Polycom Launches Cloud-Based Management Service

Historically, you haven't often heard the words "Polycom" and "cloud" in the same sentence. Despite pressure from customers, partners, and analysts to build a video-as-a-service (VaaS) cloud, the company has chosen to sit on the sidelines and instead be a partner to many UCaaS and VaaS companies.

As recently as March, at Enterprise Connect 2018, Polycom CEO Mary McDowell told me over breakfast that if she could roll back the clock and build a cloud service, she would. But, she admitted, that ship had sailed, and the company is moving forward by partnering more aggressively. Given VaaS maturity, this approach appears to be the right one, as building a global VaaS backend can take years.

However, this doesn't mean Polycom can't be a cloud provider. It just needs to find the right solution.

The company today announced Polycom Device Management Service (PDMS), an operations tool for managing, measuring, and optimizing meeting room and desktop endpoints. Despite the rather unimaginative but technically accurate name, PDMS is a SaaS offering giving Polycom the ability to help its customers today with an eye to the future through analytics. Polycom will offer two flavors of the product: PDMS-E for enterprises and PDMS-SP for service providers.

The E version will be available at launch, enabling corporate IT pros to manage audio devices such as Polycom and non-Polycom desk and conference phones from a single portal. Through the interface, administrators will be able to provision, update, and secure up to tens of thousands of devices at once instead of having to do things one device at a time. Over time, the company plans to bring other devices, such as its video endpoints, under management. I anticipate that you'd eventually be able to manage the entire Polycom portfolio through PDMS.

The service's initial value proposition is that it creates a faster, easier, and more scalable way to manage devices. Over time, Polycom plans to deliver insights from data it continuously gathers and analyzes that will allow customers to optimize or improve their environments. This can help with planning, resource utilization, and meeting efficiency. Because PDMS is a cloud service, Polycom can aggregate customer data and then provide comparisons or benchmarks to help enterprises know if they're getting full value from their investments.

PDMS-SP, which will be available in the third quarter, will deliver device information service providers can use to improve device uptime and predict possible outage or customer issues. Later this year, Polycom will release an API that service providers will be able to use to customize services and analytics for individual customers.

The two flavors of PDMS demonstrate the flexibility of building a cloud platform -- from one common set of data, Polycom can create a custom look and feel for different audiences. Through APIs, it's allowing that customization to be taken a step further, allowing service providers the ability to treat PDMS as a platform to create unique, revenue-generating services. Also, the cloud backend gives Polycom the ability to add new features quickly or instantly propagate updates to all customers -- enterprise or service provider.

It's good to see Polycom stay active with product innovation in the face of its pending acquisition by Plantronics, announced in late March. It would be easy to kick back and wait until that deal closes, but Polycom appears to be keeping the pedal to the metal. Also, Polycom took a significant amount of heat for missing out on VaaS, and deservedly so, but instead of sticking its head in the sand and sulking about it, the company chose to leverage the cloud in different ways.

Moving the management, provisioning, and other device-level information into the cloud creates a huge opportunity for Polycom. If executed correctly, the value proposition of easy management, monitoring, and troubleshooting is what will get customers onto the platform today, with the future promise of new machine learning-based services layered on top of the basic management tools.

I believe that the most successful businesses in the future are the ones with the most data and machine-learning algorithms to interpret that data. The data can't live in silos though, hence the cloud's importance. PDMS is a good first step for Polycom, and creates the right type of platform on which to build. Welcome to the cloud.

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