Believing that unified communications battles will be increasingly won and lost in the software arena -- and away from vertically integrated vendor offerings -- Mitel this week took the wraps off of Freedom, a new UC architecture that delivers UC applications via a cloud-based software stream.
According to Mitel, embracing Freedom means saving as much as 45 percent in corporate mobility costs and 85 percent in communications servers needed for UC deployment.
The idea of UC as a software play and part of a virtualized infrastructure has taken hold with a number of the space's top vendors. Avaya's Aura, for example, is a virtualized UC platform with a SIP underpinning, and supporting software-based collaboration interfaces like its Flare Experience on its own endpoint devices and those of others. Microsoft on Wednesday will go live with Lync, the updated version of what was formerly known as Office Communications Server, and the latest iteration of Microsoft's three-year-old vision that software UC would eventually eclipse the IP PBX for enterprises.
Mitel, too, is taking the software and services approach. Through Freedom, businesses are able to integrate their UC capabilities with a wide range of endpoint devices and applications, according to Mitel.
"We're focused on the best of breed model," said Jim Davies, Mitel's chief technology officer, in an interview with CRN. "We see choosing one of two roads. One road would be the everything-for-one where you provide the whole solution, and the other is best-of-breed. We think that one gives [partners] a great deal more flexibility."
Along with Mitel Freedom is a cloud-based UC service called Mitel AnyWhere, which bundles everything from IP handsets to long distance service under a monthly subscription fee of $35 a seat. It's currently available in the United States, and also through select service providers delivering Mitel AnyWhere as a hosted service internationally.
"It sounds funny coming from a CTO, but VoIP in the software domain is really about the business model and not the technology," Davies said. "That's very germane to the channel discussion, and channel partners have some interesting choices to make. We have an increasing chunk of our channel coming from different places, from VoIP VARs to a whole series of folks that have a data background or who do VM hosting plays."
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