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Cloudy Interactions in Indy

PureCloud, a new cloud offering that will be offered alongside Interactive Intelligence’s existing premises-based CIC product and CaaS cloud offering, was the big news at Interactions 2014.

Interactive Intelligence once again showed its hospitality to customers, partners, analysts, and consultants in Indianapolis this week at its Interactions 2014 conference, with 2,000 attendees from 50 countries.

As you've probably read by now, the big news was the introduction of PureCloud, a new cloud offering that will be offered alongside Interactive Intelligence's existing premises-based CIC product and CaaS (communications as a service) cloud offering. CEO Don Brown reiterated several times that PureCloud will NOT replace CaaS and that it's another option for customers. The company continues to pour resources into CaaS, as well as its premises-based offerings.

There are clearly differences between CaaS and PureCloud. CaaS is a single-instance (or single tenant) offering based on the full-featured CIC contact center solution, using CIC instances running in virtual machines in Interactive Intelligence data centers (they have 12 data centers around the world, with 24-hour NOCs to measure every aspect of the CaaS operation).

In contrast, PureCloud is multitenant service running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) that offers not just contact center capabilities, but also several new services, including enterprise telephony and unified communications. According to Interactive Intelligence, PureCloud is "a new cloud communications, collaboration, and customer engagement platform that takes full advantage of the distributed nature of the cloud, providing rapid deployment, industry-leading reliability, unlimited scalability, and connecting customers and employees in new, more efficient ways."

Based on a brand new version of software, PureCloud is "basically a start over and start up" that combines best practices from OrgSpan (a closely-related startup that Interactive acquired), Amazon Web Services, and elastic load balancing to support demand as it fluctuates.

PureCloud introduces an entirely new Web interface based on HTML5. Unlike some other vendors, Interactive Intelligence did not use Frog or another design firm to create the user experience. In addition to the team it inherited from OrgSpan, Interactive Intelligence hired a team of user interface experts, and the new interface uses the latest in Web design. I spent some time with several members of this team, and they are a very experienced group that is passionate about the user experience and what they can do with the new architecture, including continuous deployment and updates.

When it comes to contact center capabilities, PureCloud's initial offerings will be more limited than what's available with CIC, and the feature set is considered "wide but not deep." For example, voice and Web chat are offered initially, but email, social, mobile, or other channels will not be available in the first release. The initial service will not offer workforce optimization, post-call surveys, coaching, mobile agent, and some other capabilities available on CIC.

That being said, PureCloud goes beyond the contact center, offering basic telephony and UC capabilities, enabling Interactive Intelligence to better compete with companies like ShoreTel and Mitel. The initial Unified Communications service includes IM and presence, IP PBX, unified messaging, conferencing (ad hoc), persistent group chat, fax, video, and other UC features that run across Web browsers, smartphones and tablets. Again, these capabilities will be wide but not deep.

The PureCloud architecture is totally new, leveraging the distributed architecture of AWS, with no single point of failure. It uses an Edge Device on the customer's premises that encapsulates media server capabilities for voice transcoding, speech analytics, speech rec, and PBX/ACD/IVR capabilities. The Edge Device provides PureCloud customers with local survivability so that if the Internet goes down, the PureCloud operation can continue uninterrupted.

While some people take issue with the name PureCloud because the offering uses a local edge device on the customer's site or data center, I like the analogy to the cable TV industry – cable TV customers have a set-top box in their home or premises, but the cable company is responsible for managing and maintaining the device, which is exactly what Interactive Intelligence will do with the Edge Device.

What I like the most about this announcement is that it provides more choices for customers, and Interactive Intelligence partners have more options and ways of meeting customers' needs. Whether it's an on-premises solution, a feature-rich and customizable contact center cloud solution, or a highly reliable and secure contact center and communication solution that features rapid deployment and continuous and dynamic updates, customers now have more options.

I hope to see Interactive Intelligence and its customers take advantage of having both contact center and business users on the same platform by deploying "Expert Agent" solutions that extend the contact center beyond the walls of the center to the rest of the organization, bringing in subject matter experts to help provide faster resolution to customer inquiries. I've been harping on the Expert Agent subject for many years – let's see if PureCloud helps make this more of a reality.

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