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Unify Not Forgetting 'Bread & Butter' of Voice

When I hear the word "hybrid" in association with telephony, my mind leaps to the on-premises/cloud communications mix with which many enterprises find themselves contending today. All things cloud, after all, are trendy at the moment. Truth is, hybrid in a telephony context could just as easily apply to the more traditional, ever-present TDM-IP combos in place at many businesses.

Consider these data points from a Nemertes Research survey of enterprise IT professionals, as discussed in an AT&T-sponsored whitepaper, "Catalyst for Change: Digital Transformation Strategies Require Telecom, Network Upgrade," and fall webinar, "How Voice Network Transformation Can Enable Digital Strategy" (available now on demand):

And then there's this verbatim comment from one of the Nemertes survey respondents, an IT director for a transportation company: "We may or may not ever get there."

That IT director has pretty much summarized in a nutshell why legacy PBX vendors continue not only to maintain but enhance their hybrid communications systems. Latest case in point is Unify, which earlier this month announced the v8 release of its hybrid OpenScape 4000 system, aimed at bridging the gap between IP-based UC and legacy digital communications.

Unify's experience with OpenScape 4000 customers -- all 30 million of the installed base -- seems on par with that situation Nemertes has found in its research: "A lot of markets we operate in around the world have reached, or are beyond, the inflection point -- they're more IP than TDM nowadays, with the U.S. leading. But a lot of countries are around the 50% mark still," Nigel Trueman, Unify's global head of product marketing for enterprise, told me in a recent interview. So while Unify grows its IP portfolio, comprising products such as its SIP-based OpenScape Voice and integrated OpenScape Enterprise Express platform, the 4000 is "as valid today as it ever was," he said.

So what does the latest release of a hybrid TDM-IP system look like? In this case, updated energy-efficient hardware for more flexible deployment options, as well as new or improved integration with other Unify solutions Circuit, for team collaboration; OpenScape UC, for improved mobility; OpenScape Xpert, for financial services and trading deployments; and the OpenScape Desk Phone CP family. With the v8 release, OpenScape 4000 is also disconnected from the per-port pricing model traditionally associated with voice system purchases and is instead aligned with the user-based licensing typical for IP systems like OpenScape Voice.

While enterprises will of course still size their systems based on the number of trunks they require, they'll no longer be paying for licensing on those trunks, Trueman said. Overall, the change will reduce pricing on the 4000, he added. Compared to v7, a new v8 system would be about 15% less expensive, depending on configuration. And, companies that want to upgrade from v7 to v8 would see about a 24% drop in the price they would have paid if they had migrated from v6 to v7, again depending on configuration, he said.

Additionally, Unify feels the new model will offer enterprises an "attractive" opportunity to update and migrate from OpenScape 4000 to OpenScape Voice, when they so desire, since licensing will be consistent across the lines, Luiz Domingos, head of product house for Unify, told me.

As Nemertes clearly articulates in its research mentioned earlier, the benefits of moving away from hybrid TDM-IP to an all-IP environment, as well as into the cloud, are numerous (with one big advantage being the ability to support digital transformation initiatives). But the reality is that many companies won't do so unless their equipment becomes so obsolete that they can no longer find spare parts for it or are otherwise forced into migrating because of similar situations in which the need to upgrade is non-negotiable.

As Trueman said, we can talk all we want about cutting-edge technology, but this is the "bread and butter" for enterprises here.

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