The Enterprise Connect 2014 Whirlwind

23 Mar 2014

Wow - what a week! With lots of announcements, demos, and parties, Enterprise Connect 2014 did not disappoint. While I didn't have much time to walk the floor or attend sessions, I met with lots and lots of vendors - some whom I've known for many years, and some who I just met.

There's no doubt that the hottest topics were video, cloud, and WebRTC, which are being embraced by "traditional" vendors such as Unify and Cisco, and new upstarts like CafeX (Congratulations to CafeX on winning the Best of Enterprise Connect award).

Here's a quick recap of some of my meetings and vendor briefings (please note that I didn't meet with all of the vendors that I would have like to have met with - there just aren't enough hours in the day):

  • IntelePeer used Enterprise Connect to tout its new hosted Lync service, CoreCloud UC. The company launched two versions of its cloud service - one tied to Office 365, plus a multitenant version that doesn't utilize Office 365. Both versions offer full hosted Lync capabilities, as well as voice/telephony, Exchange, SharePoint, 911, number porting, etc. for one monthly price. The service will be rolled out across the US, with IntelePeer providing local access numbers in over 96% of the U.S.
  • Genband has been around for a while but is making an enterprise and WebRTC play. It used Enterprise Connect to showcase its Generation Enterprise communications portfolio, which includes "the industry's first WebRTC-enabled Unified Communications (UC) and mobility portfolio;" as well as Genband's QUANTiX QFlex Enterprise Session Border Controller (eSBC); advanced SIP Trunking capabilities; and WebRTC and cloud solutions. Genband demonstrated its SMART OFFICE 2.0 UC solution, which is available not only on a range of business devices, but also via WebRTC-compliant web browsers, enabling users to access their communications from devices of their choice, and is delivered as a cloud-based offering or deployed in an enterprise data center. The company's WebRTC client works right in Chrome and Firefox and "looks just like Genband's other clients."
  • Oracle hasn't had much of a presence at Enterprise Connect in the past, but with its acquisition of Acme Packet. Oracle had a strong showing. The company is being aggressive in WebRTC, offering Oracle WebRTC Session Controller, which includes an application developer kit. According to Oracle, "It's more than building a WebRTC gateway, it's about programmatic control to make the business apps work," and the toolkit has programmatic interfaces to tie into business applications. The company is transitioning its go-to-market activities for the Oracle UC Suite, which is primarily sold by ISPs such as Orange Business Services, and will be sold through resellers and channel partners for SMB organizations.
  • Vidyo introduced its VidyoWorks Contact Center Reference Design, a developer kit that includes customizable client and agent contact center Web apps to enable web developers, as well as call center providers, enterprises, system integrators to add video to contact center applications. There are certainly specific uses that can benefit from video, including wealth management, technical support and help desks. As I noted in Vidyo's press release, "The emergence of services such as Amazon Mayday has dramatically changed user expectations of video-enabled call centers. By using solutions such as the VidyoWorks Contact Center Reference Design, contact center vendors can improve the user experience and enhance information exchange between agent and consumer, while reducing average agent time per encounter. This results in bottom line savings based, as well as improved customer retention." At Enterprise Connect, Vidyo demonstrated how easy it can be for web developers and others to add video capabilities to contact center solutions, while making it easier to leverage WebRTC for new video applications.
  • CorvisaCloud, a relatively new entrant to the market, was formed based on the idea of "changing support." According to company president Matt Lautz, support has become a commodity and not personalized, and CorvisaCloud is intent on providing a better support experience. At the show, the company discussed its recently-announced private network connectivity between the CorvisaCloud network and customer office location, based on an agreement with Equinix. According to CorvisaCloud, "Private connectivity enables assurance of voice quality/Quality of Service (QoS), added control over scalability and increased data security for clients of CorvisaCloud's CorvisaOne contact center software and VoIP business phone platform. By creating a direct link between the CorvisaCloud network and client locations, the private connection removes the need to transmit data over the public Internet thereby bringing peace of mind to enterprise contact centers."

  • Sennheiser discussed its UC-optimized devices, including headsets and speakerphones. The company claims that its differentiator is its premium quality (which also comes at a premium price), although it also offers contact center headsets that are competitively priced. The company works with channel partners such as Ingram Micro, CDW, and Headsets.com. I used Sennheiser's Presence headset with my mobile phone, and found that the quality was as advertised - great sound and clarity.
  • Unify had an interesting "thought leaders" breakfast focusing on topics related to "the New Way to Work," including the role of video, mobility, social, the impact of millenials and the Facebook Generation in the workplace. In a meeting with new CEO Dean Douglas, some of the UCStrategies team got to hear about plans for Ansible and its ability to support and interoperate with multiple vendor platforms, channel strategies, and the role of enterprise social networking.
  • Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise described its new relationship with Huaxin, and the status of the new agreement. The company made several announcements at Enterprise Connect, including the launch of a complete new range of desk phones, a major release of OpenTouch release 2.0, including enhancements to the platform and a portfolio of clients and apps around OpenTouch Conversation Experience. OpenTouch Suite has been completely virtualized, and ready for the cloud, with a simplified licensing model.
  • In a meeting with Mitel's CEO, I got more insights into the rationale behind the company's acquisition of Aastra and why it makes sense for both companies. According to McBee, Aastra adds a huge global footprint, and Mitel will be adding 50 million end points, becoming the market leader in Europe by several points. In addition, Aastra adds a multitenant hosted solution to complement Mitel's multi-instance offerings. When asked about the multiple and overlapping products, McBee explained that Aastra had already started working to take call controls to common set of APIs and get commonality in applications. Once you have standard endpoints and applications, it's easier to migrate call control and move call control to the next generation product.
  • At Avaya's Innovation Lab, I got to see some future technology demonstrations currently in development, and unfortunately can't discuss these projects. As Enterprise Attendees heard from Kevin Kennedy, Avaya is focusing on the network fabric and simplifying the network infrastructure for supporting applications.
  • Cisco's Vishakha Radia of the new Cisco Consulting Service organization expanded on the Internet of Everything (IoE), noting that 50% of the $19 trillion value of IoE is driven by collaboration and video, and that only 1% of devices are connected today. Cisco believes that the value of IoE is in the various types of network connections of people, process, data, and things, including machine-to-machine, machine-to-person, and person-to-person connections. The investment that organizations are making in collaboration gives them them a jump start on the journey to IoE in terms of reaping the benefits of cost reduction, employee productivity, and business value.
  • ShoreTel discussed its latest release, ShoreTel 14.2, a fully virtualized system that leverages customers' existing infrastructure. ShoreTel 14.2 increases the scalability per virtual machine and can run up to 1000 phones on virtual machine. ShoreTel offers the deployment flexibility and can provide a combination of virtualized and traditional voice switches.
  • NEC provided an update on its Univerge Cloud Services. NEC explained that it launched the service last year, but more recently repackaged and rebundled the service. The cloud service was re-released to all NEC dealers in August. NEC is hosting the service in three Tier 3 data centers, providing SLA's of 99.999% (with credit back to the NEC MLPS customers if there SLAs are not met).

It was clear that there were lots of new players, products, and technologies at Enterprise Connect, and a sense of excitement about the future and current state of our industry. Exciting times!