ShoreTel Launches 'First To Market' Single Hybrid Platform For Unified Communications

ShoreTel has unified its on-premise and cloud platform to create ShoreTel Connect, which the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor says will change how companies communicate. Channel partners can sell and deploy the platform for on-premise, in the cloud or as a hybrid solution, according to ShoreTel.

"From a truly hybrid deployment, it's the first to market," said Joe Rittenhouse, president of business development and managing partner at Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Converged Technology Professionals, a ShoreTel partner. "It’s innovative and is going to be a considerable advantage when clients are unable to compare ShoreTel’s premise and cloud models as a hybrid compared to other manufacturers that have one or the other -- but not both -- in a single management interface."

Unified communications and VoIP specialist ShoreTel developed the single platform and user interface to simplify deployment, management and secure UC solutions to help businesses looking to make a gradual transition to the cloud.

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"Nobody has this single platform," said Mark Roberts, Chief Marketing Officer at ShoreTel, in an interview with CRN. "It really shouldn’t matter whether it’s UC-as-a-Service, a cloud-base solution or whether it’s a product that I own and operate, it should be the same user experience. … As a customer, you can do cloud, on-site or a mix and match of the both, but [that] it’s the same user experience is the important part, all the way through."

For the past two years, ShoreTel has been working on creating the unified solution and transforming its organization to fit the demands of customers who are looking to the cloud, the company said. The UCaaS market is expected to grow from $15.1 billion in 2015 to $24.8 billion by 2020, representing a CAGR of about 11 percent, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets.

In conjunction with Connect, ShoreTel also introduced Tuesday a new Connect Contact Center built on the foundation of the company's Enterprise Contact Center. The solution is scalable to 1,000 users and extends the power of multi-channel routing.

"Every facet of the company we've played with over the last two years to get ready for rolling out Connect, which we believe takes us through this migration phase we're in right now into a phase of acceleration, because of that unique customer experience of just one platform, one set of clients," said Roberts.

New features for Connect include advanced collaboration tools such as instant messaging, audio and Web conferencing, point-to-point video and desktop sharing as well as personalized call handling and routing for offices and mobile devices. The platform also contains specialized applications like voicemail to text, integrated call recording and enhanced paging.

Connect also integrates with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics,, Zendesk and NetSuite, ShoreTel said.

Rittenhouse said the platform has already been "driving premise sales" at his company even before it was officially released to the general audience, because the hybrid strategy offers flexibility for customers looking to take advantage of cloud applications.

"The way these now can be consumed offers choices on how they are purchased, i.e., CAPX or OPEX. It’s no longer a feature function discussion with premise deployments, it’s a discussion centered around what is the best way to accommodate the business challenges ahead with this flexibility," said Rittenhouse, who said his company has seen ShoreTel sales increase more than 30 percent year over year.

ShoreTel is offering three deployment models for Connect -- Onsite, Cloud or Hybrid. Onsite is an end-to-end UC solution that customers own, maintain and control, while Cloud is a fully hosted and managed end-to-end UCaaS solution.

"You'll hear that the approach is, 'Everything is going to go to the cloud.' We fundamentally don’t believe that -- it's about the flexibility," said Roberts.

Roberts revealed to CRN that ShoreTel will also introduce "a new version" of its popular Champion Partner Program based around the concept of the one common platform.

"We had to look at our support offerings, our website, our CRM solution, how you look at quoting, training and more specifically the channel program itself, and how that related to this concept of one common platform," said Roberts. "Everyone told us it couldn't be done. It's a good job we didn't listen."