Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
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Brian Riggs | December 06, 2016 |


Know Your Mitel Hybrid Options

Know Your Mitel Hybrid Options The latest in an ongoing series on hybrid UC services...

The latest in an ongoing series on hybrid UC services...

I recently attended Mitel's annual conference for analysts and consultants, so let's make Mitel next in my ongoing series on various vendors' hybrid UC solutions.

To wrap our heads around what Mitel offers in terms of a standardized hybrid UC solution, let's first dissect its portfolio. What follows is going to be a lot of MiThis and MiThat, so keep an eye out for the similar but not identical product names. We'll start with Mitel's two main UC offerings:

  • MiVoice, the primary set of voice and UC solutions that Mitel sells to businesses for on-premises deployment, as well as to providers building their own cloud-based UC services
  • MiCloud, the family of cloud-based UC services that Mitel sells direct to businesses, as well as delivers as a wholesale service for provider partners to resell

Each of these come in three flavors: Office, Business, and Enterprise. Forget about Office for now; we'll circle back to it later. As for the others:

  • MiVoice Business and MiCloud Business are targeted at SMBs and the mid-market, so businesses with up to about 1,000 employees. They're based on the same underlying software, which means there's no significant difference in feature set regardless of whether a company has it deployed on a server on premises or as software in a data center, or has it delivered as a service.
  • MiCloud Enterprise is targeted at larger companies -- those with 1,000 or more employees. It's also based on the same underlying software as Business... essentially a dedicated instance of the MiVoice Business software, hosted by Mitel for a single large enterprise customer.

Because they're based on the same code, a MiVoice Business system that a company has on premises can work seamlessly with Mitel's or a provider's MiCloud Business service in a hybrid configuration. Ditto for MiCloud Enterprise. The most common deployment scenario for this is for a company to have a PBX on prem at a headquarters location, but use MiCloud for satellite offices, said Jon Brinton, president of Mitel's cloud division. This is also the classic hybrid call control configuration that businesses, especially large enterprises, adopt when gradually migrating UC systems to the cloud.

The common code base across MiVoice and MiCloud facilitates a hybrid apps scenario. In this case, a company can subscribe to Mitel's MiCollab and/or MiContact Center as cloud-based apps associated with a MiVoice Business or Enterprise system on premise s. These are the only two applications Mitel currently supports in this kind of hybrid apps configuration.

Postscript: None of this applies to MiVoice Office, which is based on legacy Inter-Tel systems, and MiCloud Office, which is a service based on technology from Telepo, a company that Aastra bought before it was in turn acquired by Mitel. Because they're based on entirely different technology, they're not designed for interoperability or hybrid configurations.

Post-postscript: MiVoice Enterprise also falls outside of these hybrid scenarios since it's the new name of MX-One, Aastra's PBX for large enterprises. Because it's not based on a separate code base, it doesn't integrate as cleanly with MiVoice Business-based systems and services. As a result there's no hybrid option, as least not one that's been made into a standardized offering.

Hybrid Apps for Legacy Systems
Restricting hybrid options to what's essentially a single platform (MiVoice/MiCloud Business) has been problematic for the modern Mitel. The company is made up of almost innumerable acquisitions. MiVoice Business may be the flagship platform that receives most to all of the attention from Mitel developers, marketers, and sales folks, but many other legacy call control systems are in place within the Mitel customer base. Each of these systems has its own set of communications apps that is either not being actively developed any more or is not being developed as aggressively.

To address this, Mitel is developing a way to deliver cloud-based apps "over the top" on most any Mitel PBX. This is through a combination of native integrations and a new API platform that abstracts the CTI interfaces of specific voice systems. Mitel (and eventually third-party developers) can write an application once and, through the API platform, it will work with multiple call control platforms. "The cloud API platform will let us bring advanced apps that are cloud-based to users of existing [Mitel] premise-based solutions," said Brian Spencer, GM of Mitel's contact center division.

MiCollab and MiContact Center will be the first cloud apps to be made available on a wide range of Mitel call control platforms. MiCollab was originally developed as the UC application specifically for MiVoice Business. And MiContact Center (based on PrairieFyre technology that Mitel acquired) has one-off integrations with some, but not all Mitel systems. Both are now available as hosted apps for MX-One, MiVoice 5000, and MiVoice 400 systems deployed on premises, with MiCollab also available as a cloud-based app on MiVoice 250.

"The major advantage of the API platform is that the integration is much more lightweight and much easier to deploy and install," added Martin Bitzinger, GM of Mitels' enterprise group. "As such the evolution for customers in these rapidly developing segments will be at a 'cloud pace' instead of at a complex, traditional, monolithic IT systems pace."

Another advantage will be the ability of third-party developers to use the API platform to integrate micro-applications with a wide range of Mitel call control systems. For more details, see the blog by Blair Pleasant, of COMMfusion, about this. I'm not sure when Mitel's new API platform will be generally available, but sometime in 2017 seems like a safe bet.

Other Mitel Hybrid Scenarios
Mitel is supporting hybrid scenarios in other ways, too. Here are a couple that cropped up at the conference the other week:

  • Contact center software on-site/call control in the cloud. Solidus eCare (aka MiContact Center Solidus, aka MiContact Center Enterprise) is the contact center platform that came with Mitel's acquisition of Aastra. Its very large base of mainly European customers doesn't plan on retiring Solidus eCare any time soon. But many of these customers are looking to transition telephony from on-prem PBXs to hosted services. So Mitel has integrated Solidus with Telepo's hosted telephony platform. This lets service providers offering a Telepo-based service -- Tele2 in Sweden is the one I heard about -- integrate their cloud-based telephony services with Solidus software on prem.
  • UC software onsite/team collaboration in the cloud. MiTeam is Mitel's newly introduced cloud-based team collaboration app. Like Slack, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit, and the rest, MiTeam provides a persistent workspace for messaging, file sharing, and voice and video calling, and is geared for small groups. (And like Slack, Spark, Circuit, and the rest, it stands out from other team collaborations apps in various ways... but this isn't the time to go into that.) MiTeam is included in the Premier tier of MiCloud Office, in which case it's a cloud-based app for a cloud-based telephony service... so no hybrid nothing there. But it's also available as an integrated part of MiCollab, the premises-based UC app sold with premises-based MiVoice Business. And there's the hybrid angle... but in this case it's an on-prem instant messaging and conferencing app that's tightly integrated with a cloud-based team collaboration app.

With a portfolio comprising technology that not only it acquired but also that its acquired companies acquired, Mitel needs to be able to provide a very diverse set of customers with a clear path forward. For many of those customers, the path will first lead to making recently developed communications apps available on systems that now fall squarely into the legacy bucket. Hybrid apps as an integration strategy is a creative way of addressing this, and one that should appeal to businesses already turning to online communications and collaboration apps.

The path will inevitably lead customers away from older systems to newer technology that Mitel is actively developing. Again, hybrid UC is a creative way for Mitel to flip its installed base gradually -- helping them to migrate off of older call control systems to a mature hosted communications service that has been available for years.

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