No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

RFP: UC Without a New PBX: Lower Costs, Better UC Roadmaps

Enterprise Connect Orlando 2012! What a show. If the era of the PBX is not over, the PBX has sure disappeared from the Keynotes, replaced by UC and Collaboration with plenty of mobility and a bit of social and video mixed in for spiciness. All of this was presented with emphasis on evolving communication user interfaces==Cisco Jabber and WebEx updates, IBM Connections, Avaya emphasis on Avaya Flare and Avaya Live Engage, Microsoft’s presentation of Lync 2010 breadth, and Siemens' "easier path" to UC.

But my focus was on "UC Implementation Options" (Monday AM) and on Option 3 of the "Enterprise Connect 2012 RFP: UC Without a New PBX" (Wednesday PM). Yes, that's right, keep what you have--sweat the assets, but still get all the benefits of UC. In past years, the similar session, "UC Options: Who's Offering What?" showed that the price for UC was right, but it was not clear in every case that the UC solutions played well with the existing PBXs. The picture became crystal clear in 2012.

The two big highlights are:

* The leading UC vendors can all provide UC as an overlay onto any installed PBX. No need to upgrade or replace the PBX in order to install UC.

* On average, these overlay solutions provide UC for 40% less than the cost of replacing the PBX in order to get UC. At the extremes, the least costly UC overlay ($347K) was 78% less costly than the most expensive proposal for UC with a new PBX ($1,551K). Both examples are from top-rated bidders and deliver the requested functionality to all 2,000 users in the scenario we employed.

You can read more details in my post on

These results change the game for creating your enterprise UC roadmap. The UC solutions are almost entirely modular now--there is no need to replace embedded platforms in order to proceed with UC. Let's look at the factors enabling better UC roadmaps:

* Modularity: All the vendors offered their UC software stack in modular format and on virtual machines. So you can choose and scale exactly the UC elements you need for your roadmap--Presence, IM, Click-to-Communicate (voice, video, sharing), Conferencing (voice, video, sharing), Mobility, and/or CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Process) applications and toolkits.

* Use Case Support: Clearly, with that modularity, you can configure and acquire the right mix of UC functionality for your Use Cases. Best-in-class roadmaps for UC deployment are a year-by-year progression of Use Case solutions. With proven UC flexibility, initial UC configurations and capacity can be grown over time (and budget cycles) to match that progression.

* Ethernet and Gateways, vs. SIP Trunks: The UC Solutions route their signaling and media streams over secure Ethernet transport. All of the UC communications can flow over the enterprise WAN Ethernet services or through any of the many growing Ethernet Backbone carriers at a fraction of SIP trunk costs. Connections to the existing PBXs (or to the PSTN) were proposed using SIP Trunks (if available on the PBX version) or SIP-to-TDM gateways, as needed.

* Telephones Optional: All of the vendors delivered their UC functionality without requiring a desk phone. The UC software could be configured to connect voice calls through the PBX to the desk phone, but the UC client was preferred for a number of reasons: cost, broadband audio options, mobile device and tablet options, and ability to move seamlessly in and out of voice or video calls from IM sessions.

* Contact Centers Are Complex: The differences in cost mentioned above are due in part to a 70-agent contact center required in the "UC with a new PBX" RFP. Contact centers still involve additional licensing and multiple additional servers along with the installation costs. The new PBX RFP responses did not include costs for the potentially complex and time-consuming process of converting contact center interfaces, agent desktops, rules, databases, reporting, and more. A UC roadmap is better without the cost, risk and delay of migrating the contact center.

* Maintenance: Part of the cost advantage of "UC Without a New PBX" is because the maintenance charge is on less-costly licenses and on fewer servers than are required for a complete PBX replacement. Of course, the enterprise still pays maintenance on their existing PBX; but that is usually based on an in-force multi-year contract. Getting started with a UC overlay will likely show that by the time the existing PBX maintenance contract is due for renewal, the UC users no longer need the PBX phones. Thus, the next PBX maintenance contract renewal might cover a much smaller-sized PBX system, e.g. only the contact center and a few other specialized functions. Also, if the UC system is from a different vendor than the installed PBX brand(s), the enterprise might finally see some real price negotiations at maintenance contract renewal time.

In summary, the forecasts of the past five years are now reality. Enterprises now have greater flexibility than ever when developing their UC roadmap. And that roadmap is very likely to return a much higher ROI, more quickly and with a much lower initial investment, than the all-or-nothing replacement options of the past. This new flexibility has the potential to open up new growth in the communications industry since it will no longer be necessary to justify a major system replacement in order to invest in new UC (and Collaboration and Social networking) solutions.