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ShoreTel 8.0: The Logic of Telephony
I just got a demo of some of the new aspects of ShoreTel's recently-announced ShoreTel 8.0 release (announcement here). What's cool about the cool stuff in this product is the regard it has for the communications environment that customers actually operate in today.
I just got a demo of some of the new aspects of ShoreTel's recently-announced ShoreTel 8.0 release (announcement here). What's cool about the cool stuff in this product is the regard it has for the communications environment that customers actually operate in today.The company's PR makes the obligatory nods toward the need these days to call everything Unified Communications, but even in their Call Manager PC interface, there's a healthy respect for the PBX features that still drive value in enterprise communications.
(I was going to say that Call Manager is an unfortunate name for the product, but now that Cisco has moved on from that monikor, and calls their platform UC Manager, ShoreTel gets Call Manager all to themselves again.)
For example, Call Manager has the standard look-and-feel of a basic UC user interface--a buddy list with color-coded icons, two per buddy, one for telephone status and one for IM status. But you have the option of exposing another layer of calling features in drop-down boxes; if you activate something called Show Extension Calling Options, you get choices like Make Call; Dial Mailbox; Intercom; Whisper Page--i.e., traditional PBX features, called by their traditional telephony names.
This is in direct contrast to the vendor marketing messages that tell you--or at least hint very strongly--that you should give up on certain telephony features, and find a way to do them with IM. Those vendors continue to support the telephony features, but it's almost like they're embarrassed of them. They certainly don't talk about ways to invoke those features through their UC UI.
It may be an indication of the real demand out there for Presence-enabled functions--at least among ShoreTel's customers--that they don't have their own presence server; they use Microsoft LCS 2005 as their presence engine. Jeff Ridley says they'll continue to make upgrades so that support for OCS and other vendors' presence engines will be forthcoming. He'd say only that ShoreTel is looking at whether they should manufacture their own presence server.
Another interesting part of the latest ShoreTel release is a switch that can add 24 analog ports onto your system. Allan Sulkin is always reminding us that analog isn't going away, and Jeff Ridley noted that one of his salespeople told him, "You can still get a Princess phone for $10 and put it in the break room" for a cost-effective basic connection where low functionality is all that's required.
At the other end of the spectrum, the 8.0 release includes setup of high-quality video in the enhanced Professional version of the Call Manager interface, and security is bolstered with 128-bit encryption in the endpoints, an upgrade from the previous 64-bit.
So it's not fair to say ShoreTel is focusing on traditional features at the expense of UC bells and whistles. It's just that they're not playing down the legacy capabilities as much as some of their competitors may. And that's not a bad thing.