ALE Rainbow: What It Is and Isn't
ALE now offering next-gen communications solution as freemium software; enterprise version slated for early 2017 release
In March, No Jitter Editor Beth Schultz offered a view on Rainbow, the next-gen communication solution from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE). Nine months later, a freemium version of Rainbow is now generally available, with subscription-based plans and expanded capabilities due early in 2017.
In a landscape flooded with consumer-oriented and business-targeted communications tools, not surprising is that my Rainbow briefing, conducted by ALE's Dany Jennevé, VP, Cloud Business Unit, began with a discussion of what Rainbow is not.
What Rainbow Is Not
Rainbow is not just an instant messaging tool, though it has that feature. It's not another UCaaS offering, though in 1Q17 companies will be able to add a simple set of UC features. It does not compete with existing ALE solutions, a point I will address below as I believe that it is the key component of what Rainbow is. And finally, it is not a new Viber (a seemingly updated version of a Skype-like service I was unfamiliar with) or WhatsApp, a point highlighting that Rainbow is a business application, not one targeted at consumers.
What Rainbow Is
With that as context, the graphic below highlights some of the distinguishing characteristics of what ALE Rainbow is:
- Rainbow has a user workspace, one that is similar in many ways to what Cisco offers with Spark, Unify in Circuit, and BroadSoft in Team-One. Like Spark and Circuit, Rainbow is available as a freemium offer. Called Rainbow Essential, the freemium software includes chat and filing sharing and one-to-one audio, video, and screen sharing.
- Early in 2017 Rainbow will come with more features as part of an Enterprise edition, including connection with customer premises systems, bot capabilities, integration with third-party applications (e.g., Salesforce or Office 365) and, through a too-be-named carrier partner, conferencing and other communications services.
- Whereas Spark uses a room paradigm and Circuit conversations, Rainbow uses the notion of "bubbles." An ALE executive posited that bubbles continue the whimsical theme that begins with the name Rainbow. Another differentiator I saw on my first couple of times using Rainbow was the availability of hundreds of emojis. I remember the lack of a simple "like" in some of the earlier products that came on the market.
Software-based "agents" are shown in the diagram for two ALE communications platforms (OmniPCX Office and Enterprise), as well as for competitor solutions. Agents here refer to pieces of software that connect premises systems to cloud applications, supporting capabilities like shared presence and call re-direction. ALE will update the most recent versions of its communications systems to include the Rainbow agent while older systems would require the use of a connected server, Jennevé said.
The plan is to have "competitor" agents for systems that would likely exist in ALE partner customer bases -- e.g., Cisco, Unify, and Mitel. This would allow ALE partners to help customers with multivendor environments offer Rainbow across all customer locations.
For me, the most powerful factoid Jennevé offered during the Rainbow briefing was that ALE has an installed base of 30 million users on 500,000 systems globally. Many of these customers will make the choice to move to the cloud when the cost of maintenance outweighs the cost to change. In the meantime, offering over-the-top cloud solutions for the subset of users that will benefit the most seems to me a loyalty-building strategy.