Know Your Avaya IP Office Hybrid Options
Assuming Avaya's midmarket business weathers whatever tempest potential divestitures raise, hosted IP Office services could prove attractive UCaaS options.
After not one, not two, but three posts on hybrid options for Microsoft Skype for Business Online's Cloud PBX service, it's more than time to look at hybrid scenarios for other UC solutions. This week Avaya released an IP Office platform update that involves hybrid cloud deployment models, so let's start there.
Avaya bills IP Office as its midmarket UC platform, but scalability now reaching to 3,000 lines places it well into what I consider the enterprise market. And in addition to the premises-based platform it's always been, IP Office is now the underlying platform for hosted UC services from a number of providers. The point being that changes to IP Office don't only affect SMBs with telephony systems onsite, but also can impact midmarket organizations and enterprises considering a cloud-based UC service, a premises-based system, or -- in the case of hybrid -- both.
This time around the changes come in Release 10 (R10) of the IP Office software. R10 includes hunt group capacity increases, clients and API enhancements, and other things you can read about in today's No Jitter post, "Avaya Releases R10 for IP Office."
It also includes a hybrid configuration option, the details of which we'll delve into here.
Previously IP Office could split workloads between systems that a business deployed on premises and on servers residing in data center space that the company set up. So there's been a hybrid option, but only for private cloud scenarios. R10 extends this to public cloud scenarios as well. This is where IP Office systems deployed on premises work in conjunction with a hosted IP Office service from a third-party provider.
(Incidentally, if this is sounding a bit familiar, it's because Avaya essentially pre-announced the hybrid capabilities back in February. I wrote a bit about that announcement for No Jitter here, and industry analyst Sandra Gustavsen did a nice write-up of it on TalkingPointz. But it's only with R10, which becomes generally available this week, that those hybrid options become generally available.)
Hybrid Scenarios for IP Office
So what are the scenarios possible with a hybrid IP Office solution? Typical ones include:
- Call Control, Apps on Premises and in Cloud - This is a situation in which the business has an IP Office system on premises, along with voice mail, mobility, instant messaging, and other apps, and is migrating to the cloud. Most likely the system was already in place and the business wants to move communications to the cloud. "As companies begin to transition to opex models this [hybrid model] will be a good way for larger companies to gradually transition to the cloud," said Barat Dickman, VP of UC&C at Westcon, which launched its hosted IP Office service late last year. (And which sells for $24.90 to $29.90 depending on feature set, in case you're wondering what hosted IP Office services cost.) Instead of just chucking the existing prem-based system and going all cloud, the business instead migrates to the hosted service in phases. So some end users will be homed to the IP Office system on prem and get all UC services from it, while other users are homed to the hosted IP Office service and get all their UC services from it. But they're all part of the same network and all share a common dial plan.
- Call Control on Prem, Apps in Cloud... or Vice Versa - Here the business again has IP Office on prem, but the system only provides call control and other telephony-centric features. The business now wants to add advanced apps, contact center, or some other comms apps. Instead of making a capital investment in enhancing the existing IP Office system, the business gets the advanced UC apps from a hosted IP Office service.
- Call Control in the Cloud, Digital or Analog Phone on Prem - Businesses adopting cloud-based UC services often rely on communications devices and systems based on older analog or digital technology. As an example, Derek Gray, system engineer at Carousel Industries, which in early 2014 added hosted IP Office as part of its Simplicity Voice portfolio of cloud-based UC services, described healthcare organizations and manufacturing firms retaining overhead paging systems. At other firms it might be door phones, fax machines, and other devices that are too expensive to replace with IP-based solutions. And Adam Cole, CEO at TelAgility, which partners with Westcon in delivering its hosted IP Office service, described businesses retaining their digital phones on premises, whether to use existing cabling or to avoid making capital investments in IP phones and Power over Ethernet switches. In both cases, the provider sets up a gateway -- or, more likely, reconfigures an existing on-premises IP Office PBX as a gateway -- to support digital and/or analog end points. Either way, call control and UC apps would come from the provider's hosted service, while the IP Office system remains on premises to connect to analog and digital end points.
- "BYO Dial Tone" - Existing IP Office systems can be reused to provide connectivity to SIP trunking and PSTN services from providers other than Carousel. Gray described businesses subscribing to Carousel's hosted IP Office service, but -- probably because a company has an existing multiyear contract in place -- connectivity services are from another provider. And Cole at TelAgility talked about subscribers using an existing PRI service from another provider for incoming calls -- again because of a multiyear contract that is too expensive to terminate. But outgoing calls would be over the SIP trunking service that TelAgility sells with its UCaaS services. As with the digital/analog phone scenario above, the IP Office system is again configured as a gateway, which the provider manages as part of the overall hosted service.
- Call Control, Apps on Premises, Backup Servers in Cloud - IP Office's new hybrid capabilities can be used to add new resiliency and high-availability options. Rather than deploying multiple IP Office systems in multiple sites or data centers, the business has its primary system on premises and a backup system hosted by a provider.
- Call Control, Apps in Cloud, Backup Servers on Premises - The thinking here is the business has migrated entirely to a hosted IP Office service. But an IP Office system is kept on premises in case the SIP trunk fails. The prem-based system then kicks in and phones register to it so voice services continue to be made available to end users.
Each of these scenarios assumes a few things. First, the IP Office servers on the business's premises and in the partner's data center need to be running the R10 code. As mentioned, it's R10 that introduces the hybrid cloud capability. So no 10, no hybrid.
Second, the IP Office server in the provider's data center is dedicated to the business subscribing to the service. This is because the hosted IP Office solution Avaya sells to its partners is based on a multi-instance, not multitenant, architecture.
Third, the provider is hosting IP Office Select if the business is depending on the hybrid deployment to provide resiliency. This is because R10 lets customers (or in this case the provider offering the hosted service) replicate an IP Office server across multiple data centers.
Fourth, the business is subscribing to a provider's Powered by Avaya service, not Avaya's OnAvaya – Google Cloud Platform service. This is a temporary restriction, since OnAvaya is expected to support hybrid configurations as early as this fall. But for the time being only Powered services support hybrid. (For more on the difference between Powered By Avaya and OnAvaya services, see my earlier post.)
Finally, the business finds an Avaya partner whose hosted IP Office service supports one or more of these hybrid scenarios. Not all providers of hosted IP Office services are offering hybrid as an option. And of those that are, not all are offering hybrid as a backup/resiliency option.
And the big question, I suppose, is if any of this is actually taking off. Both TelAgility and Carousel -- the only two providers I spoke to for this blog -- said they have customers not only subscribing to their hosted IP Office services, but also embracing hybrid cloud configurations. I get the impression that these are mostly existing Avaya customers migrating from a premises to hosted model. But in one case there was talk of a government organization with thousands of users transitioning from Unify PBXs to a hosted IP Office service.
So assuming Avaya's midmarket business weathers whatever tempest the possible divestitures raise, hosted IP Office services could prove an attractive option for businesses counting their UCaaS options.