SIP Providers: Microsoft Response Point RIP

SIP trunking providers who partnered with Microsoft Corp. to provide connectivity for its Response Point IP PBX expressed disappointment, but no surprise at the software giant’s decision to discontinue the small business telephony solutions effective Aug. 31, 2010.

On its Web site, Microsoft listed eight certified SIP trunking providers, including New Global Telecom, Cbeyond, Junction Networks, 8×8 Inc., Bandwidth.comSMBPhone, TotalTel SIP Services and Telesphere.

In addition, Microsoft had signed a master agency relationship with Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI) to deliver multiple SIP trunking provider options to Response Point VARs.

“Response Point is a nice product for the small business space and if they had done further development, it would be a really solid product, and they were just starting to make traction with their small business customers,” said Matt Wilson, NGT’s agent program director, of his company’s disappointment with the news.

“The various transitions of the product’s ownership within Microsoft did send a message that there was diminishing interest in their promoting the product. There is no real surprise that it has come to this,” said Jason Walker, product manager for Cbeyond.

Indeed, the news was not unexpected. Last summer the software giant said it did not plan to release future versions of the system

Ken Mercer, senior vice president at TBI, said that was the actual time of death for the phone system. TBI, whose agreement was just a few months old at the time, managed to sign a few Response Point VARs as agents, Mercer said, but it “never got a chance” to sell the system before Microsoft pulled support. Instead, TBI signed a strategic agreement with ADTRAN Inc. “We completely pulled back when they announced it [last summer]. We forged the relationship with ADTRAN to replace it,” Mercer said.

On the service provider side, both Cbeyond and Junction Networks said they worked with Microsoft Response Point VARs to supply SIP connections. Neither reported it being a significant amount of business. Cbeyond’s Walker said a few VARs activated the SIPconnect service for Response Point. Jennifer Fugel, a spokesperson for Junction Networks, said it was working with about a dozen Response Point VARs. NGT, on the other hand, had recruited hundreds of Microsoft VARs as its agents, Wilson said. and 8×8 did not return requests for comment by press time. A spokesperson for Telesphere said the company did not market SIP for Response Point, viewing it as a backup offer to its own hosted PBX service.

Fugel said the impact to Junction Networks is negligible, in part, because of the way the relationship with Microsoft worked: “We were a Microsoft certified carrier for Response Point, but once we went through the initial verification process, there was little if anything else we had to do,” she said. “The system was self-provisioning and customers would sign up directly through the device. We did not have resources dedicated to the Response Point platform.”

Walker agreed. “There is no real impact to Cbeyond,” he said. “Moving forward we will no longer be directing customers to the Response Point product, and we will continue to approach the market with our existing Platform Partners.” These partners range from Avaya Inc. to Cisco Systems Inc. to Siemens and more.

Fugel said Junction Networks expects its Response Point customers will switch over to its OnSIP Hosted PBX. “We are working with some of the Response Point hardware providers to allow current Response Point users to convert their existing phones over to the OnSIP Hosted PBX platform,” she said.

In addition to pushing its own hosted VoIP services through agents beginning in spring 2009, Wilson said NGT has been working with Cisco to recruit Cisco VARs to sell SIP trunking for  the UC500 as well as NGT’s hosted solutions with the Cisco small business phones (SPA 5xx series IP phones). The two companies recently hosted a workshop and demo lab at the SMB Nation 2010 VoIP Workshop held concurrently with the Spring 2010 Channel Partners Confverence & Expo in Las Vegas.

Response Point, which was launched in October 2007, is a software-based IP PBX that is packaged as an appliance by three OEMs – D-Link, Aastra Technologies Ltd. and Quanta Computer Inc..

Absent Response Point, it is expected that Microsoft will push Office Communications Server into the small business market. Junction Networks, for one, is on board with that. “Now that OCS uses SIP via both UDP and TCP, we are fully interoperable today,” Fugel said.

NGT’s Wilson said his company also likely would pursue interoperability certification with OCS. Cbeyond’s Walker, however, stopped short of saying that it would or would not consider interoperability with OCS.

Mercer said TBI would not consider OCS as a premises-based replacement for Response Point, but said it’s in discussions to offer a commissioned, hosted OCS service.

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