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Vertical's Singular Licensing: UC for Everyone

Unified Communications for all seems to be the order of the day. In April Cisco announced Jabber for Everyone, free instant messaging (IM) and presence available to all Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) customers globally at no additional licensing cost. With ShoreTel 13 announced in July, IM and presence are now included with all Standard licenses--in the past, a more expensive Advanced license was required. And last week at a meeting for East Coast industry analysts (West Coast session will be held in a few weeks), Vertical seemed to take the notion even further, including several other features in its Singular Licensing.

First you may ask, who the heck is Vertical? If you are a voice person, some of Vertical's acquired companies may have better brand recognition: Artisoft, Comdial and Vodavi. For the data-centric, Vertical Networks was an early enterprise networking player--one of the many casualties of the Cisco juggernaut. The previously-mentioned companies combined with Vertical to create Vertical Communications by 2006. They estimate they have 250,000 customer sites and millions of users globally.

Why a first-ever analyst meeting now? Vertical explains that in the past five years it has spent almost $100 million on product development. Taking the best from its legacy TDM platforms and adding the features required for a modern SIP-based system, Vertical's flagship solution is Wave IP. Scaling to 500 users, it includes UC, enterprise mobility, and customer interaction management.

Like me, you might then ask, Does the market really need another SMB UC solution? Or more importantly, how does a solution provider get the attention of customers and resellers in a saturated market? Well, the relatively new management team (November 2011) brings a lot of expertise in this area: the COO, VP of Sales and VP of Marketing come from Mitel by way of that company's Inter-tel acquisition.

What have they come up with as differentiators? Three things caught my attention.

* A $100 user license that includes standard telephony and voicemail, IM/presence (which are increasingly table-stakes), but also a desktop and/or mobile soft client and call recording. No additional server licenses for the features either. I asked COO Rick Dell how he thought Vertical’s $100 license compares to the oft-touted "free" Microsoft Lync. Dell replied that most of the companies in the target market for Wave IP don't have enterprise Microsoft licenses.

* A dual TDM/SIP backplane that supports a wide variety of endpoints (IP, analog, fax, digital, wireless, third party and softphones) and trunks (analog, PRI, SIP and T1/E1).

* Free training for partners. In a world where Avaya and Cisco typically charge for training, some of ShoreTel's success has been its willingness to go to resellers, branch by branch, and offer free training.

Rick Dell is in the middle of a six-week road show where he is not only providing product training but teaching partners how to tell Vertical’s Singular License story. And he tells it pretty convincingly.