As the market for open-source unified communications expands, a handful of companies are making substantial investments in channel partners in hopes of broadening its commercial appeal.
Newer to that class of players, which includes Digium and Fonality, is eZuce, a two-year-old start-up that's been active in solution provider recruitment and had several marquee partners right out of the gate when it emerged from stealth in mid-2010. Riding some initial momentum, eZuce is looking to double its partner base by the end of 2012.
The eZuce platform is a UC software suite, sold per registered user, not device, and available on-premise or as a hosted service. It's built on native SIP technology that installs on a physical server to provide access to videoconferencing, presence technology and a host of other UC bells and whistles. The technology behind eZuce had been incubating for a number of years as part of SIPfoundry and its sipXecs open-source UC project, started by eZuce co-founders Martin Steinmann and Jerry Stabile.
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Unlike a number of VoIP and UC start-ups, however, eZuce not only had fully baked technology at launch but also a channel strategy in place. Its EZ Partner Program offers three levels: Expert, Pro and Elite, which loosely target SMB, midmarket and large enterprises, respectively. The company currently has 36 channel partners, 26 of which are in North America, but selective recruitment continues, said David Grazio, vice president of marketing and channels.
"This year we want to double that number," Grazio told CRN recently. "We want them out there, front and center, and they're finding a lot of opportunity with legacy PBX customers that have to make some tough system upgrade decisions."
Grazio said eZuce sees strategic channel partnerships as a way to draw attention to its technology as an alternative to major UC vendors such as Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft, and that eZuce set about offering aggressive margins and a full-featured partner program right away.
EZuce's partner portal went live in June 2011 and it brought on specialty distributor Secura Technologies at around the same time to serve as both a master distributor and systems integration consultant for eZuce partners in the EZ Program in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean and Latin America regions.
Secura provides the eZuce software platform but also educates partners on how to integrate the solution for customers, including everything from migrating from a legacy Nortel system to services opportunities, said John Mace, Secura general manager and solutions consultant.
"We are the channel enablement partner for eZuce, and the partners we've talked to see it as a great idea for help with understanding the solution," Mace said. "There are a lot of traditional telecom VARs recognizing the transition they need to make from legacy phone systems to IP, software, and open UC. This is a holistic solution for them to be able to understand and communicate that."
Mace agreed with Grazio that acceptance of software-based UC solutions has moved well beyond the "talk about it" stage.
"The direction that side of the telephony house is going is software," Mace said. "It just makes sense."