NEC (and C and C and C...)
NEC now has a more comprehensive UC suite that includes collaboration, appliance models, and industry-standard software approaches--plus a new cloud offering.
NEC has completely refined and expanded its UC offering--or more specifically its Unified Communications and Collaboration offering announced this month under the new brand UNIVERGE 3C. They also launched an initiative for Cloud solutions now collectively referred to as UNIVERGE Cloud Services
Prior to 3C, NEC had multiple UC solution sets--its SV8000 appliance series with various add-ons, and a software-based solution known as Sphericall which NEC acquired several years back. These two platforms were largely unrelated--different phones, devices, and certifications. Nor was there a hosted offering. That all changed this month: UNIVERGE 3C is the new brand, and it's designed for the very small to very large enterprise, with specialized vertical market options. The 3C technology is available as a premises based solution and soon as a hosted option.
Starting with the premises side, the Sphericall brand gets dropped for UNIVERGE 3C, but while the brand gets dropped, the technology behind it got promoted. Among the UNIVERGE-supported endpoints are IP phones, smartphones, tablets, video systems, and IP phone systems. 3C is now positioned as an SV-8000 add-on rather than replacement for existing customers. Instead of forcing a decision fork, 3C is inclusive; however, it does not require the SV appliance in the solution.
What makes 3C unique is its approach to real time services. It can be a PBX, or UC solution, or not--it's effectively a real time switching service that is agnostic to medium (voice, presence/IM, video) and endpoint (SIP device, IP phone system, softphone, mobile).
It is optimized for three off-the-shelf application suites: unified communications and collaboration, contact center, and business enhancements (FMC, unified messaging, attendant console). It also offers several vertical-specific applications (e.g., healthcare, hospitality) and a rich SDK for custom integration.
3C has a strong standards story. Instead of desktop clients, it uses Rich Internet Architecture (RIA) with Adobe AIR or web browser on the desktops and native RIA clients for mobile devices (IOS and Android). The system employs an integral Java Application Framework enabling web-centric UC that works across enterprise secure networking (HTTPS--aligns with W3C and SIP standards). It runs on Microsoft and VMware servers and has been accredited with JITC compliance. The solution natively integrates with Active Directory and Exchange environments.
Without question, the biggest addition in the 3C solution set is its "Click to Connect and Collaborate" suite (how many Cs now?). This solution allows users anywhere to participate in web-based collaborative sessions supporting content sharing, video, and audio conferencing. NEC claims the user experience is the same with a smartphone or tablet as on a desktop. NEC also added clever multi-national features such as gesture based commands and foreign language translation.
Responding to its dealers, NEC crafted a cloud-based solution that leverages NEC's technology and channel. NEC's Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is an expanded SaaS that includes a comprehensive suite of voice, data and video services. The UCaaS offers a wide array of options, such as IP telephony, voice mail, audio and video conferencing, as well as Web collaboration, presence and IM, and contact centers.
The UNIVERGE 3C services are planned to run in multiple data centers on NEC GSX servers, and managed 7x24 by NEC's pre-existing NOC. The service is expected to be available in the U.S in the second quarter of 2012. The Cloud Services will be exclusively available from NEC channel partners.
The UC Cloud Services will come in three flavors: Basic, Standard, and Premium--seats can be mixed and matched to meet customer requirements. The UC Premium seats include presence, recording, mobile clients, long distance, and collaboration. For larger sites (more than 25 users), NEC will provide an MPLS drop to avoid QoS issues associated with transport over the Internet.
NEC did not need to acquire new technology, purchase third party servers, or create a new NOC. NEC has the components on-hand to create a powerful new hosted solution that leverages its installed base and existing dealer network.
These changes position NEC nicely. It now has a more comprehensive UC suite that includes collaboration, appliance models, and software approaches that adhere to industry standards. It has an endpoint lineup that includes its own NEC branded phones as well as wireless solutions in both DECT and Wi-Fi. NEC also has a strong partnership with Polycom for video, a strong mobile solution for FMC, an upgraded contact center solution, and now a cloud option.
NEC will be showing its new solution at Enterprise Connect next week in booth #609--without any in-booth servers.
One final note: In the TalkingPointz research report on NEC published late last year, I identified the need for Sphericall to work with the SV-8000 appliances as well as for NEC to develop a cloud strategy as critical keys for future success.
Dave Michels is a contributing editor and independent analyst at TalkingPointz.com