Cloud-based unified communications and Collaboration as a Service aren't just for small- to medium-sized businesses anymore. Larger enterprises are realizing the value in cloud and hosted collaboration offerings as their users demand mobility and anytime, anywhere communication capabilities. Cloud and service providers stand to gain new customers by adding unified communications and Collaboration as a Service to their portfolio of cloud services.
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Collaboration as a Service: Cloud providers team up with UC vendors
Some providers add new cloud services to their portfolios by white-labeling partner offerings, but unified communications (UC) and collaboration vendors have also begun expanding on their own customer base by rolling out cloud and hosted versions of their products directly to service providers instead of their typical enterprise customer base.
Avaya recently announced its Collaborative Cloud portfolio for service providers. Unlike AvayaLive Connect -- a collaboration service the vendor hosts itself for its customers -- the new portfolio gives providers the hardware and software they need to spin up UC and collaboration services for their customers, from their own data centers.
Collaborative Cloud includes Avaya's Collaboration Pod, a full stack offering for providers, including networking, storage, servers and communications and collaboration applications, as well as an offering for private cloud deployments -- Avaya Operations Services -- which can be hosted as a dedicated offering for customers by Avaya or the service provider, and is delivered as an Avaya-branded or co-branded offer. The Cloud Enablement offering, another component of the Collaborative Cloud, is a multi-tenant service including UC as a Service (UCaaS), Video as a Service and Contact Center as a Service as co-branded tools for providers, and which lives in the provider's data center.
"Providers have the ability to add their offerings on top of the solutions, but the end customer will still know they are using Avaya tools," said Paiman Nodoushani, Avaya's senior director of cloud solutions.
Avaya also charges the service provider on a pay-per-use model in the same flexible approach cloud providers are used to charging their own customers, Nodoushani said. "Cloud service providers are only paying for what their customers are using, and can also charge their end customers in the same manner," he said.
Verizon is using Avaya Collaborative Cloud to support hosted voice, collaboration and video for its federal government customers. "Many agencies are trying to figure out how to do more with less, but they also need a way to do more collaboration and integrate video into their day-to-day operations because the workforce is distributed," said Steve Lefrancois, chief technology officer for public sector markets of Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
While the government is no stranger to collaboration tools, the deployment model has changed. "These agencies might have asked for hardware in the past, but that approach isn't necessarily cost-effective today. Our customers are starting to ask for services differently," he said.
Just as users like to buy leading UC products from leading vendors, providers should look to these same vendors for their cloud products, LeFrancois said. "It's not really necessary to create [cloud collaboration tools] from scratch."
Interest in cloud collaboration ramping up
While interest in cloud collaboration tools is just beginning to ramp up in the North American market, Europe is already there, according to Mads Fosselius, chief operating officer for Cirque, a Danish service provider with operations in Denmark and France. He said eight out of 10 Scandinavian companies are already using communications and Collaboration as a Service.
Cirque has built its UCaaS offering -- Business One -- on top of Avaya's Collaborative Cloud for its users, granting them communication and collaboration functionality from any device. "Mobility is a big driver for the Danish market," Fosselius said.
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Cirque sees Contact Center as a Service through its Business One service as a major opportunity. "This equipment is expensive. Customers are very interested in a pay-as-you-grow model," Foseelius said.
While not all markets may be as aggressive with adopting the cloud, having a familiar collaboration vendor involved with a cloud service will help cloud providers win customers, said Rich Costello, senior research analyst for unified communications and enterprise communications infrastructure at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.
"There is a big opportunity for a solution -- like an Avaya cloud collaboration offering -- to fit into the strategy of an existing Avaya customer who is looking to upgrade to the cloud," he said. "Those customers will be looking to find those offerings from providers."
Not only can providers gain the existing customer base of a collaboration vendor, but the hosted vendor services could potentially serve as a gateway into expanded customer interest in cloud services down the road, Costello said.