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At last summer's ShoreTel Champion Partner conference in Chicago, Blackmore told partners that the cloud was part of ShoreTel's four-pronged growth strategy but that the model was still unproven. Many solution providers noted during that conference that ShoreTel was muted on the subject of cloud and hosted solutions following a lot of hype around a ShoreTel cloud offering a year earlier.
Last week in New York, however, Blackmore said it had become clear to him and ShoreTel's executive team that they would have to make a move in the cloud and that engineering comparable ShoreTel cloud services in-house would simply take too long.
"I believe there's a window when you enter a market when it's affordable, still a little bit early and regimented," Blackmore told CRN. "If you miss that window, it gets so expensive and so uncertain for you to enter that market later."
Portfoliowise, M5's technology will for the moment remain separate from ShoreTel's premise-based UC and contact center products. During last week's event, however, the company demonstrated a solution that combines the hosted communications services M5 provides with elements of its vendor-agnostic ShoreTel Mobility platform. The offering is currently in trials, ShoreTel said.
It'll still be some time before ShoreTel rolls out cloud services to the broad ShoreTel channel, but it is now recruiting select partners to pilot those sales. Hoffman said the company is currently working with 10 partners.
Other big questions raised by channel partners include how quickly the cloud service will expand to international markets, something M5 had already planned to do. That's definitely in the works, Blackmore and Hoffman said, and it's a matter of aligning ShoreTel's international resources to get there.
"The pressure was getting ear-splitting for us to do that," Hoffman said.
Both Blackmore and Hoffman made frequent reference to the fact that no one dedicated cloud UC provider dominates the market. There's a real opportunity to take it over, Blackmore said, especially with ShoreTel's Goliath competitors, Cisco and Avaya, still fine-tuning their cloud strategies.
"It's open season," Blackmore said. "We could become the clear leader."