Open Source UC Startup eZuce Rolls Out Partner Program

It's been only about two months since eZuce emerged from stealth mode, but the start-up -- whose open-source UC offering saw seven years of development before its launch -- is already embracing the channel.

The company launched in mid-August, and earlier this month, eZuce went live with the EZ Partner Program, a channel offering that includes three tiers of partnership. It intends to remain focused on North America and Europe for the time being, and to designate go-to channel partners for various regions instead of mass-recruit across geographies.

The eZuce offering itself is a UC software package designed to help businesses migrate from their traditional PBX infrastructure. The UC suite, built on native Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology, installs on a physical server and offers small- and enterprise-sized customers alike access to video conferencing, instant messaging, presence, call center, mobility and other functions intended to make it competitive to UC suites from Microsoft, Siemens and others. It's been incubating for the better part of a decade through the work of SIPfoundry, the non-profit open-source community started by eZuce co-founders Martin Steinmann and Jerry Stabile.

The EZ Partner Program offers three levels, which according to David Grazio, vice president for product management, align to both commitment levels and targeted market segments.

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EZ Expert Program, the lowest level, is intended for partners focused on SMB, while the EZ Pro Program, one level up, is intended for partners focused on midmarket and large enterprise customers. EZ Elite Program, the highest level, is for partners focused on large enterprise deployments and intended to work tightly with eZuce at a strategic level. Partners at each level get access to deal registration, online training and certification, sales tools, case studies, Webinars and product resources.

Next: What Ronco Sees In eZuce

Ronco Communications, the large, Tonawonda, N.Y.-based solution provider, is eZuce's first Elite partner, and what Grazio described as good example of the type of top-tier partner eZuce is after.

"Partners that focus on the mid- to large-enterprise offering today, they're familiar with the space and they in many cases hold a lot of certifications with tier-one vendors like Avaya and Cisco," Grazio said. "Ronco is going to be our first elite partner, and through an exclusive arrangement they'll have a region and promote eZuce."

"It's fairly mature technology, and for people who have downloaded SIP-based technology, they've often been working with open-source technology for years," said Chris Wasp, Ronco's president. "So we walk into accounts, and they know about it, and they want to know more. Now, for the first time, we can deliver SLAs [service level agreements] around it and there's a tremendous opportunity to sell around SIP."

Wasp said he had known Steinmann previously -- Steinmann was until December 2009 general manager, SMB, at Nortel -- and said Ronco was invited to be part of eZuce's channel from the get-go.

"The program is very channel-centric," Wasp said. "A lot of manufacturers are quasi channel centric, in that they'll cherry pick big accounts for themselves and let the service models deteriorate as they push their own services. eZuce is a software-based model and they care only about the software and don't want to take that services revenue from channel partners."

Next: Avoiding Overdistribution

According to Grazio, one of eZuce's top priorities is to avoid over-distribuition of its software. Ronco is the first of what the company says will be five U.S.-based Elite channel partners, each with an exclusive territory.

"It's a lot easier to manage a few partners, to get the teams trained and certified, and stay focused on the same industries and verticals," he said. "[Ronco] has a defined territory here on the East Coast, and we'll be doing a number of road shows with them over the next few weeks to promote this as a new opportunity."

eZuce this week also confirmed a partnership with Open-Xchange, an open-source competitor to Microsoft's Lync, for a UC solution offered on-premise or as-a-service for between 50 and 10,000 seats. According to a press release from Open-Xchange, the solution offers a full range of UC capabilities, from voice and video to unified messaging and call center functions.