What's Really Available in the Cloud
When Brent Kelly and Enterprise Connect sent out a mock RFP for global cloud-based services, we weren't sure whether we'd get much response. Some big names and up-and-comers decided to play.
Update: You can download the RFP document that Brent used for this session here
Brent Kelly of Wainhouse Research is doing a session at Enterprise Connect in which he's collecting and analyzing responses to a mock RFP for cloud-based communications services, and it's going to be good--He's managed to get Microsoft (in partnership with BT Global Services) and Cisco (in partnership with Verizon) to participate, in addition to some up-and-comers. The complete list:
1. BT Global Services (with Microsoft as a partner)
2. Cypress Communications (A Broadvox Company)
3. Thinking Phone Networks
4. Verizon Business (with Cisco as one technology partner)
5. BroadSoft (with Meetrix Communications and Polycom as technology partners)
I did a little mini-interview with Brent, who's been analyzing the cloud services space for several years now:
1.) What was your impression about the state of real-life cloud offerings going into this RFP process?
I knew that there were many excellent real-life cloud offerings prior to preparing this RFP. However, many of these are targeted toward particular geographies. I knew that it was going to be a stretch for some vendors to provide a fully hosted solution on a global basis. Some of the companies that I thought could do this, and should have responded, did not. It makes one wonder how truly global their offerings are!
On the other hand, those smaller providers who responded to the RFP were a pleasant surprise because I didn't realize they had such broad reach. What were going to see in this session is a wonderful contrast between what the very large carriers offer and what smaller but very nimble providers are able to deliver. It has been wonderful working with cloud-based unified communications solution providers who are both large and small.
2.) Were your initial impressions confirmed or changed by what you’ve seen so far of the responses, and the process in general?
What is encouraging about this RFP process is that there are providers who can deliver a robust cloud-based unified communications solution almost anywhere in the world. When we first released the RFP, I was very concerned that we may not have anybody who would be able to deliver on such a broad solution request. The reason is that the RFP specifies locations that are spread out all over in Europe, North America, Asia, and South America. The RFP was modeled on a real company who had a global footprint, and the responding service providers present very real solutions for multinationals. Clearly, if these hosted UC services providers can do it on a global basis, they can also do it on a national or regional basis.
The RFP responses have just come in, but what I am seeing is tremendously impressive. These providers have very robust offerings into which they have put a incredible amount of thought and work to make them compelling from a coverage, price, security, and capabilities perspective. The five companies who have responded to the RFP truly are thought leaders and capability leaders in this emerging hosted unified communications market.
3.) What's the significance of having Microsoft and Cisco participating?
Cisco and Microsoft are clearly two of the leading technology providers in the world, and both are heavily invested in the unified communications space. I think it's important to point out that Microsoft and Cisco are participating as technology partners to service providers responding to the RFP: Microsoft with BT and Cisco with Verizon. Both BT and Verizon would emphasize that while they use technology from these partners, there is a tremendous amount of additional infrastructure and internal development that must surround them. I need to also point out that BT is also a Cisco partner and Verizon is also a Microsoft partner. Microsoft and Cisco have many additional partners as well. But the beauty of what we will see in this session is a very good instantiation of how these partners will incorporate technology from Microsoft or Cisco into a robust solution.
I think we also need to point out that BroadSoft is participating, and BroadSoft alone has over 400 service provider partners throughout the world. Besides the BroadWorks hosted voice solution, BroadSoft's response includes hosted IBM Sametime technology through a partner called Meetrix as well as fully integrated Polycom video solutions.
One of our other respondents, Cypress Communications--a Broadvox Company--is also using BroadSoft's BroadWorks in conjunction with Genband's CS2 Softswitch, while Thinking Phone Networks has responded using a platform it has developed almost entirely in-house. Thus, we have a wide spectrum of solution offerings in addition to Microsoft and Cisco that will be discussed as part of this session on real-world cloud-based UC solutions.