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ShoreTel Goes Hybrid with App-Centric UC Strategy

October 27, 2015

ShoreTel is gearing up to release the final piece of its unified communications (UC) initiative, dubbed Connect Hybrid, later this quarter. The move will complete two years of development for ShoreTel’s unified platform strategy, which has a firm eye on applications as the differentiator.

In August, the company launched the on-premises Connect OnSITE offering and a fully hosted and managed UC-as-a-service (UCaaS). And according to CEO Don Joos, the product launches are the tail end of what has been a major company mission.

The majority of the work has been behind the scenes, in software coding and in work with employees and channel partners to get them ready to build and sell the platform. Joos told eWEEK that the company is now entering an “acceleration phase” of the plan.

Most enterprises have certain applications they want to run in the cloud; but others, particularly those that involve compliance, they may want to keep on-premises. Connect Hybrid will allow customers to run their communications applications either on-premises or in the cloud, using the solution as a single platform for both, with a single management pane.

By blending traditional on-premises, public cloud and private cloud deployment models, organizations can select different procurement models for different UC functionalities and for different user roles within the organization, lending companies a new degree of flexibility. For instance, a company could provide a universal core set of functionality (i.e., voice, IM, presence) through a centralized premises-based/private cloud system, and a “premium” set of functionality (i.e. video conferencing, contact center applications) through a cloud service.

ShoreTel for instance has introduced cloud-based hybrid applications, such as call recording and text transcription, and fax services, which can be used with premises-based offerings.

"It's not about PBX anymore," Joos said. "It's about the applications."

ShoreTel competes with Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Avaya, Mitel and others in the UC space. And it does have competition on the hybrid front, notably the Audiocodes Onebox 365 solution. Audiocodes offers an appliance-based instance of the Skype for Business Server software solution along with a dedicated, GUI-based management system, which can be used in conjunction with Office 365.

But Joos said that ShoreTel’s approach to the hybrid opportunity is unique.

"I would say we have a common platform, while others have platforms that are common," he told eWEEK.

Hybrid approaches will likely become more mainstream as time goes on. The use cases are obvious: For instance, it’s not unusual to see a large enterprise comprised of a few large locations as well as satellites or remote workers.

“In this situation, the enterprise can choose to provide functionality to large locations via premises-based/private cloud systems (cost-effective in scale) and third-party, cloud-based services to small locations where support costs may be too expensive for on-prem solutions,” said Dave Stein, principal of Stein Consulting and a member of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants.

He added, “The UC/voice market will continue to be segmented for quite some time to come. Although cloud technology has won the mindshare of many today, strong business cases can be made for on-premises solutions. As robust hybrid offerings continue to come to market, I believe this will become the dominant communications technology architecture for years to come.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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