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NEC Announces Univerge Blue Cloud Service

There isn't much agreement about the use of cloud services for enterprise communications, but one of the few things most in the industry will concede is that one size doesn't fit all -- every enterprise is likely to have its own unique needs and therefore its own specific approach to moving some or all (or none) of their communications functions off-prem.

With that context, it makes sense that NEC's new Univerge Blue offering promises the breadth and depth that a company of NEC's scale can provide. The new service, which updates NEC's existing Univerge Cloud Services promises cloud communications pretty much however you want it -- hybrid cloud-prem or "pure," with capabilities offered in bundles but also with a range of add-ons offered a la carte. Mostly what it does is leverage the extensive and continually growing NEC technology portfolio and infrastructure, from unified communications to software-defined networking (SDN) to Tier 3 geo-redundant datacenters to 24/7 managed services support.

Jay Krauser, director of business development, cloud services at NEC Corporation of America, offered a first look at the service during this week's BC (Business Communications) Summit in La Jolla, CA, hosted by the BCStrategies consortium of industry analysts and consultants (formerly UC Summit and UC Strategies, respectively; this week's event also featured the debut of the group's rebrand).

Krauser emphasized the strength of Univerge Blue's business continuity architecture and high availability, with a five-nines service level agreement (SLA). In addition to network uptime, NEC is also emphasizing emergency communications, promising an E911 implementation that connects with 6,000 Public Service Access Points (PSAPs), with location capabilities that meet all state and local 911 regulations -- a patchwork of rules that enterprises have traditionally struggled to keep up with across a national footprint.

Like NEC's earlier Univerge Cloud Services offering, the new Univerge Blue has 3 tiers -- Basic, Standard, and Premium -- with a list of features that can be added on as the customer may require:

Krauser was able to cite some case studies for enterprises already using Univerge Blue, and the first one he cited seemed to demonstrate both the potential for this type of cloud service, and also how its benefits, at least on the cost side, may actually be quite old-school.

The case study involves a retailer with 3,000-plus stores looking to network those stores' communications with the headquarters over IP. What they wound up with looks like the classic picture of what's widely assumed will be an early-adoption model for enterprise cloud communications: A large company with a big installation at headquarters, connected to a network of relatively small sites that, functionally, look like SMB-type deployments when considered discretely. And indeed, the NEC deployment for this customer retains the on-site PBX for its HQ, while transitioning to cloud services for remote sites.

The payoff for this retailer came because these remote stores moved inter-store long distance calling to the MPLS network with Univerge Blue, saving the company about $1 million a year on PSTN services. The retailer could have captured the same savings by rolling out IP communications to each store itself and then hooking them up to the WAN for PSTN bypass, but they opted instead to put the remote sites on the cloud service.

This case study seems like a pretty good mainstream enterprise story: Retailer wants to capture savings through toll avoidance, sees the cloud as an emerging trend, and rather than trying to manage its own rollout of a new system to 3,000 locations, instead decides on a gradual, hybrid course. The hybrid course looks like this: Go to the cloud for the sites where IT support is likely thin on the ground, get the traffic onto the WAN for the cost savings, gain a larger and more flexible feature set for those smaller sites, while keeping the corporate office under IT's control. Going with an established vendor with a strong infrastructure story makes sense, too.

There will be other, different kinds of cloud stories for different types of enterprises, but a company with NEC's history, technology, and resources is well positioned to be a player in many of the different type of enterprise cloud communications scenarios that will emerge.

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