Meet eZuce: Open Source, Midmarket, Cloud-Ready UC


Its open source UC offering has seen seven years of development, its top executives are networking veterans with practiced hands, and it's throwing its arms wide open for the channel, launching as a 100 percent indirect-sold product for VARs, OEM relationships and managed service providers with designs on conquering the midmarket.

"We want to establish great relationships," said President and CEO Martin Steinmann, who co-founded eZuce with Jerry Stabile in February. "One of the fundamental reasons why we've stepped out and founded eZuce is to take on the demand we see in the channel."

The eZuce UC offering is an open-source software package designed to help businesses migrate from traditional PBX infrastructure. What's required is a physical server, but eZuce's native Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology takes care of the rest, offering instant messaging, video conferencing, presence, call center, mobility and other features that put it in direct competition with UC offerings like Microsoft Communications Server.

It's sold as an all-included bundle at $65 a seat, and available as both an on-premise deployment and as a managed service offering.

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The reason eZuce is generally available at launch, Steinmann explained, is because it's been in development for the better part of a decade at a more well-known Steinmann and Stabile organization, the non-profit open-source community SIPfoundry.

Steinmann was until December 2009 general manager, SMB, at Nortel, and before that he'd had top marketing roles with Bluesocket and a company acquired by Bluesocket, Pingtel, both of which were portfolio companies of a venture capital company he was previously part of, Vesbridge Partners.

He spent about a year at Nortel, Steinmann said, and then after Nortel's bankruptcy and subsequent sell-off to various companies -- including the enterprise solutions group going to Avaya -- he left the company.

At Nortel, the technology that became eZuce's offering was in development as the upgrade path from Nortel Meridian 1/CS 1000 environments.

"But Avaya chose to make a left turn and say 'Migrate to Aura,'" Steinmann said. "And I think a lot of channel partners see differently."

The vast Nortel installed base -- and its many channel partners, a number of whom eZuce is actively engaging -- is one reason Steinmann sees the company being an effective new competitor right out of the gate.

Another is general disruption in the UC space. Not only is Avaya's acquisition of Nortel creating churn, Steinmann suggested, but there's also an opening against Cisco, whose UC products he described as overdistributed and expensive, and Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, which haven't gained footholds in North America. Open source networking has also gained traction through Asterisk, and major vendors that support Asterisk like Digium, but Steinmann said he sees Asterisk as an IP PBX for smaller businesses, and not a mid- to large-sized enterprise UC platform.

It's Microsoft that poses the biggest threat to the dominant UC players, he said, and eZuce looks to differentiate itself from both Communications Server and Microsoft offerings like BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services suite) by ensuring solution providers get the bulk of the services revenue opportunities presented by UC sales.

"We're offering an alternative that from a technology perspective is credible, combined with a model that clearly allows [VARs] to accomplish their objectives by providing a path into a hosted or cloud-based offering," Steinmann said. "We understand they want to plot a future for themselves."

As eZuce emerges in the market, its been in continued talks with channel partners and for now will be focused on North America and Europe.

"The go-to-market strategy is resonating with them," said David Grazio, vice president of marketing. "They will see a much smaller competitive field where we're not overdistributed. We will be launching our official eZuce partner program as well, and it'll be similar to other programs in that wthere will be a core set of benefits and requirements to each level."

The eZuce partner program is in beta, Steinmann added, and the company expects to roll it out within the next 8 weeks. If there's one message to interested VARs and MSPs, he said, it's that eZuce wants to ride the wave of communications-as-a-service (CaaS) solutions out there without depriving solution providers of service-model opportunities.

"CaaS solutions open the doors for MSPs, but a lot of VARs are worried about whether they should become MSPs, do they compete with MSPs, what is it," he said. "We're not setting up a data center thinking we're going to offer this service. We're going to do this through the channel, and that's a fundamental difference from many of the early CaaS models."