Although multimodal communications (UC) software first began to appear, we all were excited by its ability to make us more productive; keeping us more efficiently and flexibly connected. However, in some respects, it has also made business communications more complex. While legacy telephony was simply device-to-device calling, UC is more than person-to-person contacts at desktops or with mobile devices, it’s also about interactions with online applications and timely, proactive notification messages from business process applications. And, as my colleague at UC Strategies, Blair Pleasant describes, UC-enabled software is moving quickly to the “clouds.”
The big challenge facing any size organization is how to migrate from their legacy telephony systems to new “cloud” based UC software services that exploit multimodal Internet connectivity, rather than just the legacy voice PSTN. After all, why buy something new and get the same functional services? To date, most of the traditional service providers have not really offered a differentiated approach, making UC implementation and adoption slower than it could be. However, GENBAND, a major vendor for service providers (they acquired Nortel’s carrier business in 2010) as well as large enterprises requiring carrier grade technology, has come up with a UC solution that might just increase adoption in both those big enterprises and SMBs.
GENBAND’s SMART OFFICE 2.0
GENBAND has just announced one of the first WebRTC-compatible UC solutions, SMART OFFICE 2.0. By focusing on browser-based clients they are opening up a new way to connect more than just people to people. The browser is already where we go for so many of our business self-service apps, along with all that e-mail and social media. You start to see how organizations can leverage HTML5 and REST APIs to embed multimodal communications into the heart of business process workflow. GENBAND says they are still working with partners on their approach to supporting multimodal customer service “Interaction Centers,” which will be highly dependent on WebRTC capabilities for flexible, “click-for-live assistance” options directly and contextually from online and mobile customer service apps.
In discussing GENBAND’s announcement of SMART OFFICE 2.0 and their Generation Enterprise framework, they indicated that they are using different channel partner strategies for different market segments. So, although not a familiar enterprise vendor name, they have come up with two channel partner approaches to support SMART OFFICE 2.0 implementations:
· Enterprises and SMBs primarily interested in hosted UC can turn to their 700 service providers/carriers
· Large multisite enterprises that want premises equipment or a tailored hosted solution can connect with their enterprise reseller channel. That channel is already working with GENBAND to supports about 300 very large legacy Nortel customers that had carrier-class solutions deployed
GENBAND has a long history of supplying carriers with new networking technologies, including SIP Session Control and SBC’s for SIP Trucking/PSTN connectivity. What we see with SMART OFFICE 2.0 is a stronger move into communication application software, including Intelligent Messaging applications on their EXPERIUS application server. It supports multi-tenant requirements for cost efficient hosted/managed unified-messaging services in “public clouds.” So, GENBAND is ready to support their service providers to move gracefully from PSTN telephony services to multimodal UC offerings for any size business.
Installed Base Customers
Because GENBAND supports a significant number (300+) of very large Nortel enterprise customers, they had to create a solution that will avoid requiring massive replacement of existing desktop phones. They had to complement those desktops with new mobile device interoperability and “mobile apps.” In addition, they can now offer WebRTC connectivity via the WAN and Internet, rather than just give users PSTN connections.
So, for their installed base of large customers in higher education, government, financial markets, and health care, GENBAND has come up with a cost efficient migration plan. They are giving their channel partners a way to replace core communications hardware without having to replace all existing end user desktop telephones. Once that core hardware is in place, it is now open to exploit new software in private, public, or hybrid “clouds” for very cost efficient UC interoperability benefits.
The Convergence of Enterprise and SMB UC With Consumer Services
It will be interesting to see how these two channel partner strategies will work out, especially in extending GENBAND’s role of interoperability between enterprise-run technology and technology supported by the carriers for smaller businesses and, of course, consumers. I see the future “Interaction Center” for mobile customer services as a big bridge between the two domains, and I expect GENBAND to partner with leading, innovative contact center technology providers like Interactive Intelligence, to make such things happen in the new world of cloud-based, mobile, IP-based communications, that will exploit WebRTC.
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