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Verizon Business Talks Unified Communications
Shortly after Fred posted about the carriers and UC, I had a chance to talk with Mike Marcellin, VP of product marketing for Verizon Business, about Verizon's view of unified communications. While Mike's take was certainly aimed at showing a bit more proactive a stance on Verizon's part, the carrier didn't come across as anywhere near as aggressive in pushing UC as are the leading CPE vendors.
Shortly after Fred posted about the carriers and UC, I had a chance to talk with Mike Marcellin, VP of product marketing for Verizon Business, about Verizon's view of unified communications. While Mike's take was certainly aimed at showing a bit more proactive a stance on Verizon's part, the carrier didn't come across as anywhere near as aggressive in pushing UC as are the leading CPE vendors.Mike tended to refer to this subject area as "UC&C," as in Unified Communications and Collaboration, and when I asked him what Verizon uses as a definition for UC&C, he replied that it's "helping customers collaborate more effectively and bring their communications capabilities into a common platform." That common platform is Verizon service, not a single equipment supplier's platform, by the way.
As far as specific offerings, Marcellin mentioned the flagship Integrated Communications Package, announced last year, which Fred called out in his post as well.
The Integrated Communications Package provides a desktop-based PC client that handles a number of functions we typically would put under the UC heading: The company's description of the portal is that it "provides a dynamic hub where employees can access voice mail, control incoming and outgoing calls, manage their online presence, send text messages, and synchronize contacts and calendars." Verizon sells the package as an add-on to its IP Centrex offering,. Mike Marcellin explained.
I asked Mike if Verizon had many customers for services that it would consider "UC&C," and his response was that it depends on how "futuristic" you're talking about. He said Verizon has consulted with clients who are implementing both Cisco and Microsoft UC solutions, but that customers themselves are still in the early stages of exploring what they want to do in UC.
Verizon clearly is feeling its way into this market (as are most of its customers, I'll say). It seems far too early, from Verizon's perspective, to push hard on cohesive UC services; indeed, I got just the opposite impression when I asked Mike Marcellin about how higher-layer services under the UC rubric would mesh with connectivity offerings like MPLS and network-based IP-VPNs. He said customers very often start with the Layer 2-3 WAN services, then add other capabilities like VOIP. "They almost end up going down that path without knowing that they are," he said.
I did get some pushback from Marcellin on the issue of SIP trunks. In a No Jitter post last month, Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research summed up the general perception about SIP trunk availability when he wrote about a recent end user survey:
We heard a number of complaints about the lack of service availability, especially from global telecom providers. IT executives consistently told us that their major telecom partners are "dragging their feet" on delivering SIP trunking services, possibly due to the fear of cannibalizing existing PSTN access revenues, or due to SIP trunking taking a back-burner to development of other offerings or consolidation of recent acquisitions and mergers.
Again without getting specific, Marcellin insisted that "our availability is very broad;" that SIP trunks are available nationwide in the U.S. and in other regions of the world where Verizon has networks. When I asked Marcellin if enterprises are replacing PRIs with SIP trunks--which is widely considered to be a fertile area for cost savings--he replied that, "certainly some are."
I suspect this comes down to one of those situations where there's availability, and then there's availability. If you go back a couple of years, when IP-based WAN services first became "available" widely, the carriers were still pushing frame relay, and, behold, that's what most enterprises continued to buy. When IP WAN services reached the tipping point and the carriers decided they wanted to scrap their frame relay networks as quickly as they could--voila, the carriers created incentives for enterprises to make the switch. Eventually I suppose the same thing will happen with SIP trunks. My bottom line is this: At this stage, a lot of enterprises are still sorting out what value UC will have for them. Given that the real value proposition for UC appears to be in tying communications in tighter with the rest of the enterprise's business processes, I don't see this as being a particularly good fit with the carriers, who are all about scale rather than this kind of customized, deep integration at the application layer.
So I'm not sure I'd say the carriers will miss the boat on UC, so much as there's not really a good spot for them on the boat. I'll let Lyle explain it: