009 acquisition of Nortel’s enterprise business.Continue reading “Wall Street Occupies the Thoughts of UC Developers”→
Mobility to be the next big product trend for enterprise video conferencing technology
There are a number of ways to extend corporate video conferencing solutions to mobile devices
The increasing adoption of video conferencing systems in the enterprise combined with the increasing adoption of video-capable mobile devices is set to both challenge and annoy IT departments. One of the problems is that the software and systems that deliver business-class video conferencing (from Cisco, IBMLifeSize, Magor, Microsoft, Polycom, Vidyo etc.) are completely different from the software that runs on the mobile devices wheedling their way into the enterprise as part of the BYOD phenomenon (from Apple, Google, Fuze, Skype, Tango, etc.). It’s unlikely that the two will learn to coexist peacefully anytime soon. Enterprise IT departments will continue to deploy on-premise or cloud-based video conferencing solutions that meet security and compliance requirements. And end users will separately use separate consumer-friendly video conferencing technology on their mobile devices with or without IT’s formal blessing. Continue reading “Extending Corporate Video Conferencing to Mobile Devices”→