Mitel Challenges UC’s ‘Walled Gardens’

By Khali Henderson Comments
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In a departure from the vertically integrated strategies of market leaders, Mitel Networks unveiled Monday a new architecture called Mitel Freedom that lets businesses integrate their unified communications capabilities with best-in-class devices, servers and applications.

As part of this open approach, Mitel also announced the launch of Mitel AnyWare, a cloud-based UC service, desktop virtualization integration with VMware View, and expanded UC support for Android, RIM’s PlayBook and iPad devices.

“Network architectures from the old days have changed dramatically, and the way we see our competitors going to market we feel is completely wrong," said Steve Beamish, Mitel’s vice president of business development and marketing, in an advance interview with PHONE+. Beamish is referring to strategies by Cisco Systems Inc. and Avaya Inc., as two examples, which have launched their own tablets in competition with Apple’s iPad. Apple has shipped 7.5 million iPads since their debut in April, and many of those are for business use. “They have an uphill battle," he said.

Beamish eschews the “walled garden" approach. “We are turning our architecture model completely on its head. We are taking the position that it needs to fit the customers’ world," he said.

“We believe the ability to integrate the best-in-class technology and devices without introducing complexity is the way to go. We are the best at voice, but we are not the best at virtualization, we are not the best at routers, and we are not the best in network elements, but we partner with the best."

The core of this strategy is an understanding that “call control is just an application," Beamish explained, which fits the IT world’s preference for running multiple applications on one box rather than having the voice applications on a proprietary box. This translates to reduced capex and opex costs; Mitel reported an 85 percent reduction in costs by virtualizing its own voice environment, Beamish said.

Mitel began laying the groundwork for its open strategy back in fall 2008 with the launch of its Unified Communicator platform, which included an Express serverless version, an Advance version integrating third-party apps, and a mobile version supporting UC on various devices. Mitel first announced support for VMware in October 2009 with the release of the Virtual Mitel Communications Director (Virtual MCD). This summer it added the Virtual Mitel Applications Suite (Virtual MAS), Virtual Unified Communicator Advanced (Virtual UC Advanced) and Virtual Mitel Border Gateway (Virtual MBG).

Among the additions announced Monday, Mitel is expanding its relationship with VMware to include desktop virtualization. By combining Mitel's UC applications with VMware View, customers would be able to benefit from an integrated desktop experience.

It also is extending its Unified Communicator Advanced Mobile to Android, provides remote access to capabilities, such as managing presence, viewing corporate contacts, call history and voice mail details. Mitel is designing a UC Advanced Mobile client for Android to provide additional enhancements such as location-based presence via GPS or Bluetooth. This will be available the first half of 2011. Mitel also plans enhanced integration of UC Advanced into iPad and PlayBook devices.

Finally, Mitel AnyWare is a cloud-based UC service that bundles everything a typical business user needs, from IP handsets to long-distance service, for an all-inclusive monthly per-user subscription fee.

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