As a growing number of businesses invest in IP
Communications solutions that will bring unified communications services into their business processes, a growing number of solutions are being unveiled to service these needs. Some of these solutions are on-premises offerings that are more closely tailored to the needs of larger enterprises — which are able to afford the up-front investment. Others follow a hosted model, much more to the liking of the SMB market. Either way, unified communications is taking hold.
Siemens (News - Alert) Communications, however, is not content to sit still in either the on-premises or hosted spaces, and the company has now announced not only enhancements to its existing OpenScape enterprise Unified Communications solution, but also that it is now offering that same platform on a SaaS (News - Alert) (Software as a Service) offering (i.e., hosted service). So, instead of competing solely on one level, Siemens is adapting its successful OpenScape platform for the service provider space, which is largely looking to provide hosted services to SMBs.
In bringing OpenScape to the hosted environment, Siemens has merely re-packaged — or, as Siemens’ senior public consultant David Leach refers to it, pre-packaged — its existing solution in a high availability, high reliability blade server
platform, along with provisioning capabilities, for the service provider market. For service providers, it becomes increasingly important to be able to bring compelling and innovative new services to market quickly to stop or prevent churn, which is precisely what the OpenScape Enterprise Hosted solution is designed to enable.
With OpenScape, providers are able to roll out unified communications services in a matter of weeks, not months or even years. Furthermore, by incorporating a proven provisioning platform from Ensim, Siemens enables its service provider customers to provision any number of services from a single management interface.
“Those service providers can now use the same tool to manage hosted Exchange, hosted LCS, hosted VoIP
, hosted mobile service, and hosted OpenScape,” explained Leach. “They can all be hosted and provisioned from the same user interface, which becomes an extremely useful and valuable tool for the service provider.”
With the Combination of OpenScape and the integrated provisioning capabilities, service providers can easily offer their choice of bundled services — as we all know, bundled services are becoming a key to success for service providers.
In addition to morphing its flexible OpenScape solution into a SaaS offering, Siemens has also enhanced the OpenScape solution itself — both the hosted version and the on-premises edition. New SDK enhancements enable programmers to easily embed OpenScape functionality into other applications — as Siemens has already done with Siebel CRM and Salesforce.com (News - Alert) — to integrate unified communications features into other business processes.
Also, because it is not always viable to embed the capabilities into other applications, Siemens has also equipped OpenScape with a new desktop toolbar — much like the other toolbars on your PC — that keeps all the key functions of OpenScape within easy reach. Users benefit from this because, by having the OpenScape toolbar featured on their PCs, they are constantly reminded of the availability of the unified communications features OpenScape provides.
As though the hosted offering and the integration capabilities weren’t enough, Siemens has also taken meaning of unified communications to a new level, particularly with its use of conferencing and presence management tools for mobile users.
As Leach explained, many users think of Instant Messaging (IM) as being a presence solution, and perhaps in the most basic sense of the terms, it is. However, to Siemens, presence is considerably more than a simple on/off toggle like you have with an IM application. With OpenScape, Siemens’ customers enjoy a full complement of presence features not limited to simply knowing if a colleague is online or not (which is what IM offers). OpenScape allows you to ascertain if another user is online, but also if he is on a call, in a meeting, available, available on another device, and so on. It lets others know each user’s aggregate status, not merely their online status, thus allowing employees to make more intelligent decisions on when and how to reach their contacts and colleagues.
“It makes presence an indispensable element of the communications process,” suggested Leach.
Conferencing is yet another communications method to which Siemens’ OpenScape platform brings enhancements for mobile users. In fact, as Leach describes the new functionality, OpenScape “turns the conferencing paradigm on its head.”
Siemens views conferencing as an intrinsic part of the communications environment, and as such, has endeavored to make it considerably easier to facilitate a conference call. Now, OpenScape users can simply click a workgroup icon, and the platform can automatically place an outbound call to each of the parties in the workgroup — including making use of the built-in presence capabilities to call them on their currently preferred device.
In addition, the newly added Voice Portal feature also allows users to call into the OpenScape system, much like they would to check voice mail, and check calendar information, and even start or join conference calls.
“It’s a very powerful means of enabling the mobile user to have the same type of functionality as though they were sitting in the office,” explained Leach.
In all, the flexibility that Siemens seeks to provide — from the original OpenScape product introduced back in 2003, through each subsequent iteration, to this version, with which it is elevating OpenScape to “portfolio” status — is a result of a fundamental belief that all businesses are not created equal and, as such, they cannot all be adequately serviced with identical solutions.
With the combination of a hosted and on-premises offering, and with the enhancements to the OpenScape platform itself, Siemens is ensuring that it can provide a unified communications offering to businesses large and small. By offering a SaaS model, it even allows larger enterprises, which might otherwise prefer an on-premises solution, to trial the features and functions of the OpenScape platform — and then decide whether to continue with the hosted solution or bring it in-house.
At the very heart of the matter, these enhancements, according to Siemens, are merely another example of the company putting its money where its mouth is.
“While others talk about future plans to offer unified communications services to service providers, Siemens already has service provider customers selling OpenScape-based services around the globe,” said Eve Aretakis, CEO, Siemens Communications.
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Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications magazine. Prior to joining TMC (News - Alert), he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask’s columnist page.