Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
Read Full Bio >>

Brian Riggs | July 17, 2012 |


Video and Virtualization Key Topics at Mitel Partner Conference

Video and Virtualization Key Topics at Mitel Partner Conference A new hardware device for conferencing, and a continued push for its VMWare partnership

A new hardware device for conferencing, and a continued push for its VMWare partnership

Mitel held its annual partner conference last month and, as usual, was kind enough to invite some industry analysts along. As Eric noted, at the event Mitel was very bullish about its recent performance and its prospects for the next year--remarkably bullish considering the much more subdued note the company struck at last year's event. Rich McBee pointed to quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year growth as evidence of Mitel's financial health, changes to the regional directors and area directors as helping to reinvigorating sales efforts, and a portfolio of premise- and cloud-based communications products based on the same software stream, thus showcasing the flexibility of Mitel solutions.

Mitel's financials are certainly more promising compared with last year's, which is good for the company and rightfully encouraging to its partners and customers. But looking at charts showing revenues, gross margins, net income and other key metrics I'm seeing a lot of zigzaggy lines going back and forth between positive and negative. Hopefully, Mitel chiefs have struck upon a business strategy that will straighten out the zigzags and end the company's rather wild financial ride of late.

The big news at the conference was Mitel's unexpected entry into the market for video conferencing end points. Dave Michels has already provided some details about it, adding some further notes here. Putting the Mitel move into context, the company's entry into the video conferencing market is unlike Avaya and Cisco, which bought companies with entire portfolios that can compete head-to-head against Polycom. And it's unlike Siemens Enterprise and Aastra's recent video conferencing announcements, which center on desktop devices and soft clients. Instead Mitel is selling a device for conference rooms requiring video connectivity between four parties (to be expanded to eight in a subsequent release).

The company hopes that the fact it's targeting the lowest possible end of the room-based video conferencing market will allow it to fly under the radar of Polycom, LifeSize, Magor, and other partners it still relies on to provide its customers with a much more comprehensive line of video conferencing solutions. One thing about the new Mitel device--called UC 360--that fascinated me is that there's two versions of the product, one that's audio only and another that provides the full video conferencing experience. At present they're separate devices with separate SKUs. But a future version of the product is expected to be upgradeable from one to the other. So a customer could deploy Mitel UC 360 configured only for audio conferencing as an alternative to a Polycom SoundPoint, Cisco Unified IP Conference Station, or Avaya's Konftel devices. (Assuming Mitel can bring down the price of UC 360 so it's competitive--conferencing devices generally cost $250-$300 street, which I think is considerably less than the audio-only version of the Mitel unit will cost.) Then the same customer could upgrade UC 360 to support video as well--something the Polycom and other devices are in no way capable of. It would be a differentiator for Mitel, if the company delivers the next-gen UC 360 as described.

Finally, virtualization. It's hard to have a conversation about Mitel without touching on the subject of virtualization. The company's track record in this area is impressive. Mitel worked directly with VMware to make its real-time business communications software deployable in a virtualized server environment. This paved the way for its rivals to quickly follow suit. Mitel developed a single communications software stream that allows Mitel Communications Director (MCD) to be deployed on Mitel hardware (Mitel 3300); on industry standard-servers using virtualization (virtual MCD); as multiple virtual instances on a single server (Multi-Instance Communications Director (MICD) for large enterprise or service provider use; as company-owned software on a virtual machine in a private cloud (Mitel AnyWare IaaS); as a hosted service as a vitual machine in a public cloud (Mitel AnyWare).

Nearly every executive at the Business Partner Conference mentioned virtualization at some point in their presentations. Ron Wellard, heading up the Mitel Communications Solutions division, said "We are not going to develop our own high-availability solutions internally. We are going to rely on VMware for that."

Philip Keenan, head of North America sales, identified virtualization and the Mitel 5000 as "killer products" in the company's 2012 fiscal year, continuing on to say Mitel has set up a "virtualization sales team" that takes a consultative approach in positioning Mitel products when deployed with server virtualization.

Jon Brinton, general manager of Mitel's Network Services Group, noted that about 150 of Mitel's 450 resellers in North America are now actively selling Mitel solutions deployed with server virtualization. (Separately, Keenan said that it was Mitel's goal to certify 35% of its channel on server virtualization. 150 is just over of 450, so apparently Keenan's goal has been achieved and Mitel is now in the process of bumping the number up higher.)

Interestingly, CTO Jim Davies said, "We rarely sell virtualization." Rather, customers have typically deployed server virtualization already and Mitel partners just need to convince them to extend it to their communications systems and software, he said. This corresponds to a documented rise in adoption of server virtualization among SMBs--SMBs still being Mitel’s primary customer.

Davies also criticized Cisco's response to virtualization as only supporting its virtualized instances of its UC software on Cisco UCS server hardware rather than any industry-standard servers. He noted that ShoreTel cannot completely virtualize its UC software due to the distributed nature of the ShoreTel solution. But I can't say I'm entirely onboard with these statements. ShoreTel can virtualize all of its software with the exception of call control, which due to the ShoreTel architecture necessarily resides on hardware distributed throughout the network. As for Cisco, Unified Communications Manager can be deployed as a virtual machine on other server hardware besides UCS, but "all VMware software must be customer-provided." So the restriction is more around procurement than anything else.

When it comes to the subject of restrictions, in a sense Mitel is as guilty as many of its competitors. The company is so closely aligned with VMware that it has failed to qualify its communications software on other vendors' hypervisors. Avaya has proven that Citrix XenServer can serve as the hypervisor for real-time communications software deployed in a virtualized environment. Alcatel-Lucent has demonstrated the same with Red Hat KVM, which its OpenTouch software runs on when deployed in a virtualized environment.

To be fair, other vendors are as restrictive as Mitel when it comes to the type of hypervisors used with their UC software, with Mitel and Cisco supporting only VMware, Avaya only Citrix, and Alcatel-Lucent only KVM. Oddly enough, Microsoft--the only UC vendor selling a hypervisor of its own--is much more inclusive, with Lync Server 2010 able to be deployed on VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, and Microsoft Hyper-V. This kind of support for multiple hypervisors should be on the product roadmap of all UC software being sold today. Customers should have as much choice in hypervisor as they do with the server hardware on which their UC software is deployed.

Follow me on Twitter!


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.