Through 2013 Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALU-E) will roll out a set of solutions on which its partners can offer a range of hosted unified communications (UC) services. The company’s strategy is different to those of its competitors in that it will deliver separate solutions for enterprises and SMBs, as well as a set of application services. These will be offered to operators, and also sold to value-added resellers and distributors that want to compete not only against telcos’ managed services but hosted services as well.
ALU-E’s hosted UC platform for enterprise-grade services became available earlier this year, with a handful of partners offering services based on it. The SMB platform and application service are in a less mature state; both are still in development, and no service provider partners are associated with them as yet. ALU-E is in a similar position to Avaya, which is also in the midst of introducing platforms on which its partners can offer hosted UC services.
The company must prove that there is a demand for hosted UC services based on its technology that major telcos are prepared to invest in the infrastructure needed to bring these services to market, and – uniquely to ALU-E – that businesses want to buy video and conferencing services via the app store that it is proposing.
ALU-E’s hosted UC platforms are OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud and OpenTouch Office Cloud. Both are closely related to the premise-based communications solutions that the company sells to large enterprises and SMBs respectively.
The former is a version of the OpenTouch Suite for Mid-sized and Large Enterprises, ALU-E’s next-generation UC software that brings together call control, conferencing, instant messaging and presence, desktop videoconferencing, and other features. The company has modified the software so that telcos and other partners can deploy it on virtual machines in data centers, offering dedicated instances of it to businesses with no more than 3,000 end users (to be increased to 5,000 later this year). These scalability limitations could prove a hindrance if partners plan to target large enterprises with their hosted UC services. However, OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud, which has been available since January 2013, is being adopted by a number of ALU-E partners that are presumably targeting moderately sized enterprises. In addition, operators can deploy OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud as a software overlay, providing UC and multimedia communications functionality to on-premise PBX systems. This is a clear differentiator for the ALU-E solution and, if positioned effectively, for its partners as well.
OpenTouch Office Cloud, unlike its enterprise cousin, is not a software-only solution leveraging virtualization. Rather, it is based on ALU-E’s OmniPCX Office appliance, which service providers can deploy in a single rack sharing a common backplane and management platform. This will let them provide communications as a service to SMBs with 200 or fewer end users when the solution becomes available in mid-2013. Providers will begin service trials later in the year.