Skype For Business Boost: Partners High-Five Microsoft's Purchase Of Australian Startup's Technology

The technology Microsoft acquired from one of its Australian partners Wednesday will complement Skype for Business with capabilities that empower the software giant's channel to make stronger plays for enterprise communications deals.

Microsoft partners told CRN the software purchased for an undisclosed amount from startup Event Zero potentially eliminates an obstacle that was holding back Skype for Business -- the rebranded Lync communications platform -- from achieving wider enterprise penetration. Skype for Business is a component of the latest enterprise edition of Office 365, introducing to the SaaS office productivity suite a cloud-based PBX for VoIP calling, videoconferencing, dial-in conferencing and instant messaging.

The management, analytics and reporting tools that were underlying components of Event Zero's UC Commander suite, now under Microsoft's stewardship, will impart on business customers the confidence to move beyond their legacy communications systems with Office 365 E5, partners said.

[Related: Microsoft Delivers Long-Awaited Office 365 E5]

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Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., told CRN "the Event Zero asset purchase is fundamental to Microsoft delivering on the promise of full collaboration capabilities in the cloud."

Customers open to deploying modern communication systems want operational and diagnostic capabilities in addition to the voice and video applications themselves, Opal said.

For that reason, the acquisition is a pivotal step toward driving greater comfort with and confidence in the recently released Office 365 E5 -- the first version of the popular software to integrate communication tools.

Microsoft plans to integrate the Event Zero products with existing Skype for Business management tools and extend the platform to complement partner solutions, Zig Serafin, corporate vice president of engineering for Skype for Business, said in a Microsoft blog.

Serafin said the deal offers "the latest example of Microsoft’s commitment to deliver a complete, enterprise-grade communications solution at global scale with Office 365."

And as the software giant makes that charge to displace legacy phone systems, the new technology assets will also empower partners looking to offer hybrid communications systems, such as connecting on-premise phone and other endpoint deployments with Office 365 services, Serafin said.

Microsoft is committed to "enabling IT professionals and our partners worldwide to deliver powerful, high-quality communications services to their users -- wherever they are, rapidly and cost-effectively," Serafin wrote.

Matt Scherocman, president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a Microsoft partner based in Cincinnati, told CRN that as Microsoft ramps investments in cloud-based calling capabilities, customers will expect continually improving integrated management and reporting tools.

The UC Commander technology gives Microsoft some of those tools more quickly than it could have developed them in-house, he said.

"We are watching this space carefully," Scherocman told CRN, "and expect to see more acquisitions in this important product area."

Chris Smith, practice lead for Skype for Business at SADA Systems, a Microsoft partner based in Los Angeles, said Event Zero's technology will expand the native troubleshooting, reporting and management tools currently built into the Skype platform.

But it might be the Polycom management suite, a component of UC Commander that enables phone provisioning, that ultimately will have the largest impact on the market, Smith said.

With Office 365 E5 now delivering a PSTN (dial-in) calling service with its Cloud PBX, encouraging even more organizations to migrate to cloud-based communications, there may be a significant increase in adoption of Polycom's business media phones, Smith said.

Those deployments "will benefit from the advanced provisioning and management capabilities that weren't available with the legacy tools," Smith told CRN.

But Smith noted that Microsoft hasn't yet provided any road map or timelines for integration.

Serafin said Microsoft's goal "is to make the Skype for Business management tools as powerful and easy-to-use for IT professionals as Skype is for end users."

Microsoft will build out the technology it acquired from Event Zero to create a unified management and administration system with even more extensive diagnostics, troubleshooting, reporting and analytics capabilities for online audio, videoconferencing and other media streams, Serafin said.

The Australian startup is one of only three Microsoft partners developing analytics and reporting tools to manage Skype for Business. The company will continue providing services to its customers and partners.