Making Sense of 'Chromeunications'
In general, the business communications solutions for Chromebox and especially Chromebook seem to benefit Google much more than UC vendors.
When it comes to business communications, Google has two distinct irons in the fire. The first takes the form of Google Apps for Work, making Hangouts a formal part of the suite, and leveraging partners like Switch, gUnify, and Esna to pair Google Apps with a full-featured UC service or solution. That was the topic of my panel at last week's Enterprise Connect conference, so you can either listen to the replay (attendees only) or check one of my previous blogs if this topic interests you.
Google's other iron in the UC fire involves Chrome appliances. It began quite unexpectedly a year ago in the video conferencing space, cropped up a couple months later as regards Web conferencing services, and came up again this week in relation to customer support solutions. So let's take a look at the various ways Chrome appliances are becoming relevant -- or at least more visible -- in the UC space.
(OK, yes. There's a third iron. But I'm not going to address WebRTC and VP8, so let's not extend the metaphor in that direction this time around.)
Chromeunications for Contact Centers
Avaya has emerged as the main mover and shaker promoting Chrome appliances in contact centers. It started late last year with the introduction of Avaya Agent for Chrome, an agent interface delivered as a Chrome application running on Chromebooks. The software has since become generally available, listing for $30 per agent per month. Avaya Agent for Chrome is initially a client only for Elite, Avaya's flagship solution for large-scale contact centers. But, as Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager of Avaya Engagement Solutions, said at the recent Avaya partner conference, "that will expand over time." When that expansion might take place remains unclear, but this week's introduction of a second, more intricate Chrome-related contact center solution moves the Avaya-Google development work firmly beyond Elite.
Avaya has a rather convoluted set of cloud platforms and services, so let's contrast Customer Engagement OnAvaya Powered by Google Cloud Platform (Customer Engagement OnAvaya for the rest of this blog) to what the company is already delivering:
- Unlike Avaya Agent for Chrome, Customer Engagement OnAvaya is a complete cloud-based contact center service, not just an agent interface.
- Unlike Communications Outsourcing Solutions (COS) Express, its private-cloud contact center service, Customer Engagement OnAvaya is a public-cloud offering that resides in Google's platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. This means it's easy to order and provision via the same Web-based tools that front-end AvayaLive Video, and can cost-effectively scale down to as few as 10 agents per customer.
- Unlike both Avaya Agent for Chrome and COS Express, Customer Engagement OnAvaya is based on IP Office Contact Center, not Elite.
- Unlike other hosted IP Office services, Customer Engagement OnAvaya is an Avaya-provided service (hence "on Avaya"). Partners can resell it, but unlike Synnex or ScanSource's hosted IP Office offerings, partners don't buy a bunch of stuff from Avaya, build service based on said stuff, and manage the service themselves.
- Also unlike hosted IP Office services, Customer Engagement OnAvaya delivers contact center functionality, not telephony. Partners' hosted IP Office services may later include a contact center functionality. And before long there will likely be an OnAvaya-branded service that's UC specific. But for the time being that's not the case.
Like Avaya Agent for Chrome, the agent interface for Customer Engagement OnAvaya is a Web application running on a Chrome browser on Chromebooks. As such they both fit squarely into the larger trend of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the contact center. The value proposition of leveraging thin clients in contact center environments has long been well understood: Terminals are less expensive and more secure than PCs, and thin client apps are easier to manage since they aren't installed on individual PCs. All this reduces the TCO of contact center solutions. Elite has long had a VDI client, but this marks the first time IP Office Contact Center has had one.
On a related note, VDI is no stranger to Chromebook. Last year both Citrix and VMWare introduced Chromebook support for their desktop virtualization software. The Avaya announcements build on this, making its agent apps available on Chromebooks that enterprises are already considering as thin client terminals.
Click to next page for a look at 'Chromeunication' of huddle rooms, Web conferencing, and more